By Carly Ries

In recent years, the terms "growth hacker" and "growth hacking" have been some of the key buzzwords in the marketing world. But what are they? 

Although there are many variations of the term growth hacking (in fact, many people throw the term around without even know the meaning), let's take the words directly from Sean Ellis, the guy who invented the term. He describes growth hacking as:

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"After product-market fit and an efficient conversion process, the next critical step is finding scalable, repeatable and sustainable ways to grow the business. If you can’t do this, nothing else really matters. So rather than hiring a VP Marketing with all of the previously mentioned prerequisites, I recommend hiring or appointing a growth hacker ...

“The right growth hacker will have a burning desire to connect your target market with your must-have solution. They must have the creativity to figure out unique ways of driving growth in addition to testing/evolving the techniques proven by other companies."

It's important to remember that growth hacking isn't a silver bullet.  It's a scalable,  data-driven approach to attracting, converting, and retaining customers. Make sense?

My colleague, Jessica Vionas-Singer, wrote an e-book on growth hacking, and there was a phrase in it that stood out to me: "Growth hackers are driven by finding unconventional ways to get the word out about their business and connecting the target market with their product." At that point, the following entered my mind: Sales teams should be thinking the exact same way. They should think outside the box and take note of a growth hacker's process.

Below I'll discuss five steps of the growth hacking process and what sales teams can learn from these steps to help to increase sales.

Steps in the Growth Hacking Process and How They Apply to Sales

1. Create SMART Goals

Growth hackers obsess over reaching their goals, and sales teams should too (especially if there is a quota to meet!). However, sales teams should be SMART about these goals. SMART meaning: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. 

SMART goals can help sales teams hone in on their efforts and have a direction to work toward to help them achieve their goals. Having SMART goals can prevent a sales team from spinning their wheels and can help to close more sales quicker with their target in mind.

2. Measure Progress Toward Your Goals

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A salesperson should look at the goals he/she set in step one and measure the progress. Depending on the type of goal, he/she should measure this on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. Sales teams should monitor trends in the progress toward their goals rather than measuring peaks, valleys, and one-off events. Measuring progress allows the sales teams to always keep their goals in mind, rather than set them and forget them.

3. Experiment

Always. Be. Closing. Sales teams have heard this phrase time and time again. But here's a new one to throw into the mix: always be testing. Growth hackers make decisions based on testing and analytics. They optimize against the areas that are working and improve or drop the areas that aren't. Salespeople should have this exact same mentality whether they are cold calling or working with a warm lead. They should decide which areas of the sales process they want to focus on that are most important to them and go from there. A few areas to consider testing include:

  • Testing different phone call openers
  • Testing times of day people are most likely to answer the phone or respond to an email
  • Testing different types of emails, both in language and design

Salespeople should consider A/B testing multiple variations of the same effort (keeping all aspects constant except one variable) to see if they can start seeing patterns of what's working and what's not over time.

4. Tweak and Optimize

As the results of the sales team's experiments and tests start coming in, they should analyze what works and what doesn't to help move leads closer to a sales. From there, they should apply what's working to other efforts and see if the results increase. They should continue to tweak and optimize until they see a pattern of success. All of this should be based off of data and analytics. Sales teams should consider investing in tools that can help them track their experiments to save time and make their lives easier.

5. Repeat

The only down side to mimicking growth hackers is that they’re never done with the five-step process. Growth hackers are constantly trying to test and optimize different strategies in order to achieve and exceed their goals. Once they've identified what works in once area of their efforts, they begin to focus on another, and are never satisfied as they are always trying to be better.  By following this process, sales teams will quickly find that they are working smarter toward their goals, not harder.

Growth hackers learn from their mistakes and successes and put a plan of attack together for the future. Many sales teams have quotas that drive them each month, but they should aim to make their personal goals even higher to push them harder. By its definition above, growth hackers are obsessed with getting the results they desire, and sales teams shouldn't be any different.

Are you using growth hacking in your company? What are some of the things your sales team has learned from it?

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Carly Ries

About the author

Carly Ries Carly was formerly a Senior Inbound Marketing Consultant for SmartBug Media. With over 7 years of marketing and account management experience, Carly helps clients develop and implement inbound marketing strategies to grow leads, conversion, and revenue. Read more articles by Carly Ries.

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