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.

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.

—-

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.

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.

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).

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’d rather watch the session, click here to view the recording via our YouTube channel.)

In this masterclass we’ll be covering:

  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?

1. What’s the analysis I need to do first?

When we’re looking at our sales strategy there are obviously quite a few inputs, in order to come to the decision and the direction we want to go in.

We start with:

  • Goals & Outcomes: where is it there we’re trying to get to? What are the milestones we want to hit? It’s crucial we know exactly what we’re aiming for first.
  • Problems: These are often surface-level issues that come out – whether that’s not having enough leads, not converting enough customers, deal value is a little bit low, etc.
  • Root Causes: We want to identify the root causes of these problems. This is often overlooked or skipped over. We need to clearly understand why some of these problems are arising.
  • Options & Assumptions: Once we’ve done that, then we can look at what options we have to fix these problems.
  • Machine Design: Only once we’ve weighed up those different options can we really start to build that sales machine that pieces those solutions together.

Goals & Outcomes

First and foremost, you need to embrace reality. We hear so many tech startups say that they want to grow 4000% in a year. We would never want to dampen that spirit or ambition and believe in aggressive expansion ourselves, but we need to understand what today’s state is in order to visualise what our desired state is. Where do we want to be in a year’s time?

Don’t try and gloss over reality. This is business and it can be harsh. There are people’s livelihoods and reputation on the line. The more we lie, deceive and misdirect our team, the harder it is going to be for us to create an excellent sales strategy and therefore a growing business with predictable revenue.

Problems

We’ll outline some of the data points and sources you’d typically use to understand what’s going on in your company. These won’t necessarily give you the root causes but they will give you some conclusions and realisations from the data you collect.

  • Marketing – what are some of the trends in our marketing operation? Look at some of your marketing analytics such as Google Analytics, your CRM if it’s housed there as well, any email platforms also, lead pages, etc.
  • Sales – what is the reality of your sales operations? Look at the different stages and the progression within them, look at the deal value and deal volumes per stage, the time within each stage, etc.
  • Customer Success – what happens when a customer signs with you? Really dig deep into that onboarding and growth journey from a new customer to an advocate. What does that look like?
  • Financial – what are some of the trends in the buying patterns of your clients? This is sometimes missed by ‘strategists’ – you want to correlate the three previous growth drivers with financial data. A customer invoice report is often one of the best ways to do so. This will help with some of the buying trends.
  • Next Steps – How reliable is this data? How much of it do you have? Hypothesis worthy?

Root Causes

There are a few questions that we’d recommend you take on when looking to build your own sales strategy:

  • What are the reasons why I’m noticing this problem?
  • When did I notice this problem?
  • Who is responsible for this problem?
  • What isn’t happening?
  • What is happening that shouldn’t be?

These five key questions are not the exclusive list but will definitely help you to understand some of the causation behind some of your problems to date.

Options

When looking at these options, asking yourself a series of questions will often help in evaluating which option is best.

  • What are we really capable of doing?
  • What are we willing to do?
  • Does this solution match our existing skills, resources, and time available?
  • What don’t I see?
  • How much of our progress is down to a lack of realistic expectations or poor execution?
  • What’s the upside? What’s the downside? Can I live with the downside?
  • How could we screw this up?

2. How do I structure my sales strategy?

There are three key parts to a sales strategy. We’ve analysed 216 startup mistakes in the market and found that there are three key areas that you can assimilate all of these problems to:

  • Proposition
  • People
  • Process

 

Your Proposition

If you’re interested in downloading a Value Proposition framework, to leverage at your own startup, you can check out the Sales for Startups Value Proposition Guide here.

This free canvas is the first exercise towards understanding, clarifying, and leveraging your own Proposition. That really is the bedrock of any good sales strategy. It’s market and value identification for that product or solution that you have. This is arguably the most important thing to have clarified, otherwise, you could hire the wrong people, put in the wrong processes, and overengineer things when they don’t need to be.

That’s why we have to get this right. This is the first step before your sales strategy. This needs to be called out clearly within your organisation so that everyone can centre on the same idea and the same mission.

Your People

When you think about expanding your team or ultimately looking at improving the people that you have, we need to think about:

  • Company Goals
  • Target Customer
  • Sales Cycle
  • Market Opportunity
  • Budget

When it comes to what budget you have available, think not only about operational cash but also financing cash if you’ve recently raised and projected revenue that is due to arrive in the business. What sort of expected timeframe do you have for onboarding, break-even point, and profit point for those new starters.

Really ascertaining what you have in front of you and what budget you, therefore, have available will help to inform your choices as to the people you put into your sales strategy. Don’t forget, it could be reallocating resources within your team to more clearly defined roles within your sales strategy.

We also get asked a lot about sales structures. We’ve put together a couple here and, whilst it is not an exhaustive list, it is an indicative guide of what a flat, pod, or specialised structure looks like:

 

With the flat structure, to pick an example, you may be in this camp at the moment where you’re the Founder & CEO and you have a couple of Sales/Customer Success people reporting to you. In order to accelerate growth beyond the £1 million ARR level (especially Series A and beyond) are often looking to build pods that are self-sufficient and self-fulfilling as well.

Often what you’ll then see in bigger businesses which some of you may have experienced before is specialised functions – for example, inbound and outbound functions and leaders. Within these larger teams, such as closers and farmers, there may be several roles within those teams.

Processes

Moving on to the third element of the sales strategy, we often talk about the Dynamic Trio:

  • Sales Process
  • Lead Acquisition Process
  • Nurture Process

Especially at the Seed and Series A stage, the game here really is conversion. We need to show that we have traction in the marketplace and therefore this Dynamic Trio will get you where you need to be. This is getting predictable revenue quarter on quarter and looking like an attractive, systematic operation that can be supported by external funding (whether that’s debt or equity for example).

Next up we’ll be discussing how you go about structuring your plan, what a plan should look like, and how you go about executing it. You can access our second installment of the session soon or, if you’re keen to jump ahead, you can access the full recording of James’ masterclass here.