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

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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.

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Tech Founders Checklist

Sales for Startups have put together a checklist which will guide you through the foundations on which to build your fast growing revenue operations.

We believe in focusing on three areas:

  • Your Proposition,
  • your People
  • and your Processes.

As you go through and see what you’ve covered, keep in mind the following:

  • How successful are we in these areas?
  • Have we reached our full potential in this area?
  • Which parts are we missing?

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James Ker-Reid, Founder and CEO of Sales for Startups joins Les Green, Managing Partner at Lex Associates LLP on the WCIT Entrepreneurship Panel to discuss commercial and sales processes, product feedback and selecting skillsets for success.

A startup may be born from an idea, but it’s the people who build and grow it.

Operations management will help startups define the processes of what works and doesn’t work for your business and manage the continual improvement process to ensure it remains aligned to the company’s vision.

Last month we welcomed Rhys Linton our Operations Manager to the Sales for Startups team.

Can you tell me a little about your background and previous experience? 

I spent a number of years working in Operations within complex, geographically dispersed environments.

I am also an accredited Business Analyst with the IIBA and BCS, as well as Project Manager with APM. 

Since joining the Sales for Startups team, can you share some key observations?

It’s been a really enjoyable first 6 weeks or so. The team has been extremely welcoming, and supportive of me in my new role. 

There is certainly a strong drive towards high-level achievement, operating at speed as well as an understanding and appreciation of the value of change. 

In your opinion, how have business processes changed in the wake of Covid-19?

Enormously. COVID has changed the business landscape arguably forever, and has forced businesses to operate remotely. This has meant changes have had to be accepted around collaboration, client/staff engagement, as well as challenging our own expectations of what ‘should be done’.

Covid-19 has also acted as the catalyst for many businesses to take a more thorough approach to how they operate today and how they can improve from within first.

How important is it for businesses to have an operations playbook?

What does the best version of this look like? If you don’t know what you do, how can you make it better? How can you find ways to improve? How do you measure success?

Having an understanding of your baseline and how your business should operate is essential to a sustainable and scalable business. There is no best version from my experience. I have seen these housed in documents with success, as well as more sophisticated methods used unsuccessfully.

The key is embedding this into your operation so that the wider team understands a) what should I do and why, and b) the importance of continuous improvement.

What is the end goal working with Sales for Startups?

My goal is to:

a) provide SFS with a baseline of their current operating model

b) utilise this to assemble a bespoke and comprehensive reporting process

c) embed a continuous improvement philosophy to the way we approach our systems and processes both internally and externally.

How often should company’s invest in reviewing their operations?

This is more of an open response. For me, every 3-6 months is a reasonable review period once the as-is is understood, however the culture must be built to create an environment where improvement opportunities and issues are discussed honestly and frequently. 

What are your top tips for scaling business operations?

There are 3 key considerations. Understand, Improve and Measure.

You simply cannot reliably scale your business without a detailed understanding of how it runs today.

You can certainly get by with a degree of intuitive understanding, or you may even strike lucky, however, this is the only way of guaranteeing success.

You must then identify areas in which the as-is processes can be improved, before identifying reliable and consistent ways to measure these improvements and the impact of your decision-making. 

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is the process of gaining the interest of potential customers in order to increase future sales. It is a crucial part of the sales process of many companies. A lead is anyone who has shown interest in a company’s products or services but may not yet be qualified to buy.

Generating leads for startups

Generating leads is essential for any business to succeed, but for startups it can be an especially difficult challenge.

1. Limited resources. At the beginning of your startup journey you will never have enough time or money to do everything. Whether that’s paying staff, office rent, suppliers and technical support or even just accessing cash to survive. Ultimately meaning you cannot afford to throw money at every lead generation strategy out there.

2. No reputation. A new startup is a blank canvas. You cannot rely on word-of-mouth, network referrals, credible testimonials or social following. Additionally, you are competing with other startups with potentially better connections or capital as well as established companies with most likely strong customer bases. Convincing people to take a chance on something new is always an investment.

3. No experience. Every business is unique, but having worked with over 70+ Pre-Seed to Series A startups we know that our best client Founders are not from a B2B sales background. Furthermore, what works for one business won’t necessarily work for you. Only as you hire a team, test strategies and start to attract leads will you gain the experience to see what works and what doesn’t.

Lead generation strategies can be split into two streams: outbound and inbound. Each has benefits and drawbacks, but most would agree that finding a balance between the two is the key to success.

The first step for either strategy is to create valuable content. Publishing good content increases the number of visitors to the website through search engines. However, creating content without understanding your buyer personas or clarifying your brand’s perspective is not going to achieve your company goals and could be a waste of time

Outbound strategies

1. Ideal customers. Before you can begin attracting customers you need to identify who your potential customers are and where they spend their time. Building buyer persona profiles will help you focus your efforts and ensure that you will accomplish the most satisfying results. But don’t underestimate the importance of understanding the solution your product or service provides as sometimes the customers you see as ideal might not actually be the right ones for your company.

