Enterprise Sales Unplugged: Inbound sales

#EnterpriseSalesUnplugged — a Paua Ventures Series on how to crack Enterprise Sales as a Start-up. From operators to operators. Actionable front-line stories. No BS. 🤞

Charlotte Baumhauer
Inside SquareOne
Published in
6 min readNov 23, 2021


Do you feel like traditional sales efforts are hard to scale, and that current outreach channels are saturated with low conversion rates? Don’t worry, there are other ways to sell enterprise software, and inbound marketing might be one of them. Want to know how? Then keep reading and learn from 2 startups that have successfully grown through inbound.✨

Welcome back to the “Enterprise Sales Unplugged” series. Today we are talking about the Seeds category of the series’ framework, which you can check out here (TLDR: enterprise sales can be clustered into 3 categories: outbound, inbound and partner channels. All 3 have their advantages and challenges and require different approaches).

Selling your software to the enterprise world can be a long & complex process, making growth and scaling difficult. A way to overcome this is through more inbound leads. You probably think that this only works for low-touch SaaS or “consumerized” software like dropbox, zoom or slack. You’re not totally wrong, these companies have paved the way of product led growth. However, enterprise software companies can and should also do this.

So what is it we mean when talking inbound sales, and why do we call it seeds?

We mean content like blogging, social media or podcast. We mean customer advisory boards and education through e-books or videos. Basically, all the things that will create brand awareness and lead to word-of-mouth and strong user engagement. They are called Seeds because they are initiatives that take time to cultivate and ramp up, but once they work, they are unbeatable.💪

In the Paua portfolio, there are several companies that nailed inbound sales, and as this series is about #frontline insights, we have interviewed two execs that have eaten their dog food when it comes to inbound sales.

  • Number one — meet Jennifer from Keelvar: She has been working in B2B Tech and Marketing for the last 20 years. Keelvar is automating strategic procurement processes for companies like Coca-Cola, Novartis, Siemens and Microsoft.
  • Number two — meet Ronak from GraphCMS: He has been working as Head of Marketing and Growth in multiple startups. GraphCMS gives you instant GraphQL Content APIs to create content across platforms. Developer teams at Prym and Telenor use their product.

Learning #1: Generate customers: To create inbound leads, you need to create content that is insightful & addresses the right customers.

🎯 There are various ways to generate leads through inbound: articles, podcasts, videos, social media, e-books, white papers, newsletters, webinars, live streams and how-to guides — just to name a few.

You should probably try most of those, then select two or three that worked well and implement them. However, do not test them all at once: iterate one content type after the other. This way you can tell which one worked and which one didn’t.

Another good way to generate highly qualified leads is through a customer advisory board, which is a group of people that you sit down with to problem-solve on the product and to get feedback on features and usability. The people in this advisory board should be the ones that will buy your product. Let’s take the example of a developer tool: the group should include developers, software engineers, and maybe even CTOs, as these are the people that will best understand what features will make the product successful. In the future, these should also be your most important and loyal customers.

Learning #2: You should start with these inbound efforts from day 1

📅 Inbound is a channel you should start thinking about from day 1 and start implementing very early on. Working on brand awareness instead of solely focusing on performance marketing is something that most early-stage startups fail at.

Learning #3: You should keep nurturing your customers to turn them into loyal customers and create upsell opportunities

💆 Once you’ve converted a lead into a customer, it is important to nurture them. You want to build trust, create upsell opportunities, and reduce churn. You’re now probably thinking of the usual methods: implementing a gradually upgrading price structure, collecting feedback, and adding features to further develop the value of the product.

Totally right. But you should also do this by keeping a steady drumbeat when it comes to creating content, interacting with your clients through webinars, updating them via newsletter, and creating loyalty programs for them.

Be generous to your customers and build a community around them. Because as we all know, it costs 5x as much to attract a new customer, than to keep an existing one.

Learning #4: The skills required in your sales team and the metrics you track are different from traditional sales approaches

🤹 When focussing on inbound, the marketing and sales team should ensure that the team members have the required skills to deliver creative content, build a strategic roadmap to deliver new and insightful material, and can set up trackable KPIs to measure those inbound efforts.

📈 Like any other marketing channel, you should track and measure inbound efforts. When it comes to tracking, it is important to define the metrics and the frequency. Only looking at traffic and velocity is not enough — it’s better to understand who the piece of content should address and what it should achieve. Here are some examples of such KPIs:

So why is inbound powerful? It helps your brand, it helps you understand your customers and improve the value of your product. This in return will boost user and customer growth and lead to strong unit economics.

We’d love to hear your feedback on this series. Are you building an Enterprise Software start-up? What are the challenges you face? Reach out to us! We’d love to chat, potentially include you in this series or invest in your company

📧→ charlotte@pauaventures.com ←📧

Thank you to Jennifer from Keelvar and Ronak from GraphCMS for sharing their insights and Felix for his help & feedback.