Team culture is much more important than you think. In a previous article we discussed the opportunity startups have to create a clean slate when it comes to establishing the culture and benefits they want for their employees. 

In the last 18 months we have seen businesses forced into remote working. With more and more people working from home and the prospect of hybrid work environments becoming a reality, it is time to shift your focus from getting business back to normal and instead focus on instilling a culture that exceeds the office. 

Maintaining your usual company culture and office vibes when people aren’t actually in the office can be incredibly challenging, but it is not impossible. We’ve compiled a list of tips for maintaining company culture while remotely working: 

1. Open and transparent lines of communication

Transparency is one of the fundamentals to maining a company culture. It is vital for everyone, from entry level employees to business owners, to be honest in their actions and interactions. 

Engaged employees invest their full potential into the success of a company that they are proud to work in. Create a positive, inclusive workplace and encourage employees to share their successes and challenges. 

2. Set clear objectives and goals 

By outlining the objectives of each team, employees will have tangible results to work toward. Make sure that there is space and time for feedback to adapt forecasts and KPIs when needed. 

One-to-ones can help to clarify the sales team’s objectives as a collective, coach individuals on their role to play in achieving the overarching goal and identify areas for improvement. Regular meetings help to bridge the gap between seniors and entry level. This strengthens relationships, reinforces the company’s mission and creates a motivated work environment. 

3. Trust your team

By showing trust and confidence in your employees ability to own their work you will maintain a positive company culture and avoid a blame culture. Research shows that employees in a trusted environment are more productive. 

Given that the pandemic has already increased people’s stress levels and in some cases demotivated their work ethic in regards to work, it could be detrimental to pile distrust on top. With the lack of physical interaction amongst employees it can be easy for trust issues to develop. 

I have witnessed some managers responding to this challenge by forcing teams into constant Zoom meetings or trying to micromanage every aspect of the working day. Instead I would urge managers to show faith in employees ability and work from a position of ‘asking for forgiveness not permission’. 

4. Schedule regular catch-ups and informal meetings

During these trying times, there has been a lot of focus on physical health, but it is important to not underestimate the importance of mental health. Start by evaluating the ‘meeting culture’ in your company. If you constantly have your team in meetings to discuss things that could be sent in an email or via an instant messaging app, it could be negatively impacting morale and lead to losses in productivity. 

Studies have found the 8% Rule, which states that 8% of the time in any meeting should be dedicated to fun virtual team building exercises. 

5. Implement the right technology and onboard the team

The technology landscape has skyrocketed in the last few years with new and exciting entrants promising new ways to solve unique challenges we never knew we had. There is of course a lot of competition amongst vendors, particularly within the sales technology domain. 

The fundamental things you need to consider when implementing new technologies is: 

  • Why do I need this technology?
  • Can it integrate with my existing stack? 
  • How long will the onboarding process be?
  • Who is going to train my employees to use it?

From years witnessing the expense of implementing the wrong technology or receiving resistance from sales teams my advice would be to collaborate on the decision and assess the needs the technology meets for each department. 

The most effective company cultures value people, provide career growth, adapt to meet customer needs, and deliver great results to shareholders. But a lot of culture is subjective. Find the culture that works best for your company and your employees.

Analysing Sales, Marketing & Financial Data To Give CEOs True Insights On What Matters Most

We are delighted to announce a new partnership between Sales for Startups and Lumilinks, the data A.I. experts who use deep scientific knowledge to streamline data processes for organisations that include leading venture capital and tech companies.

In a world where deciphering data can make or break a business, it’s becoming ever more critical – especially for SaaS startups – to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and automation to get the data they need.

Having always championed the need for data-driven decisions to sustain successful sales strategies here at Sales for Startups, we are excited to incorporate the insights powered by the Lumilinks platforms for executive decision making, sales & marketing and financial risk reporting.

Familiar with the pressures startup founders face and the real danger of burnout in a climate where performance and pace can become confused, we see this partnership as an opportunity to elevate our offering and expertise in building and optimising sales and marketing operations for B2B tech startups.

