B2B Sales has never been more complex, but three core processes remain vital for Tech Start-ups to generate consistent & sustainable revenue…

In 1964, when sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke predicted the emergence of the internet, he displayed remarkable prescience about how advancements in communication would shape the world of work. Absent from his prophecy is just how complicated doing business in 2022 would turn out to be. Clarke’s famous BBC interview may not have been quite as compelling had it focussed on “B2B Sales of the future”, but he’d have saved today’s tech start-ups quite the headache.

Thankfully for tech founders, we’re here 58 years later to provide some guidance about the current state of play for B2B sales. This article explains:

  • How the B2B Customer Buying Journey has changed over the last decade
  • Which three fundamental processes you still need to get right for your tech start-up to grow
  • Steps that your start-up can take to ensure that these processes are followed

Tech Start-ups Today

Sales For Startups’ research tells us that in today’s fast-paced & dynamic tech start-up industry, most B2B companies operate a total of 24 core business processes. These span everything from Finance through to Research & Development. Before you begin a mental count of all that’s taking place in your organisation, rest assured that no start-up has everything nailed down perfectly.

The majority of consultancy work that we provide clients, focuses on implementing & improving all 10 of the commercial processes that directly impact how B2B tech start-ups:

  1. Build predictable revenue
  2. Deliver value to clients
  3. Generate future investment

B2B Sales Fundamentals: Lead, Sales & Nurture

The successful execution of these commercial processes will ultimately dictate the potential for your company to grow. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are a number of fundamental processes that are vital to get right. In particular the three covered in this article have been imperative to driving business growth since the dawn of time:

  1. Lead generation
  2. Sales activity
  3. Nurture client relationships

“Without these three essential ingredients, no tech start-up can scale to their full potential” – James Ker-Reid, CEO – Sales For Startups.

So in spite of their importance, why are so many start-up founders today finding that the task of effectively implementing Lead, Sales & Nurture processes into their B2B sales strategy is more difficult than ever before?

Evolution of the B2B Sales & Buying Processes

As the internet has evolved (especially over the last decade), the same advancements in technology & infrastructure that have generated a wave of opportunity for new tech start-ups to ride, have also created a fiercely competitive environment.

B2B Sales: A Buyers Market

With more tech start-ups launching than at any other time, buyers find themselves with more choice than ever before. Customers are also able to switch technology partners more freely; no longer wedded to providers by lengthy contracts or costly investment, as was the norm in the pre-SaaS days.

Factoring in the vast sums of cash in the tech start-up space & the presence of Big Tech, gone are the days when founders could rely solely on the strength of their product to gain a competitive edge. While none of this will be news to you, it’s all too easy to overlook the impact that rapid developments have had on how you sell to your customers.

The Impact On B2B Sales

Back in the good old days (before Tim Cook & Mark Zuckerberg ruled the world), B2B sales was both a simple & linear affair:

A diagram that shows the old, linear B2B sales process

Ten years ago, implementing Lead, Sales & Nurture processes into your B2B sales strategy would have been straightforward. Chiefly because: Lead, Sales & Nurture processes would have been your entire B2B sales strategy. 

But tech start-ups are now vying for attention in an ecosystem where their customers are more connected than ever. The decision makers that you speak to have never had so much information at their fingertips; & much of it will be distracting or contradictory to what you are telling them.

In its 2019 CSO Update Report, US research company Gartner proposes that “The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling, it is actually our customers’ struggle to buy.” You can get a sense of what they mean by this in the diagram below:

A diagram displaying the complex B2B Customer Buying Journey

Source: CSO Update Report – Gartner, 2019

If it seems complex, that’s because it is. One of the foundations on which we’ve built a successful consultancy business, is our expertise navigating the B2B sales maze of misalignment, conflicting data & feedback loops. We’ve now helped c.70 tech start-ups between Seed to Series A funding rounds, cut through the noise & get their message across clearly, to the right people.

