We Interviewed Sofia About Traction Academy's Journey After Scaling from $380K ARR to $1.3 Million ARR in 6 Months

Traction Academy

Scaled from $380K ARR to $1.3 Million ARR in 6 Months

Industry: Tech/Marketing SaaS & Consulting for Sales Teams

Traction Academy Growth Curve

Full Interview Transcription

John:
This artifact was commissioned by weadvertiseyourbusiness.com to tell the story of their clients' journeys towards seven figures in revenue. Hi, I'm John from Artifact, and in this episode I spoke with Sofia Roque of Sofos and Traction Academy. She told me about how the idea for the Traction Academy grew out of Sofos, success they've seen in their pilot program, why everyone needs some sales skills, and much more. Enjoy.

Sofia Roque:
Hi, I'm Sofia Roque, I'm the head of operations at Traction Academy and at Sofos.

John:
So, tell me a little bit more about Traction Academy and Sofos. What is sort of the origin of what you guys do? What is the problem that you guys were trying to solve? What do you guys bring to the market?

Sofia Roque:
Traction Academy is a new program that we're launching now, but Traction Academy kind of came to be because of Sofos. So, I'll start by telling the story of Sofos a little bit. Sofos was a program within the Newchip Accelerator. It was something that we offered for free to companies and new [inaudible 00:01:07] to help them get investors. Sofos is a marketing automation platform, and what we would do is, on behalf of the founder, we would reach out to investors. We were able to reach out to thousands per month and then the founder would only have to talk to the investors that actually engage with us and have interest. So, we were able to kind of five X the meetings that they're able to have per week requiring very little work from them. That's how Newchip Connect started as what it was called when it was a program under Newchip.

Sofia Roque:
And then it was so successful and we were seeing so many people want to use it for other things outside of the investment, for sales, for finding co-founders, for developers, for literally anything under the sun that we decided that it would actually be a really cool program to offer to anybody outside of the Accelerator as well. And so we went through a whole rebrand, made Sofos its own company. So, we went from being Newchip Connect, a program within Newchip, to being actually a company on its own. Through Sofos, we started doing a lot of campaigns that weren't just for investors, but we're also for B2B sales, sometimes even B2C, B2B to C partnerships. Anything really that was related to growing a business. And through that, we started to see that there are people that have that natural talent to sell. They know their product, they know their service are excited about it, but they also know those kind of soft skills of selling, while there are a lot of people that don't.

Sofia Roque:
So, a lot of founders tend to be product people. They tend to kind of really, really, really be good at talking about why they made the product that they made, but they just don't know how to get that value across to customers or what we call at Traction Academy, the perceived value. And so for them, it's really hard to have conversations with the people that we were connecting them with because it was just, once they were taking hold of it, it was leading to a dead end. And so through that, we decided that it would be really important to kind of compliment the automation with what we now call the Traction Academy, which is of course focused on selling. And it's essentially one of our clients have described it as having like a fractional sales manager on call. There's just somebody that you can go to with any sort of question, and we're there to help you. We're there with deliverables, or content or even just a one-on-one conversation with one of our mentors that can really help.

Sofia Roque:
So, in essence, a gap that we're trying to fill is that we were getting people a lot of really good conversations started, but there was a lot of gaps there as far as the actual foundational sales skills. And so, we're trying to compliment not only getting you the leads, but also helping you close them and have those conversations. It's actually also helped a lot with our customers that are looking for investors too, because any investor, their first question is how much traction do you have, how much revenue, how many users or customers or whatever it might be for the specific industry? And so our goal is really to give companies everything that they need so that whenever they're going to a sales prospect or going to an investor, they're ready, they're prepared and they know what to do.

John:
That's really interesting. Okay. So, you mentioned that Traction Academy is like a big focus right now. Tell me a little bit more about what has gone into leading up to launching Traction Academy. Because like you said, this is something that's sort of grew organically out of what you were already doing, but I imagine that there was a big process to get to this point where you could add this new service.

Sofia Roque:
Yeah. It's been a very, very long process. I always joke with friends of mine because a lot of them are product managers and they're very used to like sprint weeks right here working for a week to just get the product done. For us, it's been a few sprint months, so it's definitely been a lot of work. But Traction Academy, the need came from Sofos, and so as far as identifying the problems in the market, we were able to do that relatively quickly. And then off of that, a really big part of it was finding the right team. We went through kind of different people on the team to launch it. And eventually we nailed down a really, really cool team. It's myself, I have been a part of running Sofos for a very long time. So, when it comes to that domain experience, I've had that for a long time.

