How changing one word lead to a 284% conversion rate increase

Building a new product is difficult, but at times, it seems as if marketing one is impossible.

When that slow trickle of potential customers does arrive at your site, the last thing you want is to see them “bounce” — leaving your site without ever purchasing, registering or providing you any feedback of what you could have done better.

That’s the situation Sellingly is in as a newly launched app that helps transform the way sales rep email their leads and customers. To ensure we were converting the highest number of leads as possible, we decided to start A/B testing our homepage to see if there were things we could improve.

Before we decided what to test, we thought we’d activate our A/B testing platform (Visual Website Optimizer) to capture a simple heatmap of what people were looking at / clicking on the homepage.  At the time, we didn’t know you could run a explicit heatmap test, so instead we made the lead offensive change to the homepage that we could think of:  We changed the number “2″ to the word “two” in the main headline.

Clearly this change would have no impact on our overall conversions and within a day or two we should have a picture of what people were looking at when they arrived at

Control: Double your sales in the next 2 weeks.
Variation #1: Double your sales in the next two weeks.

We couldn’t have been more wrong with our assumption.  We forgot about our test for a few days, and when we returned to VWO to see how our heatmaps were coming, we were shocked to see the following:


That’s a 284% increase in conversion by only changing a single word!

Now, I can’t say why that change led to more conversions, and I sure as heck can’t take credit for making the decision to run the test.  All I know is that we’ve made the change permanent and will continue testing just about anything. Who knows when you’ll see something amazing.

Note: Some other day, I’ll publish the stats that show how we more than quadrupled our conversions when we changed from “download” to “sign up”.  That was another minor change that has dramatically improved the rate at which sales reps are experiencing the benefits of Sellingly.

If you haven’t already, sign up for an account and get started today!


Husband, Dad, Day-job and Founder. Nothing is impossible.

If you’re genuinely thinking about founding a startup starting a company, and occasionally worry that the deck is stacked against you, then this post is for you.

I can’t claim that Sellingly is a runaway success (yet), but I can certainly tell you that it’s possible to do something substantial, and build tools/apps that people use, outside of the world of incubators and away from the glare of “startup culture”.

Let me start with my stats.  If you subscribe to the popular/conventional wisdom around startups, there was never much of a chance that I’d succeed:

  • I’m a solo founder with a DIY attitude
  • I’ve raised $0.00 in funding
  • I live in Toronto
  • I’m married
  • I have a huge mortgage
  • I have 2 kids (a 2 year old and a new born)
  • I have a well-paying and demanding day-job (VP at a non-glamorous company)
  • I’m in my mid-thirties

Before I go any further, I should also mention that I’m not new to the world of startups.  Back in the early 2000s I built and ran “community sites” — aka. Social Networks — before the likes of Myspace and then Facebook took over and basically killed the market for the rest of us.  (Good for them — they built much better applications than I did.)

I’m also not a stranger to the lure of incubators.  Back in 2008, I applied (as a “solo-founder”) to ycombinator and was invited down to Mountain View to pitch the team.

Aside: The screenshot below is one of my favourite stories with respect to my ycominbator experience.  I applied to the program without knowing anything about it or its prestige.  To be honest, I filled out my application in under 30 minutes and then completely forgot about it.  Then, some time in October 2008 I got a message from “pg” telling my to check my account for a question.  I honestly thought it was spam and sent a few e-mails back-and-forth asking “pg” for technical support.  Can you imagine anyone from today’s crop of applicants being this naive? See for yourself:

The innocence of youth ... what it looks like when you don't know who "pg" is.

The innocence of youth … what it looks like when you don’t know who “pg” is.

“It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans

Don’t for a second think that I’m down on incubators/accelerators or whatever they are calling themselves these days; I’m not.  What I am down on however, is the culture they create (their ‘fans’) of which I’d have to include myself for at least a few years following my YC experience.

What happens, to me anyway, is that focus that should be squarely directed at building something great is drawn towards “building something that will get me into YC/TS/500S/etc).  I saw myself going through the cycle first hand.  Here’s a true sequence of events that played out around a YC application cycle:

  • Read through PG’s writing on startups he’d like to see
  • Try to come up with a ‘grand’ idea that kind of matches one (who care whether or not I’m passionate about it)
  • Start drafting a pitch
  • Realize my pitch needs to look substantial: buy a domain, pay for logo design, setup a blog and write some fluff
  • Finish my application
  • Wait, refresh inbox, try cold-emailing anyone associated with YC
  • Get rejected, feel burnt out, totally abandon the idea I pitch them..

