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Kabbage Founders Launch Drum to Deliver Gigs to Sales Pros

For years we have written, analyzed, and, yes, even pontificated on the role of sales in local. I can remember many a session at Kesley and LSA events where we’d take on the puts and calls of the Yellow Pages sales teams. We’d debate and discuss whether they were a valuable asset or a heavy anchor. Running a sales organization is no easy feat. Just ask anyone who did it a decade or two ago or anyone who’s running one today. The challenges of running a great sales organization continues. 

Drum roll  . . . now the business leaders from Kabbage, one of the high-flying fintechs serving the SMB space, are launching essentially a sales gig model for businesses (read small and midsized businesses) to contract with independent salespeople as the demands of their business dictate. 

Raising $11M from eight investors (some of them existing Kabbage investors), Drum, according to an interview in TechCrunch, plans to “ . . . democratizing access to a physical salesforce by aggregating all the fractionalised or partial demand into a common platform and dispersing that to individuals in the gig economy.”

While Drum is the brainchild of the Kabbage founders, the two are separate companies.

A three-sided marketplace for sales pros

Calling it a three-sided marketplace, Drum is about connecting any business to the customers they want through an on-demand network of salespeople.

There are thousands upon thousands of salespeople out there working in a variety of independent models, from the business development person who helps a stable of companies achieve their partner goals, to the individual who works on a commission-only model helping a tech company acquire new customers. 

Kabbage founders Marc Gorlin, Kathryn Petralia, and Rob Frohwein have launched Drum, a platform that does for salespeople what UpWork has done for freelancers.

Drum will be for sales what UpWork and Freelancer and a host of other platforms are for outsourcing a variety of business processes. It is also similar to LinkedIn’s ProFinder, which I wrote about a few weeks back where sole practitioners can post their offerings and be connected to a distributed market of businesses looking for professional assistance. 

Making it easier to stand up sales teams

Drum is designed to help businesses pull together sales teams — via the gig model — to help companies market and sell their products and services locally and globally. For the small and midsized companies, the mere thought of standing up a sales organization can be daunting. I have watched well-funded start-ups struggle with this for decades. The entire process of building a sales team – recruitment, hiring, training, and then managing it is not for the faint of heart.  

While the gig model has been a big success in the world of transportation, delivery, and household tasks, making this work in the world of sales will be challenging. I have watched highly skilled sales individuals struggle to learn a new company’s value proposition and product suite. I have watched the same highly skilled sales individuals struggle to learn enough about the new company’s target market to be authentic in their prospect and customer discussions. 

Nevertheless, this does seem like an interesting move for the Kabbage founders. What they no doubt learned in working with their Kabbage customers is something we’ve known forever, that owners of small and midsized firms are always challenged to find ways to drive customer acquisition. While the traditional paths of using media — traditional and now digital — can drive prospects to the top of the funnel, most small and midsized businesses are challenged to find capable sales or account executives for closing business. 

Drum plans to use AI and machine learning to better match the needs of the customer with the skills and capabilities of the sales executives. As they correctly point out, this matchmaking platform can probably work for basic products and services. It won’t be as effective for those selling highly customized software solutions. 

More online consideration, less demand for sales leaders?

So then you have to ask the broader question. Over time, what is the real role of the sales executive? We know from study after study that upwards of 70% to 80% of the buying consideration process is done via the Internet. So Drum is designed to solve the last mile of the sales equation – the close. If that consideration process via the Internet goes to the 90-95% level, there may be no role left for a sales executive.

I doubt this will ultimately happen. At the end of the day, we use our well-informed Internet searching process to narrow our consideration set. But once that is done, we generally will make our choices based on a softer set of considerations – did they understand my particular needs, did they use my name in contacting me, did the listen to me, are they transparent and authentic in their dealings. If Drum can match sellers who have the ability to represent business owners in this fashion, they might have a really fascinating business on their hands in a couple of years. I for one, are super excited to see how this plays out. 

As Kabbage CEO Rob Frohwein said in the TechCrunch interview “This is a huge opportunity to acquire customers and a huge number of direct brands that could use a physical last mile. . . today, they use things like email lists and Facebook but they could use boots on the ground and talking about their businesses and promoting them.” Time will tell. 


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