To be the go-to partner for B2B tech startups wanting to create predictable revenue.
It started with James and a Tech CEO in front of a whiteboard…
James started the business after selling his startup share options in a 9-figure exit. He decided he didn’t want to work for a gigantic listed IT company. He wanted to work with agile startups, who were trying to create meaningful change in the world. He’d fight for David over Goliath any day of the week.
After many dinners, coffees and calls with Tech CEOs, he realised that a lot of the b2b sales knowledge he had garnered over the years was not commonplace at many tech startups. He found out that the majority of Tech CEOs struggled to create predictable revenue due to their lack of sales experience, bandwidth and reliable cash flow.
With 70% of funded startups failing between years 2 and 5 and with 68% of Tech CEOs not coming from a sales background, he concluded that Tech CEOs were not really fulfilling their potential. This annoyed him – he witnessed so much wasted potential in both companies and tech founders.
Overcoming The 5 Challenges To Create Successful Tech CEOs
His first challenge was reducing the excessive complexity in the minds of Tech CEOs. He believed that this was a core reason for unpredictability in sales at tech startups.
James’s aha moment was that many educators, influencers and entrepreneurs were focusing on the effects and not the true causes of unpredictable sales. This led to him simplifying over 216 common startup challenges into three simple areas:
Armed with this 3-P framework, he could analyse any tech company and categorise any problem into one of these three categories.
The second challenge that he realised was that both tech founders and sales strategy consultants in the tech sector were good at labelling what to do but unable to explain when to do the recommended activities.
He realised that clarity on the sequence of activities brought extraordinary value to a Tech CEO as they knew when things needed to be completed and the value of finishing those recommended actions.
Furthermore, the CEO is often struggling for time and bandwidth so knowing what needs to be done and actually completing them brought huge relief and comfort to the Tech CEO.
Secondly, there were no more half-done or unfinished projects on the CEO’s plate. Execution and completion became a recipe for sales success.
An additional problem was that consultants were often creating 6-month or 12-month plans for a tech company that has an operating cash reserve of only 4-9 months. James nearly fell into this trap too, see below one of his first growth offerings in the first 3 months of Sales for Startups:
This was too long and didn’t bring the agility that was needed in a high-stakes, high-pressure and short-term game of growing a tech company.
He went on the search for the best business planning methodologies, trialling different ones with multiple tech companies and adapting them based on real-world feedback.
As a result of this trial and error and research, he came up with the idea of installing a 90-day action plan with a 2-week sprint cycle into the sales team – often seen in agile software development not in sales teams.
This was a game-changer, as companies knew what to focus on, in what order and had immense flexibility to change direction based on real-world feedback and results; and they even had systems for documenting both success and failure. This was true commercial iteration at scale.
James implemented this agile 90-day framework into the next Seed tech company, where he was desperate to uphold the track record of doubling the revenue of each tech company Sales for Startups had worked with.
Here are the results:
The third challenge we took on as the team grew was that Sales for Startups was started to focus on execution and implementation of sales strategies not just the creation of them – commonplace amongst the freelancer and solo consultant market.
Unfortunately, we spotted incongruence between our vision and practice.
We were still incentivised to bill clients for time rather than results. This didn’t make sense to us. And we were not fulfilling our mission of bringing greater transparency and accountability to the tech sales consultancy market.
How do you know how much time it’ll take to help a Tech CEO achieve their goals?
Consultants at the first don’t know your business, your people and maybe even the industry, although they come up with “it’ll take me 2 days per week on a retainer basis to help you…”
Furthermore, if we were more productive, we got paid less for value creation. If we were unproductive with our time, clients paid more.
It seemed like a win/lose deal to us.
Moreover, with Tech CEOs, the incentives are preserving operating cash, increasing revenue as quickly as possible and scaling fast.
So we went through every single 90-day plan of the 20+ engagements we’d completed and reviewed which objectives and corresponding activities had the greatest impact on long-term revenue growth of a tech company. There were over 70+ distinct objectives that we had documented in our client’s 90-day plans.
Armed with this knowledge, we launched a new offering that would reward success and not for time spent. We shortlisted the top 20 objectives that had the biggest impact on revenue growth.
The fourth challenge we realised that we had to overcome was that there were many VP of Sales at tech companies, lots of sales trainers and even solo sales consultants who were professing tactical tips and actions for sales leaders or salespeople to deploy in their everyday lives. But nada for the Tech CEO who doesn’t have prior sales experience.
We spotted that yes the tech company grows exponentially with our help but we really stand for the Tech CEO.
We’re in the corner as the coach, mentor and advisor when the CEO doesn’t quite know what to do or when the VP of Sales is advising them to follow one plan or another but they don’t have an advisor or knowledgeable expert to seek a second opinion.
We understood that a Tech CEO goes on their own life maturity curve. Typically our CEOs are going through their own life changes, including their first or second business, they are buying flats/houses, getting married, having children, moving further out, all these changes happen in quick succession. It’s the same for their business too. They are learning as they are going. As some might say, “they are building the plane, as they’re flying it.”
We have a duty and ethical responsibility to improve the life and wellbeing of the CEO. So we changed our messaging and content to focus on the individual CEO and their own development. These are the people we truly serve at Sales for Startups.
The fifth challenge we decided to solve was how do we create even more predictability of success during our projects?
We realised that within our success-based projects there were commonalities in the success rates of the sprints both at objective and activity level. So we asked ourselves…what was the winning formula? What made these sprints successful? What made us complete the objectives in record time? What made the company’s growth so meteoric and hit 300% revenue growth?
We found that there was, in fact, a common unseen pattern at play.
This cycle of success could be summarised into an agile and continuous cycle of commercial development.
Into Analyse, Activate, Accelerate and Amplify.
This 4-A growth methodology had underpinned the successful sprints, objectives and helped predictably scale the revenue of so many tech startups.
We always intellectually knew the value of having company values but only now have we realised that these are fundamental to your company’s growth and culture. We recommend you do the same.
Our top three values:
Fearless transparency is telling ourselves, teammates and tech CEOs the honest and brutal truth. This can be seen
We advise Founders and owners of tech businesses so we have to build personal and professional relationships, as there is a lot on the line…
We always look to grow and build intelligence and knowledge in our specialist domain of growing tech companies…
How do we use our values?
It’s these values, standards and disciplines that keep us moving forward as a company. Our CEOs realise their own potential and our partners enable us and our clients to grow continuously and predictably.
1. Select teammates
2. Select CEOs as clients
3. Select strategic partners
We’ve had occasions where teammates, clients and partners have conflicted with our values and hence a decision has been made to end that relationship. After all, what’s the point of having values if you don’t uphold them? It’s these values, standards and disciplines that keep us moving forward as a company, our CEOs realising their own potential and our partners enabling us and our clients to grow continuously.