Sales moves fast.

James Ker-Reid sat down with new Sales for Startups CRO Matt Davies to talk about his first 30 days in the company, mobilising as quickly as possible, and working on flagship Pred-Seed to Seed projects.

Can you introduce yourself, Matt, and tell us more about your role at Sales for Startups?

I have 25+ years experience (that makes me feel old) in bringing new technologies to market, my roles have always been in a senior commercial position.  In the late 90’s I formed a virtual reality software business with 4 others, and had a great 6 years working with amazing clients such as Sony, Procter & Gamble, Zeneca (now AstraZeneca) and NATS.

Working in different industries meant we worked on a great variety of applications from training to architectural to sports.  That’s where I cut my commercial teeth, being responsible for everything from lead generation and account management to contracting and PR, to name a few. From there I spent time in computer gaming at Codemasters, creating new revenue streams from scratch, then a spell at Nokia bringing a new Augmented Reality solution to market.

After 5 or so years in digital agencies, I joined a Fintech startup called Aire. I was their first commercial hire, and took the product to market as part of the exec team, through a Series A & B funding round and eventually I became Chief Commercial Officer with a team in the UK & US.

My role at Sales for Startups is that of a CRO. I work with tech startups to get them better positioned in the market and get ready for their next funding round.  This covers everything from commercial team structure, value propositions, sales processes, and pricing.  I’m already working with a couple of very interesting SaaS businesses looking for advice and leadership.

What have you learnt working with multiple startups at once?

It’s definitely challenging! Swapping hats and context, teams, personnel, industries and challenges between calls each day. But it’s also very rewarding as you’re constantly faced with new areas to focus on and obstacles to overcome.  It’s early days for me as a CRO and a consultant but the variety definitely keeps the grey matter sharp.

Can you share any highlights from your first 30 days at Sales for Startups?

The main highlight is being able to engage with two very interesting startups almost immediately. There’s no better way of getting up to speed or onboarding if you’re immediately thrown into the deep end with a requirement to roll your sleeves up from Day one.

What is your one tip you would give to any Pre-Seed and Seed startup?

One tip is hard to narrow down on, so I would offer these three things:

  1. Be prepared for a bumpy ride, if it was easy someone else would have done it by now.
  2. Get good people on board who fill any knowledge and skills gaps you have.
  3. Don’t get blinded by what you believe is a good product, be prepared to test and iterate many times before you may actually get it right.

What are you most looking forward to over the next 30 days?

I am really enjoying my work with the two current startups I am working with and look forward to progressing them further down the path to solving the problems we have identified. This will involve making a lot of tough but necessary decisions with their ambitious team as well as choosing a direction for their business.

Beyond that I am looking forward to working with the other great businesses in Sales for Startups portfolio. I can already see that even though every startup is individual, there are common challenges so the lessons learnt from working with one startup will help my development with the next.

Finally, how do you think the tech startup scene has been shaped by the pandemic, and what does the future hold?

I think there has probably been a bit of a boom in tech startups caused by new opportunities being created.  As people work from home, most are turning to online shopping and many services have been forced to adapt and become digital.

Also many people have obviously sadly lost their jobs, provoking an entrepreneurial drive.  The crux will be in a year or so when things slowly start returning to normal, startups will then really need to have a sound proposition and gain a strong position in the market so as not to fall victim to any redirections of new funding or changing of consumer behaviour.

Team culture is much more important than you think. In a previous article we discussed the opportunity startups have to create a clean slate when it comes to establishing the culture and benefits they want for their employees. 

In the last 18 months we have seen businesses forced into remote working. With more and more people working from home and the prospect of hybrid work environments becoming a reality, it is time to shift your focus from getting business back to normal and instead focus on instilling a culture that exceeds the office. 

