There have been thousands of books, blogs and webinars written about what it takes to be successful in business. 

At Sales for Startups, we believe that predictable sales equates to business success. Yet too often we witness Founders and CEOs make the mistake of betting on one individual to grow predictable sales. In this article, I’ll show you why that is too big of a risk.

As a Founder myself I can relate to the efforts made to diversify our risk through investing in board members, hiring new staff and developing new products. Why don’t we do the same when it comes to sales?

Take a look at your sales strategy today. Who is in charge of it? Your Sales Leader, Board Advisor or yourself, the Founder?

When we look at the bigger picture, job tenure has decreased dramatically in the last decade from 10-15 years on average to as little as 17 months. The term ‘job hopper’ used to be seen as a negative attribute. It conjured ideas of disloyal employees and secret spying from competitors. Those days are gone. Your job security is not something your employer controls anymore. You control it.

In this article I explore diversifying your risk across the organisational roles of the Sales Leader, Board Member and Founder to create predictable sales.

The Sales Leader

We’re asking a lot of our sales leaders today. We’re expecting them to be experts in sales, marketing and customer success. It’s like we’re asking them to do mountain climbing without any ropes or equipment – free climbing does have its risks.

When we start our careers we choose or fall into a specific domain, in this instance, Sales. We then try and work our way up the company, responsibility and salary ladder eventually becoming a Sales Manager, then hopefully a Sales Director. Our success has been predicated on being successful in sales and then leading a team to be successful in sales.

Although this makes perfect sense, and follows the logical norm of about 90% of careers of Sales Leaders, in today’s climate we expect them to have complete proficiency in marketing and customer success. When did they fit that in?

Each is a career of its own with varying duties and responsibilities and progression does require focus often to the exclusion of other domains and disciplines. We do learn to appreciate and educate ourselves on these other departments but we don’t often get down to a practical level with these other domains.

Therefore placing all of the responsibility on the shoulders of one person results in people becoming a Jack of all trades and master of none. And drastic underperformance.

Furthermore,  beyond the classic startup mistakes of hiring leaders from large and well-known companies who want to try their hand at startups.  We’re blindsiding ourselves in two other ways:

  1. We’re recruiting for yesterday’s experience rather than today’s and what we need right now.
  2. We forget, with hindsight, our story and recollections constantly evolve and hence we can look back on things with rose tinted glasses.

So what’s the solution?

Sales consultancy?

Despite the term being relatively unknown, the UK is the second fastest growing market for self-employment. We’ve seen a 72% increase in consultants over the last three years. The market statistics show that these are experienced individuals, who have experience and family commitments. Therefore it’s no wonder now that 49% of freelancers are in the highly skilled category.

This massive growth has been supported by freelance platforms freelancer, Upwork, fiverr and also access to affordable business management tools like Xero, Starling and Google.

The challenge?

Experienced sales leaders are looking at freelancing to replace their full-time salary with a portfolio career – working with multiple companies to provide a total remuneration package equivalent to their earnings before.

The driver here is money. With limited time and resources available you can only scale your efforts with a couple of clients, so the way to increase your earnings is to charge more per client for shorter engagements. You only have 5 days in each week and one person.

Furthermore, are you just concentrating your risk here but with a part-time resource instead of a full-time resource?

The contractual relationship may have changed but you’re still betting on one individual.

There is a silver lining through this highly expanding and congested market. A place where Sales Leaders get the support they need to be successful, clients get better value from longer-term projects, obtain the relevant experience of professionals who are doing today what you want them to do tomorrow.

Also who really wants to be alone? Who do you go to for support?

We believe that collective and peer learning on a practical level with a team is one of the best ways to grow yourself, your career and your clients.

The Board Member

The Board Members steer the organisation towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies. More often than not they’re required to support the Founder as a mentor, leader, coach and advisor.

But do they have enough time to lead?

From our research, the average board member sits on three other boards and either has a full-time role or is the Founder of their own company. Therefore their ability to support you as a Founder on building the sales operations of your company to gain predictability is limited.

