Only 19% of tech startups get to Series A, and only 0.7% of tech startups get from Seed to Series C. If you’re trying to avoid this sorry situation as a tech founder yourself, you’re no doubt asking, why is this the reality, and what can I do about it? 

An additional statistic worth noting is that 67% of tech CEOs don’t come from a sales and marketing background. This makes a lot of sense, if you’re founding a tech startup, you’re highly likely to have tech or product experience. I founded Sales for Startups in 2017 because I believed that a lack of sales experience shouldn’t hold great tech startups back from being successful.

A lot of our clients have raised around £1m or more and are heading for Series A, but many of them as yet haven’t implemented a proper sales function. In effect, they’ve been handling the sales themselves, but are stretched thin and without the experience, they recognise the need to move away from founder-led sales to a more team-led approach.

Here are some of the mistakes to avoid when making the move away from founder-led sales.

Timing is everything 

The first instinct for many founders at this point is to go away and hire someone to do it for them. Although this seems like a sound move, there’s many reasons why 73% of VP of Sales in tech companies leave within 12 months.

Founders have a tendency to think of salespeople as ready to go upon hire – you give your new salesperson a target, point them towards your target audience and off they go. The reality is that if you as the founder have only sold your solution a few times, you probably don’t have the experience and playbook yet to enable your new salesperson.

In technology, employee turnover is at a record high hitting almost 35% last year. 67% of departures from salespeople are voluntary, with over two thirds citing a lack of leadership or the incompetence of leadership as their core reason for leaving. Hiring mistakes are expensive, so need to be careful who we hire (SiriusDecisions).

Our recommendation isn’t that you shouldn’t hire a VP of Sales, it’s a question of when you hire which is so crucial, and as a business and founder you have to be ready for that key hire, typically just at the point of raising Series A.

Don’t detach from the outcome

To be effective at building a sales function, you really need to understand your market, and to do that you need to get real product feedback from your audience that can drive iterations.

We encourage founders to stay engaged in the sales process initially so they’re getting live feedback from potential clients and feeding it back into the product team – founders in the early stages are the glue between the market and product development.

Really and truly making sure that as a founder you have nailed your sales proposition will help you in almost every aspect of developing your business, and it also means that when you do get to hiring a VP of Sales, you’re hiring one with the type of sales experience you need to drive up revenues in your business.

Beware of hiring from your network 

Often when people try to move from founder-led sales, they go and find people within their network. It’s perfectly understandable for founders to want to surround themselves with people they trust, but when this approach goes wrong the impact can be significant.

When you’re hiring a friend or someone you know, it’s possible that their skillset might not be quite right, but the relationship is overriding their competence as a sales professional. Even with the best go to market strategy, it’s incredibly difficult to make a great team from poor ingredients.

What’s more, the structure of the team is really important, and you need to be clear both what this role is and is NOT doing for you. With someone from within your network or a friend, this line can become blurry, and you risk burning both your relationship and your revenues when things go wrong. Additionally, compensation can be a challenging conversation for both sides.

Sales for Startups frees tech startups from founder reliance, helping our clients develop both the playbook, their proposition and the team that can be relied upon for consistent sales, marketing and customer success.

Your sales goals should continually evolve to fit the business’s needs and the direction it’s heading. Having a set of goals gives your sales team something to aim for and a blueprint to build a sales strategy. But how do you define goals for yourself and your team? This guide looks at the importance of sales goals and why every startup needs them. 

Have the required information

You’ll need to know everything about the business to set your sales goals. This includes internal and external factors, such as the real capacity of the company based on its resources and skills. Once you’ve laid out this information, you can begin thinking about realistic goals and sales KPIs for your sales team. Essentially, you need to define what ‘realistic’ looks like at your startup.

Evaluate the sales team

As a startup, you might find yourself in a position where you need to scale quickly and build a sales team. That’s great news, but it does mean managing expectations while everyone finds their feet. It takes time and money to get the right reps in place, let alone keep them happy. Before defining quotas, ensure the team can handle what you’re asking and understand the process. You’ll need to evaluate what they’re ready to tackle and clarify achievable goals with an intelligent analysis of your team’s capabilities. 

Be strategic and stick to the process

People reach their goals by being strategic, no matter the initial aim. They research best practices, develop their own versions and aren’t afraid to fail. With that mindset, it’s only a matter of time until you achieve success. So when thinking about your sales goals, look at the bigger picture and embrace your inner strategist. Not all of your goals will land, but that’s fine if it turns out to be a learning opportunity. As long as you carry on with the process, you can expect to hit your targets. 

