November 5, 2023

Learnings from setting up a inbound sales machine at folk

Discover folk - the CRM for people-powered businesses

We, at folk, are not salespeople by nature. Our culture revolves more around craftsmanship. What we care about the most is building a great user experience.

However, as we are committed to building an enduring company, we also needed to develop a powerful revenue system. We realized that combining our existing self-serve and product-led growth motion with a sales machine was a potent revenue accelerator.

In this document, we want to share our learnings about how to set up an inbound sales machine. While I'm not an expert in this field, I humbly share findings that I would have loved reading too.

A problem of the rich

We are fortunate to benefit from strong word-of-mouth that brings us thousands of leads signing up for folk every month.

Most of these leads will go through a self-serve onboarding process, and a percentage of them will eventually upgrade to a paid plan, invite their teammates, and become clients. All of this results in very healthy revenue growth.

I sometimes feel that "Product-led growth" is truly magical. We have thousands of teams paying for our product without any direct human interaction.

However, we have also discovered that we were missing a much bigger opportunity: having a human touch significantly increases our chances of closing an account. In fact, we have found that having at least one call with a human results in a 5x to 10x higher conversion rate.

Here, I'll try to share some of the key learnings we have gained over the past few months on setting up this "inbound sales machine." Basically, learnings on how to qualify leads, reach out to schedule demos, and close deals with the most promising prospects out of the thousands we receive every month.

Special thanks to Paul Gassée, David Apple, Mehdi Boudoukhane, Alain Hazout, Justin Knorr for the great discussions around Sales.

Learning #1: You're as good as your data system

Garbage in, garbage out. Data hygiene is a must if you want to set up an inbound sales machine.

You need to be clear on your data model: What are your main objects? People, Accounts, Opportunities, Workspaces? We kept it simple with only People & Accounts. This needs to be consistent in all your tool stack. 

Most importantly, you need a clear data architecture. Clarify what your single source of truth is. In our case, we follow the below schema:

  • Event tracking: Segment
  • Email marketing: Intercom
  • Scheduling: Calendly
  • Forms in the landing: Webflow
  • CRM: folk
  • Call recording: Grain
  • Payment processing: Stripe
  • Enrichment: Phantombuster

Learning #2: Qualify properly

When you're lucky enough to have thousands of leads naturally coming to the top of the funnel, you can't talk to everyone.

And not all leads are created equal. There is nothing more discouraging than repeatedly talking with non-qualified buyers.

And you have nothing scarcer than your time or your team's time, so make sure to invest it properly.

So, we need to qualify the best revenue opportunities:

  • We started by qualifying companies worth talking to based on the company size. The hypothesis is pretty simple: the larger the team, the larger the revenue opportunity.
  • We improved the qualification algorithm by adding some "product events" that qualify a lead. For example, when the user adds N other users to its workspace.
  • We finally ended up creating a "score" that we compute in the data warehouse to tag leads properly when they qualify for a demo.
  • We keep analyzing the data and screening out "segments" that end up having lower conversion rate be it based on their geography or any question we ask during the onboarding (like company size, use case, etc.)

Learning #3: Do the reps

Sales is really about building a machine: a repeatable way of selling to customers.

Don't be afraid to have 4 to 8 touchpoints before booking a demo, over 2 weeks.

Jump on the phone if required, as it improves conversion, ideally less than 30 minutes after sign up.

Go multi-channel (email, LinkedIn) and multi-thread (several senders), as it also improves conversion.

Make these emails as personalized as possible using all the data collected (use case, customer stories, client references should all be adapted to the lead)

Learning #4: Create urgency

Once the demo is booked, now is the time to close. Your leads have a million things to work on. In order to make sure to close, it's about creating momentum.

I think there has been a whole myth around the magic of freemium, and even more combining freemium with sales. The challenge is that it creates less urgency for the prospects to buy as they can stay on a free plan forever.

One powerful tool has been to jump from freemium to free trial for people in the sales flow. Basically, after a demo, we will provide our leads with full access to the platform with all the functionalities from the plan they wish for 2 weeks.

It has multiple benefits:

  • It forces them to clarify the features they'd like to have in the free trial, so you know what matters to the prospects.
  • It creates momentum with a 2-week period during which the prospects will tend to procrastinate less, as they will have to make a go/no-go decision.
  • It creates a good reason/incentive for the customers to meet you again during the process, giving you more control over the sales process as a result.

We keep track of the various stage of our funnel in folk, and we have specific emails to be sent during the 2-week free trial. To be more efficient, we have created email templates on folk so we can follow-up in one-click.

Learning #5: Keep it easy to buy

Adding a sales motion on top of your PLG motion doesn't mean onboarding on your product or buying it doesn't need to be self-serve anymore.

We are dedicated to keeping our PLG roots. Keep it simple for users to get value and commit.

Learning #6: We can't improve what we don't measure

As explained, we always had in mind the objective to build a sales “machine”, meaning something repeatable.

To do that, we always start any initiative by first clarifying what we're measuring. Start with the end goal.

We then make sure to push the data we need into the DWH and review these metrics in weekly sessions with the right teammates.

We keep it simple here with the main elements we track being:

  • % of leads qualified booking a demo
  • % of demos converting to paid
  • ARR generated by demos

Learning #7: Sales is about culture

I mentioned above that our culture revolves a lot around product & craft.

In many companies with a strong product culture, people tend to kind of dismiss sales. There is a perception that sales is pushy, almost like tricking customers.

But when you actually have a product people love, sales is about matching demand with your offer. It's about providing a solution to people who have a problem.

We had to change our culture and embrace the sales vibe.

Learning #8: Celebrate the wins

Last, keep celebrating, even the smallest wins.

We use a Zapier template to send a Slack channel message whenever a demo is closed in our folk CRM.

We’re still learning and I’ll keep sharing our findings along the way. If of interest to you, feel free to email me at