Sofia Roque:
We have Joshua Lawton as our president, he's worked at Oracle. He's a four time founder, has such like [inaudible 00:05:51]. Very, very, smart, very, very business driven, but he's also a VC. So, whenever we have conversations with clients about how sales affects investment, he is a fantastic resource for that. And even for our own company, he's been great at helping us make sure that we are an upstanding company and that we have kind of all our ducks in a row and everything like that. And then we have Jeremy Lowe. He is amazing. He's done sales with Google and many other companies and he calls himself kind of like the people's champion. And he just makes sure that people feel heard and listened to. And we've kind of been the team that has been mentoring our first group of companies. We've also been the team working on the content hiring, et cetera.

Sofia Roque:
So we've kind of been running everything. And right now we've had kind of a couple of main focuses. The biggest focus for myself has been working on the content. That's all content that we essentially have housed on our website. It's a platform that the customers will get access to where they'll be able to actually get articles and resources available to them at any point. The other really big piece that we've been focusing is the actual membership. That's where Jeremy in particular has been a really amazing help. We give our companies about three hours a week of mentorship with very high level people, such as Jeremy and Josh, where they get to bring any sort of challenge, any sort of issue that they're having at the moment. It might be that they don't like their sales deck. It might be that their BDRs are not scheduling enough meetings.

Sofia Roque:
It might be that their sales reps are not closing enough sales and they need help diving into the root cause of that. And any solution for that. They basically come to the meeting, bring those questions and those challenges, and then they get a mentor to walk through that with them. And typically from there, there's certain deliverables that the mentor asks for. That might be bring me this data. It might be connect with these people enough in these questions. It might be make this sales deck and then send, submit it to me for feedback. And it's really cool because from those mentorship sessions, they're able to just right away, implement whatever we suggest literally that day. And so the results from it, we can analyze by the next week and see if it's working or not. So that's been one of the biggest parts of the content build out because those have been really helpful for us to identify the challenges that customers are having.

Sofia Roque:
The biggest thing that we've all talked about internally is that we want to make sure that we are adapting to the needs of our market and of our clients, so we don't want to assume what their challenges and gaps are. We want them to tell us, and then we want to be reactive to that. So the building of the content has been pretty ad hoc. Right now we have, we're kind of in our MVP pilot stage and we have eight clients and with them, it's really been, like I said, that process of jumping onto those calls, they bring us their challenges. We solve them as best as we can. We give them deliverables. And then we meet again the next week to review how that's working. It's been very, very flexible. And then my job has been to kind of make that into something concrete that we can start finding trends and make something that we can replicate.

John:
Nice. Yeah, I was going to say like getting some people in to pilot the product has got to be pretty validating. What has been the best parts so far for you guys of going through the pilot and getting closer to launching this out into the world for a wider number of companies?

Sofia Roque:
We're all the kind of people that genuinely want to see success within ourselves, within our company and then within our clients. And so getting to be on those calls with the mentors, hearing the like the light bulbs go off in people's heads, whenever they get these nuggets of wisdom from the mentors is just incredible. We've also been able to see some actual tangible success. And for me personally, that's been the best part because being part of something that promises, and then building out all of this content is great, but it's just not great if you're not seeing results. Right? So getting to see from the clients that it's actually working, that it's helping them, not only give them the confidence, but also transform their teams and then get more revenue in the door is incredible. We have a client and he's actually our very first client.

Sofia Roque:
We had a call with him last week and Jeremy and I were talking after the call about it was just incredible to see the transformation in his team from our first call a month ago to the call we just had. Even the way that they were talking about their sales challenges in a way more eloquent way. They were really being resilient. They were putting everything that we had told them into practice. And it was just such a professional team. When we had met them before they were very kind of bogged down because they were struggling to close. So there were super bogged down. They just felt very rejected by their clients. And now it's just a completely different sphere. They even get excited about the nos that they're getting, because they've done so much work to close it, that it was even just exciting for them to kind of get those practices and things.

Sofia Roque:
So it's amazing to see the changes in their professional development in general, but then also in their revenue. This specific client has, I want to say four X, their MRR, I think maybe five X, but to be safe, I'll say four X, their MRR, their monthly recurring revenue, which is amazing. It's so cool. And I think that getting to be a part of something like that is just really, really special. There was a company that was thinking of closing their doors, and then now they're just rolling in the dough. It's amazing to see.

John:
Yeah, that's amazing. Tell me a little bit about the work that you've done with Paul. You know, you said he's helped you with your marketing. Tell me a little bit about the work that you guys have done together.

Sofia Roque:
Yeah. Paul has been great. We've been working, I think three or four months with Paul. Initially we started just having him run our Facebook ads. So he helped with the build-out of the Facebook ads and helped with the design of our landing page for those ads. And then was kind of being held accountable to our ROAS for that, our return on ad spend for that. And it was good. We basically made our money back and he wanted to kind of work a little bit deeper with us past just as the Facebook ads. And so our deal now is he's helping us with this interview with other sorts of marketing, not just for Sofos, which is what he was initially helping with, but now also for Traction Academy. And he wants to help us a little bit deeper, so we've kind of, he's working with us on a retainer now. He is essentially a part of our team. He helps run our Facebook ads is responsible for the tracking of that as well.