Start from the bottom

To achieve sales targets, you’ll need to understand how to reach them. You can do this with a bottom-up revenue approach that projects micro-level inputs to assess revenue for a given year or set of years. It can help you estimate the business’s future based on sales reps’ performances or individual sales. Essentially, a bottom-up revenue approach looks at your company’s health by examining the basics. It can lead to smarter goal setting. 

Think about the type of goal

There are many different ways to reach your sales targets. Therefore, you should think about the type of goals and what they mean for your business. Perhaps you’ll focus on closing goals, the most basic sales goal where reps work to reach a set number of total sales. Alternatively, you may set size-related goals, which see your sales team focus on increasing the size of each sale rather than the numbers. Knowing the type of goal gives you a clearer indication of how to reach the right targets for your business. 

The importance of sales goals

Setting reasonable sales goals is vital to achieving your targets and moving your startup in the right direction. So whether you’re focusing on the type of goals or evaluating the capabilities of your sales team, make sure there’s a clear plan of action designed to help you attain those all-important sales goals. 

Reaching the desired sales targets is no easy feat. That’s why it’s essential to set realistic expectations and find the right strategy and consistency. You can also perform a few actions to ensure reps are hitting their goals and, in some cases, smashing them. Here, we look at five tips to help you measure sales KPIs and hit your sales targets. 

Do a pipeline audit

If you find that you’re not hitting targets or are running into a brick wall, it’s good to do a pipeline audit. The idea is to avoid wasting opportunities that won’t convert and end up costing you time and money. Regular pipeline audits allow you to look at who’s coming through the sales funnel and review so you can start investing your and your team’s time into opportunities that are more likely to convert.

Equip your team with the right tools

Does your team have the right tools to succeed? By utilising tools and automating specific tasks, you can free up rep’s time to ensure they are given the best opportunity to hit targets. There are many tools that a salesperson can utilise, such as a CRM or lead management system that allows your team to engage with prospects. Companies that make data-driven decisions tend to be around 6% more productive than those that don’t use data. Be the forward-thinking startup that uses data to move onto the next level. 

Use gamification

Sales gamification isn’t popular with all setups, but it can thrive under the right conditions. Indeed, it can be one of the best ways to stop underperforming and improve your sales team’s overall output. With gamification, sales leaders use gaming elements in business scenarios. These include a points-based system, leaderboards and rewards. It’s simple to implement but can be highly effective.

Personalise your outreach

It might sound like a simple task, but there are still way too many salespeople who copy and paste a message in the hope of getting some traction. That’s not to say you have to send a custom message to every single prospect but look at finding a template you can tweak for each customer. The core of the message will feature the benefits of your offering while allowing room for edits where you can personalise the message. Consequently, the recipient feels like they’re receiving something written for them and no one else. 

Use social media

You only need to look on LinkedIn to see the swathes of business leaders using the platform to make connections and further progress their business. But what about the other social media platforms? Don’t neglect the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even TikTok for acquiring new leads. Picking up the phone is still important, but there are more than three billion people using social media – an unimaginable reach even 10 years ago. Use it to your advantage and research platforms to find your ideal target audience. 

A winning sales approach

Fortunately, there are many ways to ensure you reach your sales targets. The tips in this guide can help you get off on the right foot as you try new methods and see what works best for your startups. The result will be an uptick in sales and a more confident approach to the market. 

Hiring a salesperson can be tricky. So imagine how hard it is to bring an entire team on board. Oh, and it just happens to be one of the most important departments in the company, tasked with the unenviable job of boosting revenue by convincing people to buy your product or service. Therefore, you want to minimise mistakes when hiring a sales team. And to help you, we’ve put this guide together of dos and don’ts. 

Do: Look for the process

You’ll have a process ready to implement with the new sales team, especially if you’re already aware of what good leadership looks like. Yet, it’s still worth finding out what makes potential team members tick during the hiring process. Ask questions about their personal methods, finding out how they set goals and what they do to achieve them. Getting an idea of someone’s motivations can give you oversight for how they might perform in the team at your startup. You want to see indicators that they are forward-thinking, hungry to succeed and have a good process in place. 

Don’t: Forget to examine the cultural fit

Building a sales team is more than just having the best reps. Of course you want them to reach targets, but you need to bring people in who are a good fit for the company culture and contribute to long-term success. There needs to be seamless integration with existing teams, especially marketing and products departments. As a startup, your other departments may still be on the small side, but this is even more reason to ensure you choose a sales team ready to build bridges, not burn them solely in the chase for a conversion. 

Do: Establish credibility

These new team members will be doing business for you, so you should only hire people you’d do business with yourself. You should want to buy from them and be able to buy into them. Otherwise, how can you expect a customer to do so? Your sales team are representatives of your brand, and you need to establish credibility with them during the interview stage, emphasising reps who you would be happy to buy from. 