Whether you’re aiming for Unicorn growth or shoring up your existing revenue streams, building a bulletproof B2B sales strategy to get ahead of the competition won’t happen overnight. Incorporating Lead, Sales & Nurture processes & executing them effectively will require thorough planning. 

As one of the greatest ever technical innovators, Alexander Bell once said: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”.

To help with this, we’ve pointed out some of the immediate actions that your B2B tech start-up should be taking:

B2B Sales Actions

Below, we’ve pooled together some important steps that many tech start-up founders overlook when growing B2B sales:

Problem (Lead)

  • What problem does your product help customers to solve?
  • Your clients will only consider investing in a new solution that solves a clear & pressing challenge
  • Make sure that this is clearly defined in all of your client B2B sales messaging

Discovery (Lead)

  • Buyers will undertake a rigorous discovery process to find the best fit for their requirements
    • Unless you operate in a specialised niche, it’s unlikely that prospects will even know your company name
    • During their research, customers will be exposed to huge amounts of content: Whitepapers, Blog Posts, Online Ads, Competitor Websites & more…
  • List all of the steps that your prospective clients take before engaging with you
  • How can you ensure that customers hear your message as soon as possible?
  • How does it simplify their decision making?
  • Are you currently doing enough to advance past Discovery in the B2B sales process?

Qualification (Sales)

  • Most customers will engage directly with competitors & other third parties: taking part in sales calls & email chains, attending meetings, webinars & events
  • How can you simplify the buying journey early on for your clients?

B2B Sales Tip: Make buying simple for your clients

  • Align your sales & marketing efforts to deliver consistent messaging at every stage
    • Provide concise & trustworthy information about how your product can help them throughout
  • Be present in as much of the process as possible

Set Clear Goals (Lead / Sales / Nurture)

  • Ensure that all of your Lead, Sales & Nurture processes are outcome driven. These could include:
    • Improving customer experience
    • Increasing spend
    • Driving referrals
    • Ensuring reactivations to drive ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue)
  • Does your team (Sales, Marketing, Product, Onboarding & Customer Success) know what these outcomes are?
  • Are they focused on these?
  • Kim Atherton, CEO & Co-Founder of just3things, advocates using OKRs (Outcome & Key Results)
  • She emphasises that “any company can become customer-centric if they take a shift from output to outcome seriously”. Discover how by:

Create a single source of Truth (Lead / Sales / Nurture)

  • With so many customer touchpoints, it can be challenging to keep track of just one prospect
  • As your business scales & you work on multiple opportunities at different stages, this problem quickly becomes magnified
  • If you struggle under mountains of email threads & spreadsheets you are missing out on new opportunities & buying signals from prospects
  • Implement a CRM that all client facing staff can access & update

  • Our preferred CRM Partner is HubSpot. But whichever platform you choose, ensure that it is:
    • Cost effective, quick & straightforward to implement
    • Accessible for all of your team & easy to use
    • Has solid reporting capability
    • Capable of automated workflows

Plan Effective Workflows (Lead / Sales / Nurture)

  • Updating your CRM shouldn’t be a box ticking exercise
  • Plan consistent workflows that are triggered by events
  • James Ker-Reid discusses some of these triggers in his recent webinar, WCIT Entrepreneurship Panel. These could include:
    • Lifecycle Stage changes
    • Loss Reason triggers
    • Form Submission
    • Event Attendance
    • Page View(s)
    • Social Media interactions
    • Additional reading suggestions
    • Internal capacity

Empathise with your Clients (Nurture)

  • Take a step back & put yourself in the buyer’s shoes
  • What are your prospects & clients thinking at each step of the Customer Buying Journey?
  • It’s easy to assume what your clients are feeling. James explains this in the WCIT webinar, using “The 5 Keys”:
    1. Expressed Interest = This might help
    2. Discovery Call = Tell me a bit more
    3. Problem Fit = Is this who & what we want
    4. Solution Presentation = Will this work for us & is it a priority
    5. Closed / Won = Let’s get started

Review (Lead / Sales / Nurture)

  • What Lead, Sales & Nurture processes do you currently have in place?
  • Are they linear, or do they factor across the multiple stages of the Customer Buying Journey?