Maintaining your usual company culture and office vibes when people aren’t actually in the office can be incredibly challenging, but it is not impossible. We’ve compiled a list of tips for maintaining company culture while remotely working: 

1. Open and transparent lines of communication

Transparency is one of the fundamentals to maining a company culture. It is vital for everyone, from entry level employees to business owners, to be honest in their actions and interactions. 

Engaged employees invest their full potential into the success of a company that they are proud to work in. Create a positive, inclusive workplace and encourage employees to share their successes and challenges. 

2. Set clear objectives and goals 

By outlining the objectives of each team, employees will have tangible results to work toward. Make sure that there is space and time for feedback to adapt forecasts and KPIs when needed. 

One-to-ones can help to clarify the sales team’s objectives as a collective, coach individuals on their role to play in achieving the overarching goal and identify areas for improvement. Regular meetings help to bridge the gap between seniors and entry level. This strengthens relationships, reinforces the company’s mission and creates a motivated work environment. 

3. Trust your team

By showing trust and confidence in your employees ability to own their work you will maintain a positive company culture and avoid a blame culture. Research shows that employees in a trusted environment are more productive. 

Given that the pandemic has already increased people’s stress levels and in some cases demotivated their work ethic in regards to work, it could be detrimental to pile distrust on top. With the lack of physical interaction amongst employees it can be easy for trust issues to develop. 

I have witnessed some managers responding to this challenge by forcing teams into constant Zoom meetings or trying to micromanage every aspect of the working day. Instead I would urge managers to show faith in employees ability and work from a position of ‘asking for forgiveness not permission’. 

4. Schedule regular catch-ups and informal meetings

During these trying times, there has been a lot of focus on physical health, but it is important to not underestimate the importance of mental health. Start by evaluating the ‘meeting culture’ in your company. If you constantly have your team in meetings to discuss things that could be sent in an email or via an instant messaging app, it could be negatively impacting morale and lead to losses in productivity. 

Studies have found the 8% Rule, which states that 8% of the time in any meeting should be dedicated to fun virtual team building exercises. 

5. Implement the right technology and onboard the team

The technology landscape has skyrocketed in the last few years with new and exciting entrants promising new ways to solve unique challenges we never knew we had. There is of course a lot of competition amongst vendors, particularly within the sales technology domain. 

The fundamental things you need to consider when implementing new technologies is: 

  • Why do I need this technology?
  • Can it integrate with my existing stack? 
  • How long will the onboarding process be?
  • Who is going to train my employees to use it?

From years witnessing the expense of implementing the wrong technology or receiving resistance from sales teams my advice would be to collaborate on the decision and assess the needs the technology meets for each department. 

The most effective company cultures value people, provide career growth, adapt to meet customer needs, and deliver great results to shareholders. But a lot of culture is subjective. Find the culture that works best for your company and your employees.

Analysing Sales, Marketing & Financial Data To Give CEOs True Insights On What Matters Most

We are delighted to announce a new partnership between Sales for Startups and Lumilinks, the data A.I. experts who use deep scientific knowledge to streamline data processes for organisations that include leading venture capital and tech companies.

In a world where deciphering data can make or break a business, it’s becoming ever more critical – especially for SaaS startups – to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and automation to get the data they need.

Having always championed the need for data-driven decisions to sustain successful sales strategies here at Sales for Startups, we are excited to incorporate the insights powered by the Lumilinks platforms for executive decision making, sales & marketing and financial risk reporting.

Familiar with the pressures startup founders face and the real danger of burnout in a climate where performance and pace can become confused, we see this partnership as an opportunity to elevate our offering and expertise in building and optimising sales and marketing operations for B2B tech startups.

Quote from Sales for Startups, James Ker-Reid, CEO & Founder at Sales for Startups:

“The real opportunity for Tech Founders is to understand the relationship between sales, marketing and finance data and be able to draw a straight line from the top to the bottom line. I’m excited to incorporate the Lumilinks’ platforms into our offering for Seed and Series A tech companies. Being all too familiar with the challenges startups face, the opportunity to automate data collection and analyse key insights and cross-department trends collated by A.I. seems a no-brainer to me. It’s been on my wish list for a while!