Quote from Sales for Startups, James Ker-Reid, CEO & Founder at Sales for Startups:

“The real opportunity for Tech Founders is to understand the relationship between sales, marketing and finance data and be able to draw a straight line from the top to the bottom line. I’m excited to incorporate the Lumilinks’ platforms into our offering for Seed and Series A tech companies. Being all too familiar with the challenges startups face, the opportunity to automate data collection and analyse key insights and cross-department trends collated by A.I. seems a no-brainer to me. It’s been on my wish list for a while!

“Tech Founders, of SaaS startups especially, are under incredible pressure to stay informed and up-to-date to make iterative changes to their sales and marketing strategy by their board and key investors. I see the partnership between Sales for Startups and Lumilinks as another way we can alleviate the strain startups face in searching for actionable insights and hence making data-driven decisions to affect their top and bottom line.”

Quote from Lumilinks, Gary Cole, Founder at Lumilinks:

“We work to demystify the world of data by creating custom dashboards for companies. Having established Lumilinks to counter the common problem of organisations integrating inefficient solutions that distract rather than direct senior decision-making, we’re proud to have streamlined processes for organisations including, Selbey Anderson and organisations under the Microsoft for Startups programme. Our team have also advised Local and national government and the Office of National Statistics.

Working in partnership with Sales for Startups, we’re excited to support Founders of SaaS startups to really understand their sales efficiency and velocity at their company. This includes examining current sales behaviours, key revenue trends, optimising their marketing spend by finding their best addressable market and finally spotting those two or three bottlenecks to their cash conversion cycle. What I love about our partnership is that we’ll give Sales for Startups the data insights they need and then they’ll use their expertise and experience in sales execution to implement the changes that make the difference.”

In joining forces, Sales for Startups and Lumilinks can provide clients with a superior understanding of their marketing, sales and financial performance and hence understand the efficiency of their SaaS sales operations.

To find out more please book a free consultation call with James Ker-Reid. 

There’s a lot to consider when founding a B2B SaaS tech business.

First and foremost will be product development; to ensure a unique SaaS product can create an impact in a competitive B2B market.

With a strong value proposition in place, it’s time to optimise sales and marketing operations, and take into consideration the core components of strategy, infrastructure, team and clients/community.

Strategy

As a conceptual activity, strategic planning is not always given the time and attention it deserves. A gung ho attitude will only serve a startup so well without a plan backed by real research rather than internal theory.

Having a strategic plan to align sales and marketing activity gives direction to activity in the early stages, and continues to provide focus as a startup grows.

A strategy will take into consideration brand messaging, competitors and positioning, customer pipeline, and of course in depth research of prospects, to name a few components.

Infrastructure

A solid strategy is nothing without the infrastructure to execute it. SaaS startups can practice what they preach and benefit from a multitude of SaaS providers to support day-to-day operations.

A sales tech stack can make or break a business. Consolidate services where possible, or integrate. There are many ways to do this and an API call can be all a startup needs to significantly reduce administrative burdens on sales and marketing teams. Saving a small amount of time each day can accrue into days and weeks of saved time throughout the year.

A quality CRM is invaluable, especially to support startup growth as several teams work across accounts. A CRM that can integrate with other software services ensures better control over data and an efficient sales cycle.

There exists a lot of power in automation. Utilising automation services wisely allows startups to engage more prospects and accelerate pipelines. Easing pressures on the workforce can also reduce the risk of employee burnout as engagement demands increase with growth. Different automation options will suit different businesses, and workflows should be built around unique customers for the best results. While there are many benefits to automation, businesses need to be careful however, that they do not not become robotic in their engagement.

Team

While infrastructure and automation is valuable, nothing can replace the value of real team members.

Recruitment should not be carried out in haste, and the value of diversity should be recognised. Once talent is on board, due time should be made available for teams to come together, including across departments to share insights and align activity. This extends beyond uniting sales and marketing teams to product development and finance etc, building relationships and understanding across all departments.

With a talented team in place and working cohesively, it can be tempting to try to motivate staff with targets and commissions, and while there can be a place for this, businesses should be mindful that increased sales through overpromising will lead to disillusioned customers. Short term wins do not necessarily lead to long term gains.

Providing training programmes for all staff, will not only enable the business but also empower the individual. A talented team member happy in their role on day one, will likely value the challenge and opportunity to evolve their role as the company grows.

Clients and Community

Businesses succeed when they enable their customers to be their marketers, generating new leads from word of mouth and referrals. In addition to offering referral rewards, businesses can enable customers to promote them by creating content that they can share, and celebrating their successes, for example through case studies.