A Quick B2B Sales Summary

The steps included in this article aren’t a definitive plan to reach a $bn valuation. But, by following them, you’ll be on your way to incorporating Lead, Sales & Nurture processes as part of your overall B2B sales strategy. This will give your tech start-up the best chance of generating consistent & sustainable revenue, leading to growth.

For more B2B sales Advice, Information & Networking…

  • For more advice on how to put these steps in place, why not Book A Call with us?
  • You can also find articles, webinars & other useful resources about how to grow your tech start-up on our Insights Page
  • For a better understanding of OKRs & planning for growth sign up to our next Founder Fireside Chat on 28th Jan with guest Kim Atherton, Co-founder & CEO of just3things
  • If you’re a tech start-up Founder & you’re interested in collaborating, networking, sharing ideas & accessing exclusive resources, apply to join our new community: The Founders Collective on LinkedIn

We have all heard the phrase that too much long-term vision can lead to short-term failure. 

A 90 day plan is a document that articulates your intentions for a set period of time. The plan needs to revolve around three things: Product, market and customers. 

Ask yourself the below three questions, but instead of thinking about the answers for the next five years, consider them for the next 90 days: 

  • What will your product or service look like? Which new features will you roll out, and how will your business evolve?
  • How will your market share expand? Which new markets will you have entered?
  • How many customers will you have? How much revenue will they generate? How many employees will you need to support them?

Just3Things, a proven OKR software company, engaged Sales for Startups earlier this year to create, implement and manage a 90 day plan to prepare them for investment in 2022. Earlier this month the key stakeholders came together to complete a review. 

“Sales for Startups have brought a lot more rigour and intention in everything we do, from our proposition, to our people to our sales and onboarding process.”

– Kim Atherton, CEO & Founder at Just3Things.

With the overall goal defined, the plan was formed to align all activity to the vision and anything outside of those parameters was moved to a backlog.  

Working with Account Manager Stella Mead and a CRO from Sales for Startups, Just3Things developed an engagement strategy that focused on the challenges they wanted to solve in three key areas: Proposition, People and Process. 

Proposition

 

The challenge 

  • Unclear on unique differentiators and competitive advantage
  • Not confident in the proposition and whether it’s really clear and compelling
  • Not confident in the blend between enterprise and SME in the core target market

The solution 

Sales for Startups undertook a Feature-Advantage-Benefit analysis, competitor and product review to determine the USPs for Just3Things. We included a stakeholder value propositions considering key concerns for the buyer, consumer and end user and then created and tested the final Value Proposition, adjusting where required. 

People

 

The challenge 

  • Unclear on the right commercial structure and which talent to acquire and deploy for your stage of growth. 

The solution

  • Define the structure of the sales and marketing team with clear roles and responsibilities
  • Create new commission plan and sales targets
  • Recruit new talent
  • Key Performance Indicators were considered for both areas of the business.

Process

 

The challenge 

  • Not confident on the current customer onboarding process
  • Not confident on how to execute the intent of “land and expand” in practice
  • Unclear on the process of converting a free trial to a paying customer.

The solution

Sales for Startups worked with the commercial team to build an agile two-week sprint that aligned customer success, sales and marketing departments. 

During the discovery stage, Sales for Startups identified that an alternative model needed to be explored as a commercial pivot. Without the 90 day plan, this challenge could have been missed or pushed to another year’s initiative. 

Over the course of the six sprints subgoals were created and regular reporting was implemented. 90-day planning isn’t about rigid structure, it’s about seeing what’s ahead and adapting accordingly. It keeps the team accountable and enables them to pivot based on unforeseen changes while avoiding the disheartening task of getting to the middle of the year and wondering where the last six months went. 

