The beginnings of a fintech
In July 2018, CEO Hristo Borisov and CTO Boyko Karadzhov co-founded Payhawk and started out as the only two employees and engineers. I joined them two months later. I was the only salesperson in the team for a full year, and I was kept busy supporting the business to stay match fit. You'll have to forgive my football analogies; as a former player, I've had a lot of experience in inspiring great teamwork — and beating the competition both on and off the field.
In the beginning, Hristo and I secured several meetings with companies in our local market, Bulgaria. At this time, we didn't even have a product, not even a demo or beta. We were selling our product with wireframes, pictures, and an amazing idea.
In this early stage, we weren't only selling but also validating our product value proposition. As Hristo mentions in his blog on how to start building an excellent fintech product, we were trying to see the spark in our customers' eyes. We planned to solve a big problem for them, and we wanted to see if their enthusiasm was as great as we imagined. Trying to validate the product in Bulgaria first was like the ultimate qualifying match for the company, too, as Bulgaria is one of the EU Member States with the lowest digitization performance.
In November 2018, we decided to participate in our first Web Summit. Hristo and I flew to Lisbon, set up a mini stand, and talked to everyone we could. One prospect, an airline, was so excited he even wanted to buy the product right on the spot. We secured our first international customer at this event, and we felt reassured by the responses. The event also helped us see the huge market potential in Europe, and we went back to Sofia with our spirits high and our heads firmly in the game.
For the next whole year, I remained a one-man-show in sales. And I did absolutely everything from prospecting, closing, and compliance to customer support and vendor management. This varied workload meant I was available 24/7 on the phone, no matter weekday or weekend. And, thanks to Intercom, I always managed to be there for customers. Today it looks very different; we have 7 people in our customer success team, speaking 8 languages. We're more proud than ever to say that we offer the best customer care in the market. Then, in March 2019, we closed the pre-seed, yet another validation that we were doing something right.
“Although Payhawk has grown a lot lately, we still have the same outstanding support that we were promised. We also appreciate that our feedback is valued when designing future features, such as the subscriptions functionality”, says Federico Fazzi, CFO at Exogroup.
The team starts to grow
In September 2019, Raquel Orejas contacted us as she'd recently moved to Bulgaria from the US, and we hired her as the second salesperson on the team. Raquel, who was previously at The World Bank, took care of the Spanish market. A couple of months later, in January 2020, Thomas Westerhoven, a former PWC senior associate, joined as the manager for DACH.
In a typical sales setup, companies analyze the markets and then hire personnel to develop that market. We did it the other way around. We now had two native sales managers, and we gave them carte blanche to develop the strategy in their local market. This strategy was very successful. We understood market nuances pretty early on, and each of us focused on what we did best.
I was part of a team for more than 12 years in my football days. My primary learning was that you should always put your players where they play the best. This kind of player formation is what we did at Payhawk. As a team player, I also chose what was best for the organization instead of individual gains.
You've probably noticed that I haven't mentioned the marketing team yet. Why? Well, there was no team. That meant that most of the inbound was organic. We also started an outbound LinkedIn campaign that was successful. And, I spent my days cold calling and cold emailing like a maniac. It was a lot of work. In January 2020, we finally hired the first person in marketing, and we started to see the organic leads ramp up.
The sales process
In sales, having a good process is critical. Before joining Payhawk, I worked with other multinational companies where processes were already established. In a startup, you have to build all those processes from scratch, and that's not an easy game. As the team grew, we hired two more sales managers, and in mid-2020, I built the sales process as a living document. There were so many examples out there around developing processes. But, I found the most important thing was to adapt them to your team's needs.
We realized early on that well-established companies are willing to keep the status quo even if it doesn't work. It can be harder to get in front of the big guys in that sense. I still remember reading in one of the books that Hristo recommended to us, Predictable Revenue, that the big deals come from outbound, and that's true. To date, our biggest deals have always been from companies we have approached.
From selling pictures of wireframes to having an all-in-one finance tool that does much more than we ever imagined, 2022 looks very different for us. Today, we're helping companies digitize one of the most painful areas for their finance teams; expense and bills management. And we're empowering their teams with user-friendly access to company funds. Plus, we're making the new normal of remote working a piece of cake by supporting finance teams to promote accountability and get transparency over spend, no matter where and how their colleagues are using funds.
Finally, I'm really excited about the latest addition to the team, Paul Albert, our SVP of Sales. Paul's 20+ years in SaaS will help take our sales team to the next level.
Want to be part of our cup winning team? Check out the latest opportunities and get in touch.
This article first appeared on Linked In.