“Tech Founders, of SaaS startups especially, are under incredible pressure to stay informed and up-to-date to make iterative changes to their sales and marketing strategy by their board and key investors. I see the partnership between Sales for Startups and Lumilinks as another way we can alleviate the strain startups face in searching for actionable insights and hence making data-driven decisions to affect their top and bottom line.”

Quote from Lumilinks, Gary Cole, Founder at Lumilinks:

“We work to demystify the world of data by creating custom dashboards for companies. Having established Lumilinks to counter the common problem of organisations integrating inefficient solutions that distract rather than direct senior decision-making, we’re proud to have streamlined processes for organisations including, Selbey Anderson and organisations under the Microsoft for Startups programme. Our team have also advised Local and national government and the Office of National Statistics.

Working in partnership with Sales for Startups, we’re excited to support Founders of SaaS startups to really understand their sales efficiency and velocity at their company. This includes examining current sales behaviours, key revenue trends, optimising their marketing spend by finding their best addressable market and finally spotting those two or three bottlenecks to their cash conversion cycle. What I love about our partnership is that we’ll give Sales for Startups the data insights they need and then they’ll use their expertise and experience in sales execution to implement the changes that make the difference.”

In joining forces, Sales for Startups and Lumilinks can provide clients with a superior understanding of their marketing, sales and financial performance and hence understand the efficiency of their SaaS sales operations.

To find out more please book a free consultation call with James Ker-Reid. 

There’s a lot to consider when founding a B2B SaaS tech business.

First and foremost will be product development; to ensure a unique SaaS product can create an impact in a competitive B2B market.

With a strong value proposition in place, it’s time to optimise sales and marketing operations, and take into consideration the core components of strategy, infrastructure, team and clients/community.

Strategy

As a conceptual activity, strategic planning is not always given the time and attention it deserves. A gung ho attitude will only serve a startup so well without a plan backed by real research rather than internal theory.

Having a strategic plan to align sales and marketing activity gives direction to activity in the early stages, and continues to provide focus as a startup grows.

A strategy will take into consideration brand messaging, competitors and positioning, customer pipeline, and of course in depth research of prospects, to name a few components.

Infrastructure

A solid strategy is nothing without the infrastructure to execute it. SaaS startups can practice what they preach and benefit from a multitude of SaaS providers to support day-to-day operations.

A sales tech stack can make or break a business. Consolidate services where possible, or integrate. There are many ways to do this and an API call can be all a startup needs to significantly reduce administrative burdens on sales and marketing teams. Saving a small amount of time each day can accrue into days and weeks of saved time throughout the year.

A quality CRM is invaluable, especially to support startup growth as several teams work across accounts. A CRM that can integrate with other software services ensures better control over data and an efficient sales cycle.

There exists a lot of power in automation. Utilising automation services wisely allows startups to engage more prospects and accelerate pipelines. Easing pressures on the workforce can also reduce the risk of employee burnout as engagement demands increase with growth. Different automation options will suit different businesses, and workflows should be built around unique customers for the best results. While there are many benefits to automation, businesses need to be careful however, that they do not not become robotic in their engagement.

Team

While infrastructure and automation is valuable, nothing can replace the value of real team members.

Recruitment should not be carried out in haste, and the value of diversity should be recognised. Once talent is on board, due time should be made available for teams to come together, including across departments to share insights and align activity. This extends beyond uniting sales and marketing teams to product development and finance etc, building relationships and understanding across all departments.

With a talented team in place and working cohesively, it can be tempting to try to motivate staff with targets and commissions, and while there can be a place for this, businesses should be mindful that increased sales through overpromising will lead to disillusioned customers. Short term wins do not necessarily lead to long term gains.