Download Sales for Startups 90 day plan template for a simple framework you can follow.

While developing a product or service that appeals to the masses sounds like an opportunity for increased revenue. It can actually be the opposite.

Sales for Startups’ client Workhorse successfully specialises in order and inventory management for SMEs, but this strong proposition wasn’t the initial focus. Here we reveal the journey to realising the potential of the niche and how Workhorse Founder Alastair Badman is confidently working towards Series A funding.

The funding journey

The Workhorse funding journey officially started with the creation of an MVP (minimum viable product) in 2016, and the onboarding of Beta Clients towards the end of 2017. At this point Workhorse was experimenting with products in multiple areas: agriculture, manufacturing, furniture and food and drink. It became evident that Workhorse was competing in a saturated market, up against well established businesses offering similar products with an enterprise price tag.

In response to client and market feedback, it was clear Workshorse was not standing out from the crowd enough. In 2019, Workhorse doubled down on its niche proposition: order and inventory management for SMEs, and received £400,000 in crowdfunding via Seedrs. Investments were maximised over the next 18 months to conduct product development and offer more enhanced integrations.

Fast forward to early 2020 and Workhorse started to get some exciting traction, then the pandemic hit and the order and inventory management industry was hammered. In the unknown, people preserved their cash flow and pulled their investments.

Workhorse survived the pandemic by using the time to take stock and drive internal momentum: hiring new employees in sales, marketing and tech development and by 2021 was in a strong position to grow the business.

Partnering with Sales for Startups at this critical juncture enabled Workshorse to evaluate existing sales operations and rebuild them to scale. Workhorse is now empowered with a go-to-market strategy that means customers receive value faster.

“Finding a partner that understands the opportunity Workhorse offers was vital for our Executive team, but having a partner that backs how we are achieving this and why we are different to others on the market is arguably more important.” Alastair Badman

In September 2021, Workhorse closed its Seed funding round with an impressive £1 million+ investment through The Wealth Club. The due diligence conducted by the investors was thorough and more intense than previous funding rounds.

“We presented business models, in depth forecasts and evidence of customer traction. Despite the process being more challenging, it reaffirmed our confidence in the product.” Alastair Badman

“I think what was really exciting about when we started working with Workhorse was revealing to the team that they had their own unique competitive advantage but weren’t necessarily expressing it and showcasing it in their various sales and marketing materials and conversations. Now we feel confident that by embracing a niche, getting behind a clear USP and a concentrated focus on gaining traction towards Series A, it feels like we’ve got serious momentum at Workhorse.” James Ker-Reid, CEO & Founder, Sales for Startups.

A niche market is the key to the mass growth

Since most investors get their money back from the sale of a company to another business, investors think a lot about how much a company’s valuation can grow over time. The bigger the better.

Some startups misinterpret this and think that bigger means appealing to more customers across multiple large industries. But the benefits of niching and focus far outweigh the challenge of grappling with what’s often a more competitive field of players chasing a bigger opportunity.

Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, working with Sales for Startups, Workhorse has a target to be a £1million revenue generating business within 18 months and work towards a Series A funding round.

“We know that SMEs need established security with a tailored extendable configured technology without the enterprise cost. We are focusing on onboarding new customers, continuing to support our existing customer base and develop our technology further to serve our niche market.” Alastair Badman

Our Chief Revenue Officers (CROs) know how to build sales operations at B2B tech companies. Find out more about how Sales for Startups can empower your startup through our Sales Operation programme.

Out of all the pricing strategies, it can be argued that value-based pricing is the hardest to achieve.

It requires extensive research and understanding of who your target audience is, the market you’re looking to break into and competitor offerings.

What is value-based pricing?

Value-based pricing is a means of price-setting wherein a company primarily relies on its customers’ perceived value of the goods or services being sold.