A board member is not there to steer the boat by managing the day-to-day operations, but to provide foresight, oversight, and insight.

The best value from board members is helping you network and meet other credible investors. And once speaking to the investors, they can help you present the mission, business plan and financial projections in an attractive way.

If the board member is effective, you will get your Series A when they make fundraising their primary role.

The Founder

When I speak to Founders, I often ask is sales your core strength, is it your sweet spot? Most of them say no it’s not at all.

In fact research shows that 68% of tech Founders are not from a sales and marketing background. Furthermore, on average Founders only spend six hours selling per week.

So the question is: If you’re left to your own devices, can you meet your revenue targets?

If you continue the same way the business has for the last 6 months in terms of Net New Revenue and number of customers won, will you reach your necessary revenue to gain Series A funding?

An easy way to find out:

Take the last 6 months of revenue and multiply it by 3, does it get you to your number? If not, you need another strategy.

At Sales for Startups we have created a winning sales strategy with a sequence for success to accelerate your growth by making the right choices at each business stage.

Conclusion

Don’t rely solely on your Sales Leader, Board Member or Founder, instead identify the right team to diversify your risk and call on them as and when you need them.

If your organisation is growing, dedicate your marketing team to generating leads and your sales team to close them enabling you to grow predictable sales. There will always be overlap, but when Sales and Marketing are working together on their own tasks, you get a lot more for a lot less.

So finally, I invite you to invest in a company and its partners that gives you what you want, when you need it.

After all, when was diversification such a bad thing?!

If you’d like to discuss the topics raised in this article, please feel free to book a call with me.

The M-A-T Effect is a guide for decision making that we use with Tech Founders at Sales for Startups. We use it to improve the quality of results that Pre-Seed to Series A B2B tech startups produce when building predictable sales operations.

The letters MAT are short for:

  • Measure
  • Analyse
  • Take Action

These three parts are broken down by the following 8 steps, which this article outlines.

  1. The ‘MEASURE’ step

The purpose of the Measure step is to capture relevant information to help you make decisions.

Determine the metrics worth tracking
Understand existing performance
Use for goal setting based on the existing data

Determine the metrics worth tracking

Vanity metrics include impressions, “likes,” shares, comments, followers, open rates, views, traffic, time on site, bounce rate, and more. Often called “engagement metrics”  they are the most-used metrics in social media, content marketing, digital advertising, PR, and inbound campaigns to measure the performance and success of marketing efforts.

Instead focus on the metrics that can make a difference to your overall business goals.

  • Lifetime Value of a Customer
  • Gross Revenue
  • Net Revenue
  • Profit Margin
  • Conversion Rate
  • Leads Generated
  • Customer Retention Rate
  • Number of calls made + emails sent
  • Number of meetings or demos scheduled
  • Number of meetings/demos completed
  • Number of opportunities created
  • Number of quotes delivered
  • Length of sales cycle
  • Number (and size) of deals closed
  • Cost-Per-Conversion

Understand your existing performance

Depending on the model of your business, your conversions will fall into one of two categories: a sale or a lead.  In each case, there are ample points at which a prospect can “drop off” the customer journey and guiding prospects from awareness through to advocacy can be a challenge.

Start by measuring your existing performance on a few general metrics and then pull out the most important metrics to you. The list below is a good starting point:

  • New Customers
  • Lifetime Value of a Customer
  • Cost-Per-Acquisition
  • Gross Revenue
  • Net Revenue
  • Profit Margin
  • Conversion Rate
  • Leads Generated
  • Customer Retention Rate
  • Website Traffic
  • Cost-Per-Conversion
  • Referrals

Instead of relying on your gut, use a CRM to track all of your data and make this your single source of truth. If it’s not in the CRM, then you have a problem.

Goal setting based on the data

It is dangerous to assume that the numbers tell the full story. It’s better to think of data not as a bullseye but as a trail of breadcrumbs. Metrics point you in the right direction based on problem areas, but until you uncover the root of the problem, you cannot make a fully accurate decision.