Providing training programmes for all staff, will not only enable the business but also empower the individual. A talented team member happy in their role on day one, will likely value the challenge and opportunity to evolve their role as the company grows.

Clients and Community

Businesses succeed when they enable their customers to be their marketers, generating new leads from word of mouth and referrals. In addition to offering referral rewards, businesses can enable customers to promote them by creating content that they can share, and celebrating their successes, for example through case studies.

For a SaaS B2B startup, the value proposition will shift in time to keep pace with new technologies. This offers a great opportunity to build trusted relationships with clients and provide feedback channels through access to beta versions.

There is a wide community out there for startups, and leads can be generated from leveraging network connections, this includes peers, suppliers and clients. Build relationships and support each other.

How can you optimise sales and marketing to close more deals?

Optimising your sales and marketing operations is not a quick one-time fix.

Successful startups constantly evaluate and refine their processes to adapt to changing times and achieve sustainable growth.

At Sales for Startups we can help you gain clarity in your strategy, gain confidence in your execution and get traction through your sales operations.

FREE DOWNLOAD

The Typical Challenges at Pre-Seed Stage Startups

We know that getting customers is the single biggest priority for a Pre-Seed business. The difficulties in doing so often stem from a number of reasons:

  • Unclear on what your unique offer and target market is
  • Unclear on what your sales process should be
  • Not confident on how to balance sales and lead generation activities.

That means that you, as the Founder, take on the main selling effort in order to make headway. We work directly with you to secure those all important early customers.

In this eBook, we take a look at the typical challenges faced at Pre-Seed Stage startups, and how to overcome them.

The Typical Challenges at Pre-Seed Stage Startups

Complete the form to receive your free download

FREE DOWNLOAD

9 Fatal Mistakes Startups Make

Most startups fail. It’s the nature of business and there isn’t enough room for everyone.

We have worked with over 70 successful Pre-Seed to Series A B2B tech startups. Many of these founders had businesses before, and some of those failed. We have collated a comprehensive list of the 9 fatal mistakes we have witnessed in the hopes you can avoid them.

So, what are those mistakes?

In this eBook, we take a look at the 9 mistakes tech startups make and share some of our expertise and experience.

9 Fatal Mistakes Startups Make

Complete the form to receive your free download

Let us assume that your home market has a level and stable ARR and you are confident that you can continue to grow this. Now you are keen to explore new markets where your gut tells you might be an opportunity – what do you do first? Follow these 6 steps to make a new market entry as successful as possible.

1) Define your target market

This can be done geographically, or it could be done regionally, but it also could be considering the wider market and then understanding a subsection of that market currently underserved and focus on that.

Start to consider the socio-economic conditions of that market, and the Ideal Buyers you want to purchase your product. Start mapping out those people, and think around how that group consumes information, how they like to receive information, and ultimately how you would like them to engage with your business, over what device, channel, etc.

2) Conduct research analysis

This is to consider aspects like competitor analysis (who are the main competitors, what are they good at, what are they bad at?), but also market analysis. Start off mapping out your Total Addressable Market (TAM), filtering down into your Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM) to really get an understanding of how big of an opportunity there might be.

3) Develop your marketing strategy

How are you going to drive awareness of a brand that the potential market hasn’t heard of? There are many ways to drive awareness via different channels, like paid search, referrals, social media, etc.

Develop the strategy around the channels you have identified that are the most relevant to your target market. A new digital product aimed at 18 to 25-year-olds might not be best placed in traditional print advertising for example! A well thought out strategy always includes a plan so create both of these documents

4) Niche

This is often overlooked because market domination is what all companies want and they want it yesterday! However, when one is entering a new market, focus on one area, one product, one problem at a time and get known for solving that problem really well.

Carving out a reputation for being good at one thing helps create a foothold upon which one can spring from when developing further products and offerings because you will have brand recognition and loyalty.