Cost-based vs value-based pricing

Cost-based pricing is decided based on the company’s perspective. In contrast, value-based pricing focuses on the customer.

In cost-based pricing you set a price for the product and add a margin on top of it. There is no consideration for product comparisons on the market. Get it wrong and you will be outpriced.

Value-based pricing provides the opportunity for economic and market flexibility while positively impacting your brand image.

Advantages of value-based pricing

More insights: The research you conduct ensures you know your audience, market and competitors enabling you to remain ahead of the curve when it comes to product or service development.

Increased profit: You can maximise your price by asking for the highest price based on the value of the product or service.

Demand driven: Your research reveals an approximation of customers willingness to buy, which helps you create the right amount of supply, avoiding waste.

Customer loyalty: Hyperconnected customers expect to be listened to so achieving customer satisfaction promotes customer loyalty.

Disadvantages of value-based pricing

Time consuming: There is a lot of research and analysis required before you can take your pricing to market.

Perceived value: Perceived value is subjective, and it changes due to cultural, social, economic, and technological factors that are outside your control.

Stability issues: Your whole target market might have to vary perceived values for your products or services, making it harder to set a price point that works for every customer. Meaning that predictable revenue is not always guaranteed.
How to get started with value-based pricing:
Research your target audience

Deconstruct your target customer to understand why they need your product or service. Consider the following things:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Education
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Pain points

This data provides a basic image of your persona, which you can use to define their buying motivations and decisions.
Research your target market

As humans, we operate in niche, personalised environments. Your market is no different. Consider the following things:

  • Analyse current customer base
  • Assess the competition
  • Honestly review product or service
  • Conduct market research
  • Evaluate your decision
  • Monitor social activity

This data provides the foundation for your marketing strategy.

Research your competitors

You should regularly research your competitors to ensure that you’re providing the best product or service for your customers. Your competitor analysis must include:

  • Competitor’s features
  • Market share
  • Pricing
  • Marketing
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Geography
  • Customer reviews

This data empowers you to make well-informed business decisions that should keep your product or service ahead of others.

Value-based pricing is powerful. Once established, it will strengthen your brand promise, ensure market agility and provide informed insight into your customers needs.

For additional help on finding the value of your product or service, download our free resource: How to create a Value Proposition.

You have a great business idea and a bring-to-market plan, so what now? Seek funding. 

Engaging investors can be intimidating for entrepreneurs especially if they don’t have prior connections. Working with Pre-Seed to Series A+ startups we have collated our top tips for pitching and winning over potential investors. 

1.Personally invest

When it comes to self-financing it tends to have a better return of investment than other forms of funding. Most choose to either use savings or remortgage assets. Regardless of your route, it is best to always speak to a professional financial advisor and review all the options available. Investors want to see that you back your idea, you’re responsible with your money and that you’ll produce a solid return of investment (ROI). 

2. Due diligence 

It’s critical to do your own research about the investors you are pitching to on the day. Speak to the founders in their portfolio and work out  which investor is the right fit for your venture. Understand their interests, behaviours and language and you should be on the right track. You need to liaise with and please investors beyond the pitch, so you need to be comfortable working together.  

3. Understand KPIs

Know your numbers. You will be asked to evidence everything you say in the room with data. Most successful Founders will have an obsessive understanding of their KPIs including: 

  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Lifetime value
  • Conversion rate
  • Profit margin
  • Monthly burn

4. Share your why

What inspired you to start your company? What is unique about your offering? Share the story of your journey, include interesting details of the triumphs and hurdles to get investors to buy into your vision. Be authentic in explaining the problem that your solution solves. People invest in people, bring out the personal in your passion. 

5. Short and sweet

You need to be able to explain your core business idea concisely: in three bullet points or 60 seconds. There is a rule of thumb in pitching: 10/20/30, and it states that your pitch should have 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes and contain a font of 30 points.  