Companies who set objectives and come up with key results that are metric-based indicators of success will have more chance of succeeding, by making those key results visible, to encourage accountability at all levels of their organisation.

We sometimes see Founders set goals within a void, “we want to triple our number of leads next month”.  When you look back at the data there is no trend that shows that even with the greatest will in the world this could be the wrong strategic aim.

2. The ‘Analyse’ step

The purpose of the Analyse step is to interrogate the measurements you’ve taken and then start to understand what this means for you with regards to sales conversion:

  • Defining sales analysis
  • Data-driven decision making
  • Better customer engagement

Defining sales analysis

Sales analysis is mining the data for insights to evaluate the performance of your sales team against the overall company goals. It provides a greater level of understanding about the top performing and underperforming products and services, highlights the problems in selling and marketing opportunities and enables a comprehensive sales forecast and supports further revenue generation.

We know that 68% of plans are not successfully executed. That’s why we implement two week sprints for our customers. The two week sprints are full of opportunities to learn more with less time.

  • Managing your two week sprint
  • Hold weekly planning & review meetings
  • Measure sprint progress
  • Log new actions and your reasoning behind them
  • Celebrate wins
  • Record and document your winning systems

Data-driven decision making

With the data at hand, you can now plan your next steps and what actions you’re going to take now you know what you know.

Growing a startup is a game of constantly testing hypotheses and seeing if they work in a live market environment.

You can record what you’re looking to achieve by taking corrective or incremental action and if it worked. Another way to think of it is like analysing your serving action in tennis after some three lost service games and then making some small adjustments in the way you throw up the ball, did you get more first serves in? Did you get any non returnables? Did  you win more points in the game? And ultimately did you win your service game?

Better customer engagement

If you can determine why a deal closed, or didn’t close, you adapt, iterate and improve your sales cycle in order to keep your customers happy and loyal. Once you understand their needs you can develop your brand to meet them and naturally progress them further to upsell and cross-sell other aspects of your business.

If you don’t analyse the data you have, what’s the point in having it in the first place.

3. The ‘Take action’ step

  • Put your insights into action
  • Then rinse and repeat: Measure, Analyse and Take Action

Put your insights into action

For example, you measured stage conversion, where you measured how many and what percentage of deals passed through each stage over the last month.

You analysed the data and found that at the proposal stage, there was a large dropoff of prospects and then when looking at the days between stages, you saw an elongation of “days in stage” at the proposal stage.

This led you to looking at 10 of the previous deals at proposal stage last month and you saw that on 8 of them there were no formal next steps agreed and calendared with the prospects.

So now you decide you need to take action

You decide that the first test would be to advise the sales team that before agreeing to submit a proposal to your enterprise buyer, you agree on a time and date for a proposal review call, at the end of  the previous call. If they don’t agree, you don’t create a proposal.

Why would you spend your time creating a proposal if they don’t want to review it and get their key questions answered?

This is also a smart soft close, as they might say, I think we’re too early for a proposal at this stage for x or y reason. You can then re-qualify and understand what you’ve missed or where clarity and value hasn’t been expressed up until this point.

Rinse and repeat

You can now measure whether this increases the rate of proposals that go to the “contracts agreed” stage for example, you can see if it decreases the time in stage too. This is measurement. Then you’d analyse those findings and take new action if you needed/wanted.

For further information on which sales reports we found most valuable for tech startups, we have published a new eBook on the Seven sales reports to improve sales conversion at your B2B tech startup. Download it below.

Download 

With the shift to hybrid working set to be a permanent fixture, companies are looking to drive consistent revenue growth from a remote workforce. Additionally, many companies are starting to return and expand into new markets meaning recruitment drives are back in full force.

In a recent Accenture report, it found a majority of workers (83%) prefer a hybrid work model, but a variety of factors influence their ability to thrive, whether they’re onsite or off.