I know I’m not the only person who’s been through the cycle.  In fact, I’d bet that there are hundreds if not thousands who are in the middle of it right now.  And it certainly isn’t unique to YC.  When that application fails, or if it’s just not the right time of year, there’s always a dozen other high-profile ones along with regional and new incubators to regurgitate your application for…

The Ah-Ha moment

It all changed for me when I started to think about creating a business and a life — and I stopped thinking about incubators, exit strategies, valuations and any other garbage that was distracting me and guiding me towards making decisions that weren’t true to my values and passion.

Perhaps never making it out to San Francisco and the valley are actually my secret weapon.  Perhaps it’s the fact that everything I do is now judged against the idea that I need to provide for my family … all I know is that I woke up one day and just wanted to create things that people use and to create a company that was fun for me and anyone else who joins me to work.  Truthfully speaking, it’s actually the second part that I’m more excited about.  The idea of creating an environment were unique and driven people can come together and create products that people love is my #1 priority.  If that wasn’t, why would I be doing this?

So, how am I doing it?

If you’ve made it this far, and are actually curious how I’m making this happen will the ‘deck stacked against me’ as I mentioned above, here’s how:

 Note:  This was my routine before my daughter was born last week — who knows what it will look like now…

A typical day for me involves waking up, spending 5-10 minutes with my wife, saying good bye to her and than caring for my 2 year old son.  We’ll read, play, eat, soil ourselves and eventually, make our way out the door.

Next I arrive at my day-job where I’ll settle in for a typical day of chaos.  I work at a pretty flexible company, so I’m in a little after 9 and generally leave a little before 6.  If I’m lucky, which is about 1 day a week, I’ll have a little downtime at lunch and I sneak in a little work fixing a bug or writing a new landing page.

After work, I head home where I join my wife and son for dinner and our standard bedtime routine.

Once he’s asleep, my wife and I will cuddle up, enjoy some quite time and maybe a little Breaking Bad.

She’s gets tired early, so around 10:15 she’ll make her way to bed, I’ll grab a laptop and my second day begins.  On a good night, I’ll be up until about 1:00 – 1:30am plugging away at whatever is needed.

Weekends aren’t much different – I steal time whenever I can (most notably, running to Starbucks when my son takes a nap) and just do my best to balance a real life with the idea of creating something new.

What I’ve learned:

This routine has taught me a few very valuable lessons.

Firstly:  If you don’t love and believe in what you’re doing, there’s no way you’re going to succeed.  The reason my YC applications were terrible is because there’s no way I’d work 20 hour days to make them happen.  Life is short, and if there’s something you don’t want to do, chances are you’ll either cut corners or find a way to avoid doing it entirely.

Secondly: When your time is limited, you have to learn to make better decisions. I used to have a lengthy “warm up” process whenever I got in front of a computer.  Check my e-mail, check my favorite blogs, check my email again, watch a few videos, and ….. then I’m ready to go.  When you’ve already been awake for 15 hours though, and you’re just starting your second job (your “startup”) you can’t waste time like that.  Every minute I have to work is precious time to me know.  I’ve learned to think through problems while I drive, brush my teeth or even walk up the stairs.  When I sit down in front of a computer, I’m accountable (to myself) to make sure that I get the most from that time.

Lastly: Nothing is impossible. Sure, Sellingly may not been the most talked about sales email application on Techcrunch, but I built it, I own it and it’s growing.  Despite what many see as insurmountable obstacles, I’ve managed to build a product and a company on my own without “disrupting” my family or my life.

It’s definitely possible to make it happen, regardless of your circumstances.  So, if you’re looking to start a company — even if it’s one that competes with Sellingly — I say: Go for it!  If I can do it, anyone can do it.

Have a great day.


How often do you follow-up with your leads?

One of the most common questions I get asked – or overhear others asking a trade shows and conferences – has always been “How often should I follow-up with my leads?”  A valid question for sure — but certainly not the most important if your goal is to close more deals.   If that’s the case, then the question you should be asking is “How many times should I be following up with my leads?“.

