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. 

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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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7 reasons why you have unpredictable sales at your startup

We’d like to share with you seven reasons why you might have
unpredictable sales at your startup. You could see just one of
these in your startup or a toxic combination of many of them.

Overcome these seven and you’ll gain better buyer
understanding, increase your deal values, shorten your sales
cycle, hire and train the best people, increase your customer
acquisition and grow your existing customer base.

7 unpredictable sales

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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.

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.

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7 Mistakes Tech Companies Make After Seed Funding

Early funding for your startup is ultimately a reason to feel joyous. It shows that your efforts are being acknowledged and people believe you have a viable product or service on your hands. However, it’s the next steps that are the most vital.

How you use your newly acquired capital will not only help shape your business for the foreseeable future; it also sets you up nicely for further funding rounds, such as Series A.

Yet, there are common pitfalls companies make after securing early funding.

In this eBook, we look at 7 mistakes tech companies make after seed funding. These tips are designed to help you avoid falling into any traps, leaving you to focus on maximising your bottom line.

7 Mistakes Tech Companies Make After Seed Funding

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To set the scene: Pre-Seed is a relatively new term and for those that it is relevant for, your challenges are going to centre around the market opportunity, the problem you solve, why now is the time to invest and how this is going to make money. Your narrative, your why and your purpose have to be nailed at this stage, even if the product is not quite there yet. The following 4 challenges are not an exhaustive list but they come up a lot so it is worth going through them and linking them to your own venture

Challenge 1 – I don’t have an MVP.

It used to be that a well thought out deck was enough to secure some funds. This is no longer the case and to keep up to speed with other startups vying for the same VC wallet, you need an MVP. It needs to have either entered the market or at least Alpha or Beta stage of development. I don’t mean it has to be pulling in MRR yet, but naming a few customers for example.

Challenge 2 – I don’t know what goes in my deck. 

There are some very interesting stats around this. On average, an investor takes 3.5 minutes on a deck, so your solution needs to be outlined in this time. The other areas you should focus on are why investing now is the right time and what is your plan to monetise this solution or product. If you can also outline what is the market opportunity, clearly defining the problem you solve, why now is a good time to invest and your route to revenue, you’ll have a good deck. 

Challenge 3 – I’m not sure how many investors I need to meet with.

For a Pre-Seed round, in the US on average it is $500k and Globally, the average is $415k. For this, your pipeline should be around 50 investors as a shortlist, looking to try and hold 26 investor meetings (50% conversion), gaining commitment of a $50k ticket from 8 of these (33% conversion) to get you that $400k. And remember, if the deck is about 20 pages (no longer) and can be communicated in under 3.5 minutes and be accessible on mobile, then you are on the right lines. 

Challenge 4 – do I give away some of my company? 

At Pre-Seed stage, then there are going to be potential financing solutions available to you that are non-equity, things like grants and startup loans as opposed to carving up your company too early. Keeping as much of the equity amongst the founding partners or first few employees, so much the better.

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The Typical Challenges At Seed Stage Startups

We know that getting more predictable sales is a critical step up for Seed businesses to demonstrate. The complexities in doing so often boil down to a few things:

  • Unclear on how to niche their proposition
  • Unclear on how to build the right sales and marketing team
  • Unclear on how to decrease the sales cycle and quality of leads.

That means that you, as the Founder, take on the responsibility of getting your first hires right – both in terms of selecting and onboarding. We’ll make sure you spend time in the right places.

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

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We recently held a session with our Founder & CEO, James Ker-Reid, who talked us through what the necessary elements are for any B2B tech startup that is trying to craft its sales strategy. 

If you missed Part 1 that looked at the analysis you need to do first before diving into your strategy creation, as well as the structure of a successful sales strategy, then you can find that here. If you’d rather watch the session, click here to view the recording via our YouTube channel.

In Part 2 of our Sales for Startups Masterclass: Crafting a Winning Sales Strategy For B2B Tech Companies, we’ll be covering:

  • 3. How do I structure a realistic and executable plan?
  • 4. What should a plan look like?
  • 5. What are the best practices for smartly executing my plan?

