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Outbound sales development: How we secured our first international customer (and second one ever) for our startup

An aerial view of London showcases the iconic city landscape. A key market for Delta-v's outsourced sales solution.

This post provides an overview of the strategies and tactics that we used at Delta-v to land our first customer outside of our home market. The purpose of the post is to tell some of our story, and also provide insights into how growing B2B companies can leverage outbound sales development to acquire new customers.

Landing our first customer for our SDR-teams-as-a-Service

I founded Delta-v in late 2020. We were very lucky to sign our first customer almost immediately. As soon as I mentioned that we were offering SDR-teams-as-a-Service, Electrum, a FinTech based in Cape Town, outsourced their sales development to us. Within a few weeks to put together Electrum’s sales playbook, outbound tech stack and SDR team. In November 2020, we took Electrum’s SDR team live, and the team started generating high-quality sales opportunities almost instantaneously.

From the outset, my vision for Delta-v was for us to be a Cape Town-based business, focusing on working with FinTech and enterprise SaaS companies in Europe. Initially, I hypothesized that we’d need to land 2-3 customers in South Africa, establish a track record, and develop strong case studies in our home market before shifting our focus further afield.

Struggling to scale further in South Africa

After landing Electrum, we set our sights on signing more customers in South Africa, and kicked off our own outbound sales development campaign. However, we soon discovered that although tech companies in South Africa were keenly interested in our services and loved what we had to offer, as soon as we started discussing costs, conversations came to an abrupt halt. (It costs seven figures in Rands or six figures in euros/dollars/pounds to setup and run a fully managed, embedded SDR team for a year). We spent nearly six months talking to South African businesses, only to run out of good-fit companies to target. This forced us to shift our focus to Europe much earlier than anticipated.

The question we now faced was “How can a four-person company, based in Cape Town, with only one customer, and a limited track record, land customers in Europe and get them to entrust their sales development to us?”

Our strategy for using targeted outbound to generate sales pipeline in the UK

We already had internal SDR in place who’d been doing outreach to companies in SA. His job was to identify the right people (people who match our buyer personas) at the right companies (companies who match our ideal customer profile), reach out and engage them, and secure qualified discovery meetings that they booked into my calendar. The plan was now to shift his focus to the UK, but we also needed to figure out a way to identify companies who would buy from an early stage company like we were.

We knew that South Africans are generally open to speaking with other South Africans, and we also have a good reputation as hard workers in places like the UK. We guessed that if business leaders had a positive experience working with a South African in their organization, they might be more open to working with a business based in SA.

We this as the basis for building a prospect list of UK-based companies. To create the list, we built a search in LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find South Africans working in senior roles at tech companies that matched our Ideal Customer Profile. (We used attendance at a SA university as a proxy for being South African).

This search generated an initial list of about 30 companies to target. We then mapped out the leadership teams of these companies, which gave us around 120 people to target with cold outreach. We’d decided to take an account based approach and not only to target the South African team members, but also the other members of the leadership teams who held roles that matched our buyer personas.

Our SDR used our B2B data tools to obtain the contact information (phone numbers and email addresses) for these prospects, loaded them up into multi-channel (phone, email, LinkedIn) cadences in Salesloft, and kicked off the cold outreach process.

Landing our first UK customer

The approach worked incredibly well. Within a month, of the 30 companies we targeted, we were able to secure 10 discovery meetings. To date, this remains one of our highest-converting campaigns for our own outbound at Delta-v.

One of those meetings was with the CEO of ARKK, a FinTech company based in London that sells tax automation software to large enterprise companies. Although he wasn’t South African, his Chief Customer Officer was. Within six weeks of the initial discovery meeting, we signed ARKK as our second customer and our first customer outside of SA. We took ARKK’s SDR team live in September 2021, and this momentum set us up to sign two more international customers in 2021—one in the UK and the other in the USA.

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Alex Gasson

Alex Gasson is the CEO and founder of Delta-v. We provide outsourced sales development teams to Enterprise Software and FinTech companies. Prior to founding Delta-v Alex founded and successfully exited a tech recruitment business, following which he had two successful stints as a revenue leader in high growth B2B tech startups. His approach is grounded in deep theoretical understanding of Go-to-Market best practices, combined with over 15 years of hands on experience setting up and running high performance B2B sales organisations. Alex’s writing focuses on expert sales advice focussed on B2B sales development and Go-to-Market activities.