The events of the past year did finally put one misconception to rest — that enabling employees to work remotely means loss in productivity, with 63% of high-growth companies having already adopted a “productivity anywhere” backed up by The Accenture survey finding that 40% of individuals feel they can be productive and healthy anywhere — either fully remote or onsite or a combination of the two — as the hybrid workplace emerges.

While adding remote salespeople is a lower-cost way and appears to be to enter a new market, it does come with its share of management challenges. From working with 70+ Pre-Seed to Series A B2B tech startups, Sales for Startups has collated some advice for overcoming the challenge of revenue growth with a remote sales team.

1. Communication

Challenge: Remote teams can feel isolated. Creating communication channels and practices that work for an entire spread out team can be difficult to manage. Network issues in different locations can cause friction during conference calls and Zoom fatigue is a new condition we have all learned to deal with at varying degrees.

Solution: Technology today is evolving. Instant messaging is fast becoming the most attractive means of communicating with colleagues.

2. Accountability

Challenge: Holding remote salespeople accountable without imposing micro-managing tactics can be difficult. The goals are being hit, but you’re not sure how their time is being spent and whether they’re maximising their full potential. The main goal is to ensure a negative atmosphere does not fester and affect team motivation.

Solution: Cloud based sales management systems help provide company overview to track leads, activity levels and KPIs in real-time. Enabling feedback to be accurately reported and better decisions made at speed.

3. Incentive

Challenge: Motivation while remote working can be a challenge, especially for remote sales people. The lack of office buzz, deal celebrations and training from one another can be demotivating.

Solution: While the more experienced salespeople are self-motivated, it is important to set incentives for top performers and encourage some healthy competition.

A few incentives that have proven to work for others include:

  • Technology perks
  • Home delivery perks
  • Learning and development perks
  • Holidays

Every startup is unique so ultimately, there will always be a range of pros and cons to having remote salespeople. Understand the challenges and opportunities that are unique to your business, then create the perfect sales strategy to fit your company goals and increase revenue.

Like many other businesses when we engage with a new client, the first step we take is to review and audit all the assets they have. Including, website, platforms, integrations, social media, content, Google console and analytics. From this we independently speak to all employees to gain an understanding of the company goals at every level.

This provides a baseline for us to measure their performance and success against. We can then evaluate the actions and behaviours of the team and see if they increase the probability of success and achievement of their goals.

The modern business landscape has created an imperative that every company be, in some way, a technology company.

The shift has been dramatic in the last 18 months, however in past years we have seen an increase in traditional companies going digital. In this cautionary tale James Ker-Reid of Sales for Startups and marketing partner Richard Lucas, Founder of Eleven share insights on the importance of aligning sales and marketing and highlight moments when this goes wrong for a joint venture with a Fintech company.

In the case of this startup, they had just undergone a large website revamp [switching from WordPress to Webflow] and ultimately spent in excess of £15,000 for something that was not performing. Here are our main observations to help you avoid the same mistakes when it comes to technical SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), single source of data, martech integration and content production to support sales.

Align your vision

We see it happen so often when companies outline their vision for a new initiative and then pull in a third party web partner to build the end product. This can create a lot of problems, as the company doesn’t have the technical expertise to know whether what they are trying to achieve is practical or how to execute the project. The best way to avoid issues is to work on the initial plan with the necessary experts from each angle, internal team, sales, marketing, web designer and web developer.

Having paid thousands for a website with some text and imagery in place but without being advised on the right copy and imagery, the client discovered that the basics were never in place [no sitemap] and that they have no established SEO equity.

In other words, having done the normal keyword research on search trends and competitor sites that initial research wasn’t carried through to the website’s structure and content. One could say that they prioritised design over substance.

This means that the website has not worked hard enough for them and actually hampered their desired progress on their lead generation efforts.

Having a strong online presence that can be organically found online can be make or break for generating more revenue.

Single source of data

As with most scaling businesses, this company had numerous sources for data, including social media platforms, individual email accounts, legacy platforms and the dreaded employee notepads. With no ability to analyse and interpret the data many opportunities were not being maximised and in some cases entirely missed.