2. Finding your leads. Gone are the days of bulk buying lists of data, with outdated contact information or completely incorrect details. When it comes to finding leads, the key is to seek quality. For example, if you’re seeking B2B decision makers, LinkedIn is a great free resource that enables you to find and connect with your target customers.

3. Get in touch. Despite the stigma around cold contact, it is still one of the most effective ways of building a network, and as a startup this is a priority. The key to success is personalisation. Define a process for contacting leads via:

  • Cold calling
  • Cold emailing
  • Social selling

Research shows that 82% of decision-makers don’t mind cold calling and emails if they are relevant to their company’s needs and occupation. What’s more, 71% prefer to hear from sellers early on in their consideration process when they are looking for new ideas. And 62% will welcome suggestions when they provide solutions to their current problems.

Inbound strategies

1. Capturing leads. From webinars, gated downloads, landing pages, demo requests to newsletter sign-ups create the opportunity for a lead to opt-in to hear from your business. Make it easy for people to sign up to further valuable content by creating a structured customer journey and clear call-to-action.

2. Distribute content. Establish your primary and secondary media distribution channels. Whether that is your owned channels, featured content on industry leaders accounts or press coverage most successful brands devise an effective combination.

3. Effective lead generation is essential for your startup. Whether you are focusing on outbound or inbound strategies, using the tips in this article should enable you to create a flow of leads.

The hard part begins when you need to convert your leads into loyal customers: How To Sign Your First Big Deal. 

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.


If you have followed the Sales for Startups journey to date, then you will be aware of the challenge to getting your recruitment right, and the potentially devastating repercussions for getting this wrong.

Part of our ongoing commitment to the Founders we support is to provide access to the very best expertise. We continue to expand our partnership network to ensure that we connect with specialists in every field. We truly believe in the power of collaboration and the value of specialisation.

On that note, it is with great pleasure that I introduce the latest company to join our partner network: Thrive. Thrive unlocks enterprise science, on-demand to solve the hiring challenges of startups. Trusted by SMEs, Thrive has conducted over 30 million candidate assessments across 90 countries, in 40 different languages.

The first tests of this kind were developed at the University of Cambridge in the 1880s, and in the years that have followed, psychometric testing has expanded to cover two broad areas: cognitive tests and personality tests.

Thrive’s assessments provide measurable, objective data that can give you a better all-round view of a candidate’s suitability.

Psychometric testing offers ‘scientific’ credibility and objectivity to the process of recruiting, which is often led by pure gut instinct. It ultimately provides a more fair and accurate way of assessing a candidate, as all applicants will be given a standardised test.

When it comes to staffing your startup, the price is high. In fact, your hiring decisions are vital to the success and upward trajectory of your startup.

“We’re delighted to join the Sales for Startups Partner Network and continue to enable tech Founders to understand, evaluate and expand their teams. Together with Sales for Startups we can re-define how technology businesses improve company performance.”

Emma Hatto – Co-Founder & Commercial Director, Thrive

“With this partnership we can offer our clients and tech community further access and expertise to a proven selection methodology and a way of analysing existing talent, so we’re delighted to welcome Thrive to the Sales for Startups partner community..”

James Ker-Reid – CEO and Founder, Sales for Startups

The importance of making sales recruiting a priority

1: Hiring the right people is transformative

You cannot transform unmotivated or unwilling employees into top performers. Regardless of the amount of training and development opportunities you provide. You need to hire for personality and train for skills.

Effective recruitment and selection of salespeople is critical to the survival and development of your startup. Without the best team, you could be eliminated through tough competition in today’s market.

2: Success breeds success

Your profitability is based on the successful sale of your products or services to customers. And who deals with these customers? Who finds them, nurtures them, and closes them? Your salespeople.

Sales personality types aren’t just important for knowing whether a person will make a good salesperson, they will also drive their selling methods. Every company is unique and your hiring algorithms should be too. With Thrive you pick further assessments from a wide range of available modules to suit your company’s requirements and define the salespeople who will succeed in your environment.

3: Use science to be objective

Unconscious hiring bias can lead to bad hiring decisions and as humans, we are hardwired to make quick decisions, judgements and misplaced assumptions. The right assessments give you objective scientific data helping you make an informed decision that goes beyond any CV or hiring manager.

Thrive ranks candidates based on an overall score. A proprietary backed, scientific formula validates the candidate’s overall suitability, gathering all assessment results into just one score. Then you can drill down into each candidate to see the breakdown of how they performed.

You can’t afford to get it wrong

Recruiting your sales team takes a lot of time and energy. Getting it wrong is extraordinarily expensive. Thrive’s research shows that one bad hire can cost your business £50,000. It can be argued that no business can afford to lose £50,000 on a bad hire, but for a startup that could end your company.

Getting it right can mean you’re on the way to repeatable growth and success. Increase your sales and productivity with Sales for Startups and be consistent, fair, ethical and rigorous while saving time and money in your recruitment selection with Thrive.

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.