Series A funding: Details matter

Series A funding: Details matter

“Details matter, it is worth waiting to get it right.”

Steve Jobs

 There is wisdom in knowing when to accelerate forward and when to operate a little restraint. After securing Series A funding, there is a temptation to charge full steam ahead; to treat it like a steroid injection and behave as if the cash will burn a hole in the business’ pocket.

It’s easy to understand why we might fall into this trap. Suddenly there are the means to implement long-awaited developments and many tech entrepreneurs are the sort of people who want it done now, right now, or yesterday even.

Patience is most definitely a virtue here. Change is a crucial component needed for true evolution, but it shouldn’t be forced.

Whether thinking about recruitment and salespeople, target audience and marketing activity, leads and prospects, or making operational changes, there are potential pitfalls of not taking action a step at a time, using the company’s natural momentum.

It’s important to stay grounded, consider each action carefully and do the leg-work. Sadly we’ve seen tech start-ups fall victim to their own success and undo their hard work by being too over-zealous after they’ve secured Series A funding.

For a breakdown of the most commonly made mistakes made by tech startups who have secured Series A funding, take a look at our latest eBook ‘7 Mistakes Tech Companies Make After Securing Series A Funding’

Growing your team following Series A Funding

Growing your team following Series A Funding

Hiring can be a significant trip hazard after securing Series A funding.

Maybe you’ve been fantasizing about what you can do once you have a bigger team in place? Or dreaming of the customers you’ll win with a team of high-achieving sales executives?

Once your business gets its essential cash injection, the temptation is to go into recruitment over-drive. Triple your sales team overnight and employ people who will relieve all the tasks unsuited to your current skills-base.Many tech start ups, at this point, don’t have the infrastructure or onboarding processes to make best use of a rapidly expanding team.

If you’re hiring before you’ve thoroughly understood your target audience, or are taking on a VP of Sales when two major clients make up 90% of revenue, you may need to rethink your approach. Recruitment is just one theme in a whole host of common mistakes made by tech startups when they secure Series A funding.

If this is applicable to your business, download our latest eBook ‘7 Mistakes Tech Companies Make After Securing Series A Funding’

Series A Funding: When a bit of success can be a dangerous thing

Series A Funding: When a bit of success can be a dangerous thing

Securing Series A funding is an indisputable cause for celebration. It’s a big win, a milestone, full of optimism and the potential for success.
However, there have been many tech entrepreneurs who tripped up while riding the wave of Series A funding. As with lots of big breaks in life, it’s easy to become over-inflated, believe the hype and make considerable mistakes. There are potential pitfalls that are easily overlooked when you’re flying high.

It’s vital to stay grounded and not get over zealous. Be composed, think things through and make changes gradually.

After watching this cycle unfold countless times, Sales for Startups has identified common errors made in the aftermath of securing significant funding.
Addressing topics like recruitment, market profiling, realism and perspective, marketing continuity and alternative planning, our eBook 7 Mistakes Tech Companies Make After Securing Series A Funding’ offers important practical considerations to future-proof your business and not fall victim to your own success.
Be prepared for the long haul. Success is not a destination, it’s a journey.

How Much Should Salespeople Know About My Product?

How Much Should Salespeople Know About My Product?

I’m often asked this question by Tech CEOs…how much should my salespeople know about my product? I feel the reality and the need for product knowledge has increased as we have seen greater levels of access to information. I’m certainly not going to write a whole blog about the amount of information has increased over the last decade. Many people write about this topic everyday with little correlation to the topic or issue at hand.

The Context

There are many great phrases and metaphors that sales leaders come out with including my favourite, “you need to know enough to be dangerous.”  The real challenge is that a salesperson learns a lot about the product in their first month or two and then reduces their dedication to learning. This is a real problem for Tech CEOs in today’s agile world where a product that you were selling 4-6 months ago could be completely different today. Secondly, the salesperson or sales leader is very keen on becoming operational and to delivering results as soon as possible. Often when you feel you know enough to start talking to prospects and positioning the value of the product, you rest on your laurels. This thirst to get going and to deepen sufficient technical knowledge is a fine balance.

Above all the drawback with this approach is that the rate of development of the product doesn’t match your own learning. Additionally, if you are new to the industry then you’ll need to get to know the product and the industry language.

How can I measure the level of product knowledge?

There are a couple of behaviours that as a CEO you can spot and predict that a sales leader or salesperson is not learning at the desired rate:

  • Ask the salesperson to explain the new product features and how they are different to the previous configuration.
  • Quiz them on why you have chosen your configuration of the platform, what’s the advantages?
  • Understand when was the last time they setup a product demo, even if you have technical sales support.
  • Request if they can build an A-Z of industry lingo and company jargon to help onboard staff.
  • Hold a 5-10 minute pitch review and understand their product knowledge depth.

What are the effects of low product knowledge?

In today’s modern world salespeople are having to improve their digital skills and knowledge constantly. This is due to the rate of innovation exponentially increasing each day.

  1. Your sales leader won’t be the right candidate to take you forward to the next stage. Put simply, you’ll have to hire again.
  2. The quality of the onboarding of new salespeople won’t match up to your standards and knowledge transfer won’t happen efficiently.
  3. New product development will be undervalued by your sales team and not leveraged to gain incremental value in the marketplace.

