Why this 7-year-old startup has yet to hire a single sales rep

Kelly Jackson

It’s not uncommon for a young startup to lack a formal sales team. Usually, those first few deals come through at the efforts of the founders. But then, as the small team plans its next growth stage, a sales rep or two or ten are usually brought on to drive revenue.

But what about a seven-year-old SaaS company with more than 20,000 paying users — is it normal to not have a single sales representative?

For ProjectManager.com it is.

Instead of recruiting closers to help bring in new business, the software company went in a different direction: content marketing.

“We launched January of 2010 and gained traction with a lot of accounts within the first three months,” said Jason Westland, CEO and founder. “At this point, we had no marketing team, no sales team, one person on customer success, five developers and then myself.”

ProjectManager’s platform provides an online, collaborative, up-to-date tracking system of project updates. When using the software, project managers can instantly see how far along the team is on the project and whether or not the project is on time.

Westland said that without a software like theirs in place, project managers are left manually tracking and updating Excel spreadsheets while running reports once a week.

This idea caught the attention of NASA — an early adopter of the planning platform.

Just three months after launching the product, Westland said NASA reached out looking to implement their solutions. Seven years later, NASA continues to use ProjectManager.

“NASA literally searched for providers online,” said Westland. “Without a sales team, and without marketing them hard, we’ve been able to help train and foster a community of users and learners.”

Alongside the users from the NASA team, ProjectManager has continued to grow a client learning environment driven by content.

“We first went and hired a team of about a dozen independent writers — all who were project management experts from around the world,” Westland said.

From there, the team began distributing a newsletter, filled with articles that address how to solve relevant and widespread project management problems. Today, that newsletter has over 450,000 subscribers.

“After that, we thought it would be great to help train customers to manage up,” said Westland.

So they launched video tutorials as a free resource to their clients and interested partners. In less than three years, the ProjectManager’s YouTube page has gained over 90,000 subscribers with more than 10 million views across 310 instructional videos.

There’s also a ProjectManager LinkedIn group with about 350,000 members, and a mobile app that features three live articles per week plus one video post from headquarters with about half a million users.

“These are great platforms to scour a business with a very small team,” Westland said. “As a result, we haven’t needed a sales team. The key difference with us is that all of us have managed projects in our background. We understand the customer base. We create content from world experts that we’ve hired — not junior level content writers. We don’t just hire people who know project management. We hire the top project managers from around the world.”

Today the team has nine full timers in Austin and another 13 in New Zealand. With no immediate plans to bring on a sales rep, Westland did say they will look to bring on a senior salesperson to help manage ProjectManager’s large enterprise accounts.


Image provided by ProjectManager.

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