“We thought we could do everything for everyone. You think you have this incredible idea and it’s going to be the best thing in the world. Then you take it to potential users and customers, and they start to pull on it.”
Ambition aims to help sales teams improve the performance of individual salespeople through gamification — essentially, turning it into a competition — along with real-time tracking and insight. The overall concept could be applicable for any company with a sales team, so in the early days, they didn’t specialize in any one type of customer in order to scale quickly.
That approach quickly became a challenge.
“Anyone who could get their data to us, we could work with. It was a huge advantage for us in the market, but it got really complicated,” Trautschold says.
The team started to see issues with the quality of data Ambition was providing to their customers. They decided to set up guidelines, only working with companies that ran on Salesforce and a few other CRM platforms, in order to provide the best experience possible.
“Once you start to scale, you need a lot of repeatability and clear processes on how you talk about service to customers, how to communicate your value, and how quickly they will receive that value,” he says.
But, he notes, “it’s definitely scary to turn away those customers.”
Rethinking that customer acquisition process helped the startup add big clients like Wayfair, Cell Marque, VorsightBP, and more.
The ability to rethink and revise has been ingrained in the team since the beginning. Trautschold, CSO Jared Houghton, and CEO Travis Truett met in college and founded two previous startups before creating Ambition in 2013.
Through their peer network, they heard about the pain points that large sales organizations had with motivating younger employees.
“They are wired differently… these organizations wanted to promote great work culture and inspiration on what they were doing day-to-day, but they were still doing sales management and compensation in a very old-school way,” says Trautschold.
Trautschold experienced this himself as a sales representative at HP, where he says sales targets and milestones were only checked a couple of times a year, and the information was only available to your manager or supervisor.
“We realized we could have a huge impact on how employee experiences can help sales reps grow, develop, learn, and achieve their goals within a company,” he says.
Inspired by the popularity of fantasy sports, Ambition motivates and maximizes the performance of sales teams through gamification, adding more visibility to real-time progress on sales goals. The platform provides a dashboard with metrics of calls, leads, and closed deals from each member of the sales team.
It provides coaching and contest features, along with a performance management platform that shows a high view snapshot of the whole team. The sales leader can see how everyone is progressing on their goals and whether any adjustments must be made to correct what’s not working.
“You are able to see all of this other stuff about yourself in real-time — financial information, exercise, etc. — and how you’re doing against your goals through apps. Why not for one of the most impactful things you do every day, like your sales targets or KPI benchmark against your peers?” asks Trautschold.
“To only look at performance quarterly really leaves a lot on the table,” he says, citing that clients see a 22 percent increase in sales per hour once onboarded.
The Ambition team practices what they preach, as they test their software with their own sales team. Trautschold shares that they’ve actually started to use the platform to keep track of the company’s wellness goals, as well.
“The powerful thing is that people who don’t touch sales and may not have a lot of overlap with salespeople, like developers or people on our support team, can really see from a user perspective how other people use our product,” he says. “Gamification is a means to get people more engaged and we see real behavior change with our platform.”
The Chattanooga-based startup went through the Y Combinator accelerator in 2014 and since then, has raised nearly $8 million in equity capital from Lamp Post Group, Y Combinator, Nashville Capital Network Partners Fund, and angels like Rivals.com founder Shannon Terry.
They have hit eight-figures in ARR and are focused on expansion.
“We’re really focused on being a sustainable company. We want to grow within reasonable expectations without pushing ourselves to the point of being over-leveraged. That’s one of the reasons we based our company in the Southeast,” says Trautschold.
With 35+ employees in offices in Chattanooga, Nashville, and Atlanta, Trautschold says that they’re ramping up hiring across engineering, sales, and customer success in all three cities this year.