What should my salespeople know about my product?

  • The market landscape and the reasons why we built our product
  • Why did we select the technology and platforms we did when building our product?
  • The security configuration of the platform
  • Integration options with the customer’s environment
  • Programming languages used
  • Where is customer data stored?
  • Types of access rights? What configurations or adjustments can be made?
  • What technical knowledge does a customer sponsor need to run your platform?
  • How can updates be made? Do customers need support to perform these updates?
  • What differs between old configuration and new updates? What does this mean to the customer?
  • The different tiers of support and how do they relate to technical issues
  • Common industry language and jargon used, including various acronyms.

This is not the exhaustive list but it’s an overall recommendation on what the person should know. In contrast, it’s not to say that we should select salespeople on prior industry knowledge on each occasion. Besides, a salesperson can be technically brilliant at sales and can then fill in the gaps by boosting their technical know-how.

Final Recommendations

My main recommendation is that a true understanding of your customer’s environment is the most natural way to garner this knowledge. Otherwise if it’s not market-focused for the salesperson they will switch off and ultimately you are not leveraging their skills in the proper way. Often this knowledge is in the heads of the CEO, Customer Success Managers, Head of Product and other long-standing salespeople.

What have you found to be good ways in evaluating salespeople’s product knowledge?

 

Number One Hack For Tech CEOs To Accelerate Results In Their Marketplace

Number One Hack For Tech CEOs To Accelerate Results In Their Marketplace

I wanted to share the number one hack used by Tech CEOs to gain serious results. I’m writing this blog as many have asked me to explain more about this hack and what I call the “moving train technique” and how it can apply to their tech business.

Most Common Mistakes

The most common mistakes seen at tech companies while trying to grow their company, market share and team:

  • We try to strategise too early without enough market intelligence.
  • Create pricing that is too low as “we’re a small company”.
  • Make decisions purely based on experience and not a recognition of the status quo and the current environment.
  • Yearn to create new products before really exploring and investigating alternative ways to grow our business.
  • Neglect resources in front of us whether it be people, partnerships or publicity.
  • We often shoot for the moon or follow the “shiny” things instead of picking up the business shovel.
  • Let our knowledge gap become a hindrance by making emotional rather than logical decisions at times of need.

I could list many more. The point is that often we are trying to create something new as we are entrepreneurs. We are creators and it’s certainly a lot easier to create something new; rather than to mine for the gold in our own team, proposition or process/

In essence, we neglect opportunities to reignite or uncover already existing momentum in our plans and businesses.

What is the moving train technique?

The moving train technique is a phrase that I coined to describe how people, partners and customers like to jump on a moving train. They like to back something that is already moving and has momentum and where we can see a realistic improvement in that plan or endeavour. Here are a couple of examples:

Hiring A New Account Executive:

How would you like to join a team where you had a Top 200 prospect list with customer names, contact details, previous communication and their key challenges and issues? Often we hire salespeople to create brand new pipeline rather than enlist them to do what they are here to do, sell and convert prospects to customers.

Hiring A New Marketing Manager:

You want to build out a resource or education part of your website which involves creates plentiful content including ebooks, whitepapers, videos and blog posts. What about creating a top 50 questions that your clients have including pricing, problems, reviews and comparisons, best of, big trends, mistakes and secrets. You can even go one step further and create a provisional workflow, branding, a guided screenshare for uploading the articles into the relevant part of the website. Then once you have this you could then go out and hire your new Marketing Manager and say can you amplify and expand on our original ideas and content?

Hiring A New VP of Sales Or CRO:

You are hiring your first VP of Sales as a tech firm and want them to hit the ground running. You design the “real job spec” to include outcomes, activities, skills and character required. Ok, sounds simple. Now what you can do is create a provisional 90-day plan as to where you see the potential improvements could be made, the attributes of the staff, real opportunities to close revenue in the pipeline and ask them what do you think of this project?

A lot of people talk about how they “love to back a winning horse” but we hardly ever do so in our business. And in any case this metaphor is limited. We love to back things that have momentum – things that are moving forward. Life is really about progress and hence it’s human nature to want progress and to follow others that are engineering or experiencing progress. We neglect this common trait in our everyday lives.

We have ushered in an era of experimentation to create amazing and innovative products in our sector. Sometimes with the fundamentals of sales, marketing and account management we have lost a sense of clarity and direction in our actions.

Implementing The Moving Train Technique

Here’s my advice for ushering in and leveraging the moving train technique in your own business and life:

  1. What is an action or step that I could complete in the next 2 weeks to amplify the results of my new plan, strategy or hire?
  2. What are the resources that we have immediately available that we can leverage to make this so much easier when it comes to crunch time?
  3. Where are the resources in our business that we’ve neglected or not made the most of in the last 6 months?

I hope you found this article interesting. And I’m pleased I finally got round to writing it after much persuasion. I know we could all reduce complexity to free up resources, time and accelerate our results. This is my wish with the moving train technique is that you focus on gaining momentum and then asking other people to join your tribe.

I’m grateful to say that this is what my company Sales for Startups does each and every day. We help technology companies scale their sales results by making tactical changes that have a meaningful and lasting impact.

I’d be interested to hear about what occasions have you used initial momentum to tackle seemingly insurmountable tasks.

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