5) Goals

You need to create what you want to achieve from a Financial, Customer and Awareness point of view. What revenue are you hoping to achieve? How many customers? How much traffic to your website from this territory is a goal? Use the SMART framework to give you a focal point at which to aim.

6) Track

Take a pulse of where you currently are at Day 1, and ensure you are tracking all of your KPIs as the strategy unfolds. If you don’t take any stats of measures on Day 1, it is then very difficult to monitor progress and to understand what impact changes can make.

This does not need to be an industry in itself, more keeping a track of website visits, bounce rates, unique users, channels, referrals, etc.

Finally, and as a bonus tip, you need to have an Exit strategy. If you are very successful with this, do you continue and dial up the intensity for this territory and launch more products, hire more staff, etc.? As a flip to this, what if you fail, what is the plan for that? How will you know when to cut your losses and chalk it up to a bad idea? Having success and failure criteria is a must for any new target market.

FREE DOWNLOAD

A Winning Sales Strategy

At Sales for Startups, we’re often approached by founders who have the following difficulties:
● Uncertainty around who their target market is or should be
● Lack of clarity and consistency around articulating their value
● Knowledge gap in terms of organisational structures and roles needed
● Over engineered processes and tech that hinder, rather than help, rapid growth

Download our free resource to find out how we can deliver a winning sales strategy for your business.

A winning sales strategy

Complete the form to receive your free download

FREE DOWNLOAD

How To Sign Your First Big Deal

Ok, so you know you want to make progress, you want to impress the boss, the founders, your industry that you can compete at the highest level. You want to be in the finals at the Olympics not just competing at the qualifiers.

You know that the difference between the gold, silver and bronze medal is absolutely huge. The same goes for Sales. The difference between a gold and silver medal in sales is millions of pounds, dollars or euros. If you want to win gold medals, you have to train and think like a gold medallist but more importantly you have to know how the gold medallists act and what makes them gold medallists.

We’ve put together this eBook defining The seven key tenants that startups and salespeople fail to consider when signing the first deal and trying to build revenue.

Complete the form to receive your free download

Three stats have stuck out when writing this article, trying to answer the question of ‘Why should I create a Revenue Operations (or RevOps) strategy?’. There are three major reasons:

So, that’s why you should care. Now, how to create your own RevOps strategy.

You may recall that RevOps stitches together Marketing, Sales and Customer Success. By having these three revenue units working in concert you create a well-oiled machine.

My advice would be to focus on the outcomes that you want a RevOps department to achieve. I feel they can be broken down into five different outcomes:

  1. Consistent tech stacks
  2. Clear expectations from customers
  3. Happier customers
  4. More sales/revenue
  5. Predictable growth

If those are the outcomes you are trying to achieve, then the inputs to these can be broken down into the following four categories:

  • Get all teams on data: What I mean is to make data-driven decisions the norm for your business. Gone are the days that gut and intuition take precedence. Having clean and up-to-date data is paramount for any revenue organisation.
  • Align incentives: For example, Marketing must bring leads to Sales, Sales must convert those leads into good customers, and Customer Success must retain them. Simply thinking of it like this aligns everyone closely and you don’t fall victim to the dreaded silo!
  • Agree on tech stack: In a perfect world, your business would run off one piece of software and there be no additional requirement. However, this can’t happen. If you’re able to consolidate where you can, integrate technology wherever possible and have the relevant people becoming subject matter experts, then high-quality tech saves a huge amount of time. It’s even easier if it’s all cloud-based too and not on site!
  • Get your CRO on board: You need someone on board right? The person that is marshaling this whole effort is your CRO. Typically this person will have been a senior VP of one of the three RevOps departments (not always, but typically) and will be obsessed with answering the question ‘How do we convert a stranger into a customer in the quickest way possible?’.

Using this framework will enable you to start creating your strategy. A strategy is a great piece of work to do, however the other critical document to accompany this is the implementation plan. At Sales for Startups, we have created these dozens of times over in the B2B tech space, especially for SaaS companies.