3. How do I structure my plan

We often get asked this question by Founders. We’ll cover some of the key components below:

  • Timeframe: At Sales for Startups, we’re a big fan of 90-Day horizons, and that’s what we implement with every business we help.
  • Platform: A plan is not necessarily one to be created in a word document and shut away. How are your team going to see and interact with this plan? Is it going to be on Asana for example (as we do), JIRA, a planning tool in Microsoft, etc.? It needs to be visible for the intended audience in order to engage with it, view it, understand it and dissect it.
  • Expectations: What are the expectations of the people, including interacting with the plan itself? Often the contributor roles sees things as ‘The leadership sets the strategy and the plan, and ultimately it’s just left there for us to implement it’. We need to be a bit more engaging than that.
  • Measurement & Milestones: It’s great to have even 90-Day goals which is a good time horizon in tech startups, but we need to set interim measurements and milestones within that. E.g. in the first two weeks, four weeks, six weeks – what are those milestones within that time frame?
  • Working Practices: Whether that’s the review of the plan (e.g. weekly meetings) or commenting on the plan itself so it’s visible for everyone, these operating principles are really important.

4. What should my plan look like?

 

Typically you would have a Quarterly Goal – we’ve previously mentioned that 90-Day horizon. Then you want to break that down into Key Results. Then you follow those up with Milestones within those key results. You’d then follow this up with Checkpoints so that (say for example) when you’re following up this plan every two weeks, you can review how well you’re doing based on those key results. Finally, you’d have the Objectives – i.e. the things that you need to achieve in order to successfully reach that quarterly goal.

 

If we were to dive deeper into those Objectives, you’ll want to be able to break these down to fit into your quarterly cycle. We’ve used 12 as an example, but this may vary depending on the business and goals you have. You’ll want to put dates on the achievements of those objectives matching the end of each sprint (two weeks in this case).

It’s a lot to do and a lot to break down from just a revenue key result into those milestones and objectives and sprints. It’s a sophisticated skill so we wanted to share what we’ve found are some of the best practices when it comes to doing this.

5. What are some of the best practices?

  • Data-first approach: You want to do this before any emotional judgment. As CEOs and leaders, often we’ve created a great product and it’s a struggle to market it/get traction from those early adopters. The data enables us to be a little more objective than subjective.
  • Weekly reviews: Say you were running two-week sprints, you may have a Friday weekly review and on a Monday you have a planning meeting. That could be to discuss what’s going on, what needs to be achieved that week. You’ll likely want a sprint fortnightly review or ‘retro’ also to determine what’s been achieved in that whole sprint, or what needs to be reallocated or deferred.
  • Accelerate, delay or replace: One of the things that we find with tech CEOs, especially with all of the hats that they’re wearing and the excess of ideas and initiatives happening within the different teams, is to think about what to do when something new comes in during your 90-Day Plan. Does this idea accelerate, delay or replace an existing initiative? We only have a certain amount of resources, and we may have to reallocate those resources in such a way as to create energy behind an initiative. We’ve only got so much focus and time available to us.
  • Day 75: If you are planning for the next quarter, look at Day 75 of the 90 Day Plan for this quarter. If you ran Jan-Dec, you need to look at planning your Q2 for the year in mid-March, or your Q3 planning around mid-June. That will enable you to do that thorough problem identification and that root cause analysis.
  • Milestone metrics: Be sure you have bi-weekly milestone metrics to measure progress against. We covered this previously, but it’s really about having those key results and bi-weekly measures you can measure yourself against as well. We’ve got to be agile in the startup world and if we get to a sprint review we need to be able to react accordingly.

So just to recap on what we covered in Part 1 and Part 2 of this masterclass, we’ve looked at the following questions:

  1. What’s the analysis I need to do first?
  2. How do I structure my sales strategy?
  3. How do I structure a realistic and executable plan?
  4. What should a plan look like?
  5. What are the best practices for smartly executing my plan?

If you’re interested in checking out the Q&A section at the end of this masterclass, head on over to the recording here (from 23:00).

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9 Fatal Mistakes Startups Make

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

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

So, what are those mistakes?

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

9 Fatal Mistakes Startups Make

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