Sofia Roque:
He's helped build out our HubSpot. He's kind of my go-to person whenever I have marketing questions because I run that side of things for now and I am not a marketing expert. So he is just someone that I can very quickly slack a question to. And he's an amazing help with that. We for a while, were struggling with getting really high quality leads for Sofos. And from what I hear from our sales team by far, the best quality of leads is from the Facebook ads, which are being run by Paul. He's always really good about making sure that the conversion is increasing, that we're getting to the right cost per lead that we want. Very very helpful. And I actually think I was talking to a Facebook marketing expert, who's basically a consultant for Facebook that was helping us review our ads. And I told them that our conversion to our landing page was 16.8%. And he was super, super impressed. I think the average is like the low 9% or something like that. And with Paul it's 16.8, which is super high.

John:
Yeah, that's great. That's interesting that he started with this one thing with you guys, you know, Facebook ads and obviously [inaudible 00:14:40] he's very good at that, but like the fact that he can be more than that and somebody that you can slack a question to, that's got to be really helpful to be like this guy's not just a, some mercenary, anybody who can run Facebook ads. He's somebody who actually cares about your business. That's really nice.

Sofia Roque:
Yeah, for sure. And that's the thing. It's not in his contract or anything to help me build up HubSpot. He's just doing that. I think because he cares about the success in general of Sofos and Traction Academy, which is cool.

John:
Yeah, that's really cool. Okay. Well looking ahead, what is coming up in the future for Sofos and Traction Academy that you're really excited about?

Sofia Roque:
Our launch is coming up for Traction Academy. That's definitely the most exciting we're like I said, have some pilot customers already, but our first cohort launches June 1st. So we're very, very excited for that to have the process actually built out, have the content ready and then really start testing out to see how we can scale it and grow it. That's very exciting. Not only because hopefully that's the end of our crazy sprints but also I think that we're going to really, really be able to grow this quite a bit. And it, this is kind of just the start of it. So it's really cool.

John:
Nice. What do you envision when you say, like, you can really see how you guys can grow it? If everything works out perfectly kind of, or as perfect as can get what's in your mind the best case for Traction Academy, what are sort of your big picture dreams and hopes for what you guys can do with this product?

Sofia Roque:
So right now we are specifically, we're being pretty selective about who we work with for the Traction Academy. We're picking founders and leaders of mostly startups that are within a specific amount of revenue. We're just wanting to make sure right now that we test it and it works. But ideally, Traction Academy will eventually become something that anybody can do. We want it to become something that a founder can use, that a sales leader can use. Maybe even something that an SDR like a sales rep at a company can use. We want to eventually be giving certifications. So you can go through the Traction Academy, get certified and utilize that to get a promotion, to help you get a job, to make sure that you have all the, like maybe you ended up in a sales role, but didn't have the training for it, make sure that you feel prepared and have everything that you need.

Sofia Roque:
So that's really my, my goal for Traction Academy is to extend past our very niche market right now, of working with founders of startups and really making it something that anybody can use and that anybody can find benefit in. And I think part of that for us is going to be making sure that we cover all levels of experience, which I think we're on track to do. So that's my trajectory for Traction Academy is just taking over. Anybody that has any sales question or any sales need in general can find value in it.

John:
Yeah, that's a really cool way to envision what you guys could do. We always kind of close with speaking directly to the listener. So what would you say to somebody who is considering working with Paul and bringing him on to help with their ads or marketing for their company? And then also, what would you say to somebody who listens to this and is considering joining Traction Academy, once you guys launch? Speaking to them, what would you say about those two aspects?

Sofia Roque:
Yeah, if you need help with any sort of marketing, we use Paul specifically for Facebook ads, but really anything that you need help with, maybe even if you need someone to be a consultant for your marketing. Paul is definitely, definitely a great person to reach out to. He's always super available, super professional, and has a lot of that expert knowledge. So I definitely recommend getting his help. He's been able to help us with our Facebook ads, with setting up our CRM, with setting up tracking, which is super, super important for us of our lead sources are return on each lead source and everything like that. He is also just someone that genuinely cares about your success. So he will be there to help you with any sort of questions that you have. Definitely recommend you reach out to him if you need support on marketing in general.

Sofia Roque:
And then for Traction Academy, we really want to work with people that love their idea, love their product, and are super passionate about it, but need help getting the point across to their potential prospects. So if you have an idea that you're super, super passionate about, you got into the startup space because you cared about that idea and you cared about that mission, but you need help with your branding, your messaging, getting that value across, honestly, not only to sales prospects, but also to investors. You definitely need to sign up for the Traction Academy. I think that everybody in the world needs to know how to sell, whether it's selling yourself, selling your product, selling your company or selling to investors. It's really, really important to get those foundational soft skills of selling. And that's what Traction Academy can help you with.