6. Demonstrate transactional interest 

Your idea may be great, but investors need to see that the business is viable. Create and share the revenue model, conduct market research and initiate a marketing and customer success plan that aligns to your sales plan.

7. Sustainability and scalability

Create an honest financial forecast that shows key milestones based on actual revenue, projections and achievable growth. Factor in the amount you have requested and how and on what it would be spent. Include details on how each cost relates to your vision. 

8. Control the narrative

Talk about the things you know, acknowledge when there is more discussion to be had and be skilled in redirecting towards the bigger picture. Keep the pace and be human, investors want you to be prepared but know when you are too rehearsed or out of your depth. 

9. Take inspiration

Review other pitch decks and executive summaries. Ask your professional network including lawyers, entrepreneurs, financial friends for samples or examples of good ones. If you don’t have a network to leverage, search online. 

As part of our sales strategy programme, we assist founders to position their startups in a place of investment strength by building sales operations that scale and produce predictable revenue.

Find out more about our Sales Strategy or book a call with James Ker-Reid, Founder and CEO. 

Devising an exit strategy might seem like a strange step to take when you’re just launching a business, but forward planning for such an eventuality is an integral part of business preparation. 

All businesses need an exit strategy, whether this involves transferring ownership of the company when the current owner decides to retire, dissolving it entirely, or selling the assets to another business. Leaving a business can be stressful, even more so if you’re the founder, and emotions can cloud judgement. An exit strategy ensures that when the time comes you have a plan in place to enable you to rationally take action. 

There are a few key steps to formulating every exit strategy. Julie Barber, Founder and CEO of Spark!Consulting designs and delivers workshops for startup founders to create actionable exit strategies. 

For this article, Sales for Startups collaborate with Spark! Consulting to share common insights and recommendations for early stage founders devising their exit strategy. 

Align your vision

A founder will deal with multiple stakeholders in their business, each with their own individual agendas, it is important to be aware of their interests, understand how they differ from each other and agree on commonality, to create a unified business vision that everyone will support.

It’s always a great exercise to ask each Founder to independently write down what they believe will be the revenue, number of customers and employees in five years? Then share it and see the divergence in thinking between the Founders.

Once you have articulated the vision you need to look at how achievable it is based on data. Work out the metrics you need to track over a period of time. From this, you can then work backwards to define the annual metrics and appoint a champion to keep the vision accountable. 

Follow the PPPAT model

The PPPAT model, a business planning model proprietary to Spark! consulting, stands for: people, process, product, assets and technology.  Each strand needs to align to the overall business vision. To do this, define a plan of outputs for each strand, focusing on the detail of what you need to achieve within a 12 month period.

  • People: Understand who you need to hire next and then implement an in-depth selection process to get the very best talent.
  • Process: Every customer needs to be taken on a journey in the sales cycle where progress and incremental customer buy-in can be measured.
  • Product: Build a product that the market needs and be able to adapt and develop it as needs change.
  • Assets: 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. 
  • Technology: The right technology can help you manage your team properly, boost overall productivity, and ultimately get the most from every project, while saving time and money.

Implement a 90-day operational plan

Once you have the end in mind, you can work backwards setting key actions and allocating the right roles and responsibilities to drive success. 

Plan your operations in three phases: 

Phase one: Discovery

The discovery phase is all about collating and analysing data, before making any decisions. The founder(s) will need to assess both personal and business details in order to balance them in the business exit planning process.

Collect the following information: 

  • personal life goals
  • a succession plan
  • financial goals required to exit 
  • valuation of the business
  • shifting the priorities of previous business plans 

You don’t know what you don’t know. So this is the time to consider engaging an expert to help understand what you don’t know and add those things to your objectives. 

Phase two: Execution

In this phase, business processes are challenged. Every aspect is questioned and compared to the competition.

