Start Selling Like an Engineer

Editor’s Note: David Greenberger is the Director of Merchant Sales at Foursquare. This post was originally posted on David’s Blog and is being republished with his permission.

One of the helpful things about working with super smart engineers is that we get to see how they approach and solve problems. What I’ve learned from my time in tech is that great products are built on small 1% gains, compounding on each other over time.

These days there are so many data points to track and scale in sales, we salespeople can take this same approach to build great efficiencies. Here’s an example of an email that went out to our team earlier this week that inspired me:

“We just finished 3 more opinionator / tip compose experiments.  All 3 beat their respective control groups and are now on for all users.  They ran for 10 days as 50-50 experiments for Foursquare users (> 100k users enrolled in each)

Opinion Points Lift, US Users1

experiment % lift
experiment 1 3.12%
experiment 2 1.90%
experiment 3 73%

-engineer ”

Emails like these are sent around Foursquare multiple times / day, and as a salesperson it’s easy to ignore and write off as just a bunch of weird numbers.

If you take a minute to think about it though, we salespeople can do the same thing.

The product teams are doing small experiments with lots of people, to get statistically significant data, and driving really small (1-3%) gains. These small little 1% gains make all the difference in the world over time, especially as you begin to compound them on other 1-2% changes. Eventually, you’re dealing with a much more efficient system.

How Can We Apply the Same Strategy?

To put that in perspective for us salespeople: that means if you did an experiment with your email reach out, sent them to 100 people and got just 1 extra person, out of 100, to engage, that would be a win. That’s something that you can build on.

The only way to really make sure that you’re gaining 1% wins is to be organized and diligent in your tests. This is hard for a salesperson. I know. But it’s not impossible. And if you can achieve little 1% wins, week over week you can see big gains.

The Numbers

1% gain on an email test of a 100 people this week = 1 extra email response this week.
Continuing that same email for the rest of the year = 12 extra responses in a quarter
Another experiment the next week that yields 1% on top of that = 1 extra email response the next week. -> 11 extra responses for the rest of that quarter.
Now have 23 more email responses in a quarter.
Continuing that trend with a new experiment each week is 78 extra responses in a quarter.

That’s a lot of prospects to talk to.

Now imagine if you send those emails to 200 people/week rather than just 100. Imagine if you can get 2% gains with any of your experiments, or 12%.

Very quickly this can all work in your favor, for doing the same amount of work. It just takes a little bit of organization.


Becoming more efficient in your messaging doesn’t only help you by getting better numbers with less work. If you have a great product to sell, you’re also helping your future customers. Prospects are hammered with so many annoying messages that they can’t help but characterize you with everyone else and write off unengaging messages. (How many of us are navigating through annoying sales / marketing emails every morning when we wake up?)

If your message is efficient and engaging, AND you have a great product to tell about, getting a more engaging message through saves your customers time and money as well.

We use the CRM,, which helps us track open and response rates on our emails. Using different email templates, it makes these experiments all incredibly easy.

So, we’re going to start taking some inspiration from our friends across the office. Smart stuff.

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