For a SaaS B2B startup, the value proposition will shift in time to keep pace with new technologies. This offers a great opportunity to build trusted relationships with clients and provide feedback channels through access to beta versions.

There is a wide community out there for startups, and leads can be generated from leveraging network connections, this includes peers, suppliers and clients. Build relationships and support each other.

How can you optimise sales and marketing to close more deals?

Optimising your sales and marketing operations is not a quick one-time fix.

Successful startups constantly evaluate and refine their processes to adapt to changing times and achieve sustainable growth.

At Sales for Startups we can help you gain clarity in your strategy, gain confidence in your execution and get traction through your sales operations.

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7 Mistakes Tech Companies Make After Securing Series A Funding

Securing Series A funding is a big step for many tech companies. You have likely had some experience with seed funding and maybe even angel investment. But Series A represents that first power move, one that will hopefully see the ascension of your company with no
looking back.

Series A is the optimisation stage where companies look to take things to the next level after securing a substantial windfall. The goal is to go bigger and go harder. Yet, sometimes tech companies can go too big and too hard, undoing all the hard work that initially got
them to this phase.

It doesn’t need to be that way, however.

If navigated correctly, Series A funding is another step on the growth train – with Series B and Series C on the horizon. In this eBook, we look at 7 mistakes tech  companies make after securing Series A funding. With these tips, you will avoid any perils and position your company in a healthy place that’s ready to win.

7 Mistakes Tech Companies Make After Securing Series A Funding

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The VP of Sales can be a very costly hiring mistake to any startup. Imagine not only the salary but the other associated costs like recruiter fees, NI, software licensing, commission, etc. If you get it wrong, it can cost your company dearly, but if you get it right, they can double your revenue in 6 months.

I’m choosing to focus on the latter and what tactics you can use to stack the deck more in your favour.

Typically, there are 5 types of VP:

  • Mentors: They are charismatic and measure their success by exceeding revenue goals and fostering success. They are hands-off and firmly believe in the consultative selling approach.
  • Expressives: They are charming and gregarious individuals who have a natural ability to put people at ease. They favour big deal closing and not mundane tasks.
  • Sergeants: Loyalty means everything to them. They are hard workers who are constantly worrying if their ‘troops’ are okay.
  • Overconfidents: They’re at the opposite end of the humility spectrum from Sergeants. They build a sales team of fighting gladiators who possess extraordinary willpower and mental toughness.
  • Micros: They are organised and methodical, and have a strong sense of responsibility to their company. They hire salespeople who they know will carry out their instructions to the letter.

Ask yourself, what type of person would fit in well with your team culturally? What type of personality do you think you really need?

Once you have figured this out, don’t get sucked into the idea that – because they have been a VP at Oracle, Salesforce, Adobe, etc. – they can work in startups. They will be used to much larger companies, budgets, support, brands upon which to lean, etc. All things considered, they are likely to get frustrated by the lack of support so you might part ways quite quickly.

Consider instead exactly what job you are trying to get done. Recruit and hire those people that have done that job with a company that is at the same stage as you. Are you building? Are you maintaining? Are you culling? If you are a startup, it is likely you are building; building the team, building product-market fit, building investor confidence, building a loyal customer base, etc. Look for people who have done the job that you want need doing before, and not just because they have been at a large enterprise as a VP.

Your VP should be paid well (on success) – consider Qualified Lead Velocity Rate (LVR, your growth in qualified leads MoM) as opposed to Pipeline. As an aside, consider targeting your LVR to be x% over MMR targets. One fundamental responsibility of your VP should be to hire and train sellers to sell themselves. Only a fraction of their time (20%) should go on closing deals.

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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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The Typical Challenges At Series A Stage Startups

We know that generating more scalable revenue is a fundamental growth driver for Series A companies. The challenges in doing this effectively can often be down to:

  • Unclear on how to merge sales, marketing and customer success
  • Unclear on how to onboard new hires quickly to improve ROI
  • Unclear on the right hires for senior leadership roles, such as VP of Sales

With more funding, you as the Founder need someone to make sense of it all and take accountability. We own this for you while finding your next, permanent sales leader.