Review and update these specific areas:

  • write a brand framework that includes vision and mission statements
  • business objectives
  • align the marketing strategy and sales strategy
  • operations management, logistical and personnel
  • financial management
  • employee engagement
  • risks and issues 

Phase three: Assessment

The exit strategy is evaluated every 90 days based on the operational plan timeline.

This will highlight any challenges and obstacles that could delay the progress of the exit strategy. 

Follow a two step assessment process: 

  • assess objectives as they were identified in the Discovery Phase
  • make a final decision to sell the company or spend more time facilitating

“When I reflect back on my startup journey, only now do I realise the importance of having a clear exit strategy when you start the business rather than when you’re in the weeds of its operation. Often this is spoken about but never taught. You may even design a different business when you have a clear exit strategy.” James Ker-Reid 

Every founder will leave their business someday, whether planned or not. In an ideal situation you will choose when you leave and how you will exit your business. 

For help defining your exit strategy, please get in touch

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. 

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.

A new Mastercard report – ‘Striving to Thrive: The state of play for UK micro and small businesses’ from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), has highlighted a significant risk that the UK’s small and micro businesses could miss out on an estimated £827 billion growth opportunity over the next five years if they are not supported to digitise.

For your startup, the right technology can help you to manage your team properly, boost overall productivity, and ultimately get the most from every project, while saving time and money. Moreover, choosing the wrong tech stack could jeopardise your entire company’s success.

“How am I supposed to know which technology meets my business needs?”

Firstly, you need to make the distinction between the technology that can really help you grow your business and those cool emerging technologies that are more “nice to have” (especially for large corporations with more disposable budgets).

Here is what Sales for Startups recommend to the Seed to Series A startups we work with.

Find solutions for your individual pain points

The main purpose of technology is to help you to carry out tasks more efficiently and effectively. Talk to all members of your team and observe which tasks are performed successfully and which ones need to be improved.

Gain insights from customer feedback and find the gaps in their journey with you. Pay attention to competitor and industry trends but don’t solely focus on other businesses. This is about looking inward.

Identifying your company’s individual pain points can take some effort. While making assumptions is an easier way out, you need to know what your employees and customers are thinking to provide fitting solutions.

Understand the skills you have, and the ones you need

When we talk about skills we’re referring to both the skills of your team members and the skills of your existing tech stack. It can be more cost effective to implement new technology that can integrate with existing stacks when possible.

  1. Complete an employee performance review in order to identify skill gaps.
  2. Use this data to establish an employee strategy that incorporates training and development
  3. Commit to adapting and updating this strategy regularly as well as using it for recruiting.

This challenge is only growing as companies face increased competition for skilled workers in specific areas such as software development, cybersecurity and computer engineering.

Onboard and train your team

It’s human nature to be intimidated by new technologies and find the training quite daunting when we just want to get on with our roles. Prepare for some push back and expect a certain level of mistakes when implementing new technology into your startup.

Communicate with your employees to explain why you chose the technology, the benefits to them as individuals, as teams and company-wide. Explain how the new system works and which (if any) existing tech it replaces.

Most SaaS providers want to ensure you’re getting the most out of their technology and that it’s helping you to achieve your goals, so will probably offer support for onboarding but we would recommend you negotiate an ongoing training package and ask about access to their knowledge base.

Think about the future

While choosing the technology that supports your current pain points is important, you need to think about the longevity of your investment. Consider the impact of growth on your existing practices.

If employees are investing a lot of time managing repetitive tasks, how will this play out if you expand your operation or extend your customer reach?

Appoint a champion to be accountable when examining potential tech solutions with scalability in mind. Avoid blowing the budget on something overly sophisticated and currently unnecessary, it will likely be superseded by something better by the time you require it anyway.

Choosing the right technology for your startup requires you to have a clear understanding of your value proposition. You need to know your Plan A and Plan B budgets, complete a SWOT analysis and recognise your short and long term goals.

Ask your employees for opinions, consult specialists, trial tech solutions before you commit and go with ones that can support your startup’s growth.