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SalesPrepper CEOs Niraj Zaveri and Michael Chu

Michael Chu and Niraj Zaveri were working for SAP when they started to notice a dramatic shift in the world of enterprise sales.

“Buyers are more educated than ever, and sellers need to be equipped with the right information to be effective,” Chu said. “Knowing who to call and what to say is critical. The old model of fear-based, relationship-driven, functional-checklist sales approach was over.”

They spent the next six months talking to sales professionals to confirm the pain point they’d observed. They learned that it required exhaustive efforts for salespeople to research and guess the organizational structure of potential buyers.

That was the impetus of SalesPrepper, a new Seattle startup that crowdsources organizational charts for salespeople.

“Salespeople spend an inordinate amount of time searching social sites and looking in CRM systems to guess reporting structures and find buyers and influencers — essentially trying to build out an organizational chart for each company,” said Chu, who serves as co-CEO with Zaveri. “We utilize software and crowdsourcing to build our organizational charts, which are then verified by human research analysts.”

The SalesPrepper team draws on experience from SAP, Salesforce, Oracle, Symantec, and several startups. They recently went through the 9Mile Labs spring cohort in Seattle.

We caught up with Chu for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “SalesPrepper crowdsources organizational charts used by salespeople to know who to sell to.”

Inspiration hit us when: “I saw first-hand how painful building organizational charts is for salespeople. I worked with a salesperson at SAP who spent three months trying to build out an organizational chart for a new account, only to get 25 percent of the organization mapped out. This was painfully done through customer meetings, phone calls, and hours on social media sites.”

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VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Angel then possibly VC. The first money is the most expensive. The longer we can delay financing, the more customer traction we can get, the better terms we will get when we raise money.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Crowdsourcing that incentivizes contributors. We pay an ongoing royalty to a submitter whenever a contact they contributed is viewed. No one else does this — it’s a fantastic incentive compared to what contributors get on other systems.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Building a company in a space we are experts in. We experienced the pain firsthand, so we know exactly what salespeople need. I’m a firm believer in building upon your past experiences.”

organizationalchart1The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Trying to solve all of sales’ problems. We started out trying to build a tool that would solve every research problem experienced by salespeople and ended up not solving any of them really well. By focusing on organizational charts, we are able to really nail a single problem that we know is extremely painful.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Gates — a true entrepreneur who has vision and generosity that I could only dream of.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Celebrating and commiserating over our young children.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “The ability to take ownership of something and see it to completion. We have a highly collaborative environment and brainstorm together constantly, but at the end of the day we have more to do than there is time for.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Trust your gut. As an entrepreneur, you will receive (often times conflicting) advice from all sides. Do the necessary research and due diligence, but at the end of the day, you know your business the best.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the companies participating in the 9Mile Labs incubator spring cohort. 

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