A frequently re-told statistics in sales is that “80% of sales happen between the 5th and 12th contact, yet only 12% of sales people follow-up with their leads more than 3 times”.  Here’s a historic breakdown of those numbers:

2%  of sales are made on the 1st contact
3%  of sales are made on the 2nd contact
5%  of sales are made on the 3rd contact
10% of sales are made on the 4th contact
80% of sales are made on the 5th-12th contact

According to those very simple, and time-tested statistics, the only thing any other sales rep needs to do in order to increase the number of deals that close is stay in touch with their leads more often (not more frequently).  Simply finding ways to continue the conversations, continually offering relevant pieces of information or engaging in a genuine relationship with your leads will always - ALWAYS – result in you selling more!

It’s sounds easy, right?  Well, then why isn’t it part of everyone’s sales process?  Let me show you why this becomes a nearly impossible feat when managed manually.  To do so, here are some simple numbers from a previous workplace.

At Sales Organization XYZ we had 3 inbound sales reps.  Our marketing machine was generating approx. 60 qualified leads (hot) every month and these leads were split evenly   Sales Organization XYZ also generated approx 240 download leads (warm) that we often ignored by the sales reps who were busy managing their hot leads; in hopes they would return in the hot funnel.

To recap, each sales manager would received, on average, every month:

  • 20 hot leads
  • 80 warm leads – ignored

So, let’s take a look at the ‘touches’ that each sales rep would be required to have with their hot leads starting January 1st.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Hot 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240

According to the table above, by December of year #1 our sales resp would each have to e-mail or phone 240 people to maintain their efforts of reaching every lead up-to 12 times.  That’s not too bad — assuming they had no other responsibilities – as it’s less than 10 contacts a day…  However, what happens when we start seeing some results and want to also contact all of our warm leads?

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Hot&Warm 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200

Well, that’s getting a little more difficult to manage, isn’t it?  Each rep would need to reach out to 1200 people in December, and of those 1200 only 100 of them would have been contacted 12 times.

I won’t bore you with another table, but just imagine what those numbers would look like once we include:

  • Contact with our existing customers
  • Leads that rolled over from last year (assuming our reps weren’t brand new on Jan 1st)
  • Other daily tasks, organizational (management) and other e-mail

The numbers just become too much for any one person to handle and the typical outcome is that our sales reps would go running to the marketing team begging for some sort of automation campaign.

This is where things really get interesting.  Marketing automation is great at hitting numbers — like a sales rep who only focussed on hitting his or her targets — but it lacks that true human touch that is required to create a bond with customers.

So, what can be done?  Well, for starters there are great tool like Sellingy that can help remind you who’s due for a touch, allow you to send mass-emails and generally help optimize this whole process.  There are also a slew of CRMs that have tasks and reminders that might be useful.

The truth is however, that there’s no magic solution.  If you want to sell more — and be a top performing rep — it’s up to you to find what works within your own process. It may be a combination of technology, ingenuity or brute force. As long as you’re staying in touch with your leads more than your competitors (and you’re selling something of value) chances are you’ll be able to close more deals this year than any previous year.

The key to remember is that selling is part science and part art.  On this blog, along with promoting upcoming features of Sellingly, we’re going to start exploring both sides of selling in an attempt to maximize the potential of every individual sales rep.  Join us in 2013 as we explore the science of selling and the art of sales!



The launch of a new sales productivity tool

Over the past several months Sellingly has been in ‘private beta’ mode, which basically means that we had the software ready to go, but we wanted to keep it exclusive to a small group of power users  who were willing and able to not just use the tool, but contribute ideas and feedback that will help shape it’s future direction.

Well, that time is coming to a close.  In two days, (Jan 1st, 2013) we will official make Sellingly public, giving the millions of sales reps around the world their first opportunity to take advantage of all the great features we’ve built into the product.

I personally can’t wait.  I set out to build a useful product that would remove some of the bottlenecks I personally saw when my own sales team was trying to take on more leads and improve their conversion ratios.

I won’t go on for too long explaining what you’ll find on January 1st, but I wanted to quickly post to let everyone out there know that I’m thoroughly excited for the new year.  The coming week, I’ll contribute an official launch post as well as some background information about how I got here, why I plan on being open about everything from development to revenue and where I see the product going in the future.

Have a fun and safe New Years Eve everyone — and I’ll see you in 2013!