A single source of data is one of the most important aspects for your business to be able to make justified decisions, particularly when it comes to sales and marketing. You have to make your business processes more convenient, easy to access, accurate, and more secure by storing your business data in one multifunctional place.

Martech integration

You might be familiar with Scott Brinker’s famous marketing technology (martech) landscape slide, known as the Martech 5000. The pandemic has shifted the focus on functionality from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘must-have’ for companies as they grapple with rapidly shifting consumer behaviours and the need for regular online communication.

Martech is all about devising the strategy that is right for your business, and only then identifying the technology that will help you execute that strategy. Thinking about it the other way around,  trying to improvise a strategy that fits the technology you want to use, simply won’t work.

A successful martech stack is used to streamline internal collaboration, analyse the performance of marketing campaigns, conduct personalised and proactive communication with customers and provide a detailed overview of sales and customer buyer journey status.

Content production to support sales

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. Whether it’s a high-quality infographic, long or short form blog, gated download or an explainer video, quality content is crucial to engage your audience, develop meaningful relationships with quality prospects and convert sales.

When a marketing and sales team are aligned in the types of content created for sales enablement versus that created for content marketing purposes, a sales team can utilise the content across various touchpoints to make the final conversion from prospect to loyal customer.

Publishing good content increases the number of visitors to the website through search engines. The simple function of search engines is: to exist, discover, understand and organise the internet’s content in order to offer the most relevant results to searcher’s questions.

If you don’t have any content, or worse you have bad content, your site cannot be found by the search engines. And if it cannot be found, you won’t get any traffic to your website. We find that consistently publishing great keyword rich content when conducting a website revamp often falls down the priority list.

This can be fatal with it sometimes taking between six to nine months to re-establish your original levels of organic search traffic after dropping the ball on a website revamp project, which ultimately will be evidenced in your number of leads, number of sales and revenue.

Working together Sales for Startups and Eleven have jointly built roadmaps for startup growth projects. Creating the sales and marketing strategies to achieve client goals and help to prioritise those needs based on the requirements of the technical infrastructure and content gaps is a must for those wanting predictable revenue at their tech startup.

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.

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Seven reports for sales conversion

Depending on the model of your business, your conversions will fall into one of two categories: a sale or a lead. In each case, there are ample points at which a prospect can “drop off” the customer journey and guiding prospects from awareness through to advocacy can be a challenge.

In this document, you’ll find Sales for Startups’ seven reports to improve sales conversion for B2B tech startups across deal stages.

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When you welcome a VP of Sales to join your startup, they’ll be goal oriented and looking to set targets and timelines. They’ll be keen on extending the scale of their remit, developing relationships with the team and setting out to be with you on this mission for the next 2-3 years.

Sounds perfect, right?

Yes, for developed businesses. For Pre-Seed to Series A, often not.

In Pre-Seed, Seed and Series A companies there is a danger in recruiting your VP too early in your startup journey. This can be a costly mistake to make with the average VP of Sales costing a B2B tech company £180,00 per year. Moreover, the majority of SaaS first VP Sales recruits don’t even get to celebrate their first anniversary.

 “70% of Saas First VP Sales don’t make it to 12 Months. It’s one of the most common, and also most devastating mishires in startups.”

– Jason Lemkin

We do understand why this is a common mistake for Founders to make, as it’s often outside of their core area of expertise. They are not typically B2B sales and marketing experts, so why not hire someone who’s been a sales leader and got much more experience in sales and sales management?

It’s a very logical approach, but it’s not a winning strategy.

The reality is, a VP should not be introduced to your SaaS B2B startup to create initial sales but to support growth when the time and conditions are right.

So, what are the signs that your start-up is VP ready?

Proposition

1. You have a succinct value proposition with a clear product use case

Sometimes as Founders, we expect a new VP of Sales to come in and to understand our often unproven and unvalidated value proposition and to just sell it. To whom? How? Why? When?