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

The Typical Challenges at Series A Stage Startups

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A Winning Sales Strategy

At Sales for Startups, we’re often approached by founders who have the following difficulties:
● Uncertainty around who their target market is or should be
● Lack of clarity and consistency around articulating their value
● Knowledge gap in terms of organisational structures and roles needed
● Over engineered processes and tech that hinder, rather than help, rapid growth

Download our free resource to find out how we can deliver a winning sales strategy for your business.

A winning sales strategy

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Three stats have stuck out when writing this article, trying to answer the question of ‘Why should I create a Revenue Operations (or RevOps) strategy?’. There are three major reasons:

So, that’s why you should care. Now, how to create your own RevOps strategy.

You may recall that RevOps stitches together Marketing, Sales and Customer Success. By having these three revenue units working in concert you create a well-oiled machine.

My advice would be to focus on the outcomes that you want a RevOps department to achieve. I feel they can be broken down into five different outcomes:

  1. Consistent tech stacks
  2. Clear expectations from customers
  3. Happier customers
  4. More sales/revenue
  5. Predictable growth

If those are the outcomes you are trying to achieve, then the inputs to these can be broken down into the following four categories:

  • Get all teams on data: What I mean is to make data-driven decisions the norm for your business. Gone are the days that gut and intuition take precedence. Having clean and up-to-date data is paramount for any revenue organisation.
  • Align incentives: For example, Marketing must bring leads to Sales, Sales must convert those leads into good customers, and Customer Success must retain them. Simply thinking of it like this aligns everyone closely and you don’t fall victim to the dreaded silo!
  • Agree on tech stack: In a perfect world, your business would run off one piece of software and there be no additional requirement. However, this can’t happen. If you’re able to consolidate where you can, integrate technology wherever possible and have the relevant people becoming subject matter experts, then high-quality tech saves a huge amount of time. It’s even easier if it’s all cloud-based too and not on site!
  • Get your CRO on board: You need someone on board right? The person that is marshaling this whole effort is your CRO. Typically this person will have been a senior VP of one of the three RevOps departments (not always, but typically) and will be obsessed with answering the question ‘How do we convert a stranger into a customer in the quickest way possible?’.

Using this framework will enable you to start creating your strategy. A strategy is a great piece of work to do, however the other critical document to accompany this is the implementation plan. At Sales for Startups, we have created these dozens of times over in the B2B tech space, especially for SaaS companies.

Effective sales coaching is iterative, individualised, and inclusive. It’s designed to reinforce positive behaviour or correct negative behaviour. Typically part of each salesperson’s daily or weekly routine, sales coaching is focused on skills and techniques rather than numbers.

Sales is a very individual pursuit, and often those who are involved in sales don’t like to be told what to do. Bearing this in mind, it is worth considering how you can use this individual to help self-diagnose where the development areas could be. This will increase buy-in and ultimately take-up of any coaching regimen.

From my experience there are four things to bear in mind when trying to coach your high performers:

  1. Be specific with regards to opportunity management: It has now been well-publicised that the best managers/coaches are offering advice on specific opportunities to be led by the rep where the coach can be most effective. Ask your reps to consider which specific deals they require assistance with, or where you as the coach can be the most valuable. This is as opposed to a blanket approach to all deals, which is not scalable either!
  2. Use a variety of techniques: For your one-to-one meetings, or off-the-cuff discussions with your salespeople, try varying the frequency of them, the duration, and the topics you discuss (with a healthy dose of realism too). This last point is especially important when it comes to forecasting and pipeline health. Using inspection questions per deal can help the salesperson realise that their pipeline is not as robust as they might have thought, therefore coaching on qualification might be an idea.
  3. Cross-pollinate team strengths: It is likely that salespeople in your team are going to be stronger at certain skills than others. If you identify a salesperson who is particularly good with lead generation, one with rapport building, one with negotiation, etc. – turn them into mini-coaches and get them to coach others on what they do, upskilling everyone in the process.
  4. Create a coaching environment that is skills-based: A bad coach would tell you to simply do more, whereas a good coach will understand the skills required to do more and then drill those to make them second nature. For example, making more calls could be the goal but there are sessions connected with this to do with mindset, where to get leads, which leads to prioritise, which leads to score and how to score, etc.

There will always be hidden talents in your office and team, so look internally for the skills already in place and leverage your incumbent resources. You might be surprised!