Once you’ve validated your product’s use case by obtaining paying customers, within a niche, and have demonstrable case studies to show the ROI of your software, then you are ready to scale and to hire.

Sales demands should not be treated in isolation, sales are a symptom of a clear value proposition.

Furthermore, before you hire a VP of Sales, your messaging should be tried and tested, and dynamic enough for new iterations that are inevitably required when growing a B2B SaaS company.

People

2. Your have extraordinary talent in your sales, marketing and customer success team

It’s great to have a clear and succinct value proposition but you need the team to take it to market it, sell it and service it.

For many B2B tech companies we see this as a vital step in their progression as a company, switching from Founder-led to team-led sales, marketing and customer success. It’s understandable that at the start you may be in charge of some or all of these roles but the real acid test of a B2B SaaS company is seeing if other people can sell, market and service as well as or even better than you can as the Founder.

Furthermore, if you want to build a scalable, repeatable and predictable business you need to make sure that you get the right talent, in the right roles, at the right time.

By making this jump, you become an investment-ready tech company.

Processes

3. You have a successful sales process

One of the keys to predictable revenue growth is a successful sales process.

The hallmarks of a successful sales process are ones which convert high value and referenceable customers, have a clear structure about them so you know what you’re doing next, and produce revenue in a predictable timeframe. This also could include upsells, cross-sells, on-sells and referrals too.

Additionally, another part of a successful sales process is to gain a deep understanding of your prospective or existing customers and also how to convey that value message to them, so they understand it and are compelled to act.

This means that the feedback you receive from your customers and prospects needs to be shared, reviewed and absorbed by the rest of your team. As a result, you can build a better product that creates more value for your customers than any other competitor.

4. You have a value-adding customer success process

Your customer success team will evolve and adapt over time, as you gain more momentum, experience and gain further funding.

In the early stages, your customer success managers may look after onboarding, servicing, renewals and expansion revenue. Over time, this will change and you’ll be able to break down these core functions into separate roles.

The core thing you must get right is that you retain, grow and gain referenceable customers. To achieve these goals, your team will have embedded an excellent onboarding process, get your customers using your product regularly, shorten the time to value for them and be able to clearly demonstrate the ROI of your software to your customers. This will make the goal of gaining renewals and expansion revenue a lot easier for you.

5. You have consistent lead generation

Often, we hear from Founders, “we just need more leads, if only we had more leads then we would get our Series A”.

Leads are important, you need a steady stream of leads that are created through both inbound and outbound approaches. Both compliment each other, both can overlap too.

You’ll need to have several proven lead generation strategies that create new leads consistently, as new leads, create conversations, which create proposals, which then create customers.

If you don’t have consistent lead generation, it will be hard to hit your revenue projections, to bring on more sales hires, not to mention leadership level.

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In today’s climate, Founders are expecting a lot from VPs of Sales in B2B SaaS companies. They want them to create a strategy, recruit the right people, put the smart processes in place, mentor and coach a team and that added extra – hit your own sales target.

This player/coach role in our research has not proven to be the most effective and responsible decision for a Founder to make at a B2B SaaS company. You are still finding your market, your value and developing your product to meet your customer’s demands.

With so many unknowns, so many questions and often a lack of clarity in early stage companies on what needs to be done, it’s no wonder that the average VP of Sales only lasts 13 months.

Our core message is that there are fundamental building blocks that need to be put in place to create an environment for VPs of Sales, Marketing and Customer Success to be successful and gain maximum ROI from these senior hires.

From our research, we see the optimal point for you to make these senior hires is at Series A or maybe Series B.

Our business enables B2B Pre-Seed, Seed and Series A businesses to get into a position to hire a VP of Sales. For us it’s a case of the order, not if but when you hire a VP of Sales.

We help you do this by identifying the critical building blocks in the three areas of Proposition, People and Processes. We then install these into your tech company to transform you from Founder-led to a team-led sales approach – creating predictable revenue and enabling you to secure further funding.