Don’t: Rush the process

You’re probably eager to get a new sales team hired and take them through the onboarding process so they can start hitting targets. At the same time, you shouldn’t rush the process. Hiring the wrong people will cost you in the short and long term. For that reason, you should resist temptations to get a team in place quickly and play the long game until you’re sure you have the right fit for the role. 

Do: Look at track records

Looking at the previous experience of a rep and then using it in the context of your business is vital for a successful hire. Ideally, you want to hire a salesperson with experience working in a similar environment to your business. This is especially true of startups, where reaching targets can prove harder than at established companies. Again, a sales record isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it does help form the entire picture and is a necessary aspect of the hiring process. 

More do’s, fewer don’ts

Hiring a sales team takes time, consideration and patience. With these tips, you can put a process in place that helps find the right team to move the needle for your startup. A stellar sales team can make a huge difference and help build your company into a dominant force in its industry. 

Once you have a sales team in place, you’ll need to begin the process of onboarding them. Onboarding can be tricky for many companies, especially startups that might not have vast amounts of experience setting up new hires. With that in mind, we’ve put this quick guide together with the key points of onboarding a sales team. Read on and make sure your new team member starts as they mean to go on. 

Onboarding a sales team in a nutshell

  • Keep them engaged
  • Establish expectations quickly
  • Don’t waste time
  • Put everything in writing

Make it engaging 

No matter how eager your new sales rep might be, at times, the onboarding process can be a tad boring. If there are many processes to go through, it’s not unreasonable to think that a rep might lose interest, even if they have the best intentions. 

Studies have shown that engaged team members are more productive and less likely to look for employment elsewhere, and the onboarding process offers the perfect opportunity to show them how the job will keep them engaged at all times. Make it interactive, encourage plenty of communication with other team members and keep it fun so that new hires stay switched on throughout the process.

Establish expectations

The sooner your sales reps know what’s expected of them, the better. The onboarding process offers the perfect opportunity to show what defines success at your startup, meaning you can communicate expectations early in the hire. 

Of course, to meet expectations, reps need support. This stage of onboarding a sales team should also show team members how the company will help them achieve their goals. Setting expectations shouldn’t be a warning of what they need to do to stay in their role; instead, it should involve showing all the support mechanisms in place and giving them a transparent view of the company’s goals. 

Don’t waste time

There’s no need to spend an entire day onboarding rep and going through processes. Use the time to get them pursuing leads and trying to make a sale. This approach ties in with keeping onboarding engaging and helps embed sales reps into the team faster. 

While it might feel like you’re throwing them in at the deep end, the long-term benefits can be fruitful. You’re showing reps that you trust their ability, even if the first day’s calls are merely reading from a script. By all means, do training. But it should coincide with real-life sales from the get-go. 

Put it all in writing

Starting a new role can be daunting and a little nerve-racking, even for sales reps with bags of confidence. That’s why you should have written copies of the onboarding process. 

A sales rep can’t be expected to retain every single piece of information. Give them resources and reference guides they can refer to and refresh their memory when need be. Build a document filled with FAQs about the company and role so reps can use it as their encyclopaedia for the first few weeks and months at the company. 

Onboarding a sales team

Onboarding a sales team doesn’t need to be a laborious process. You can make it fun and engaging and get reps up and running as quickly as possible, so they’re contributing, feeling appreciated and helping your business reach its sales targets. 

Behind every successful sales team is a sales manager. Managing a sales team requires experience, drive and a track record in the field, but that’s not all? Here, we examine what it takes to manage a sales team and be a successful sales manager. 

  • Identify talent
  • Be analytical
  • Inspire
  • Implement a sales plan
  • A keen learner

Ability to recruit the right talent

They say a manager is only as good as their team, so it’s essential that you know how to identify the right talent. The ability to spot and convince people to join your team will go a long way to determining your long-term impact as a sales manager.

The best sales managers have a knack for spotting talent, whether they’re looking at real-world results, understanding how candidates should prepare for interviews or seeing how they’ve previously been tested and challenged. These traits form the building blocks of high-quality employees who will help drive your team forward. 

Can set goals based on analytics

Top sales managers can analyse and review sales data to make the decisions that lead to conversions for their team and more revenue. Therefore, you’ll need to be able to conduct in-depth research on the market and help identify prospects and partnerships. 

Analytics can help you find meaningful and productive conclusions that allow you to forecast and set objectives. These can then be relayed to the team, who can tap into the data and help increase sales. 

Inspire and motivate

It should go without saying that inspiring and motivating your team is a key requirement for any sales manager role. Sales is a results-based business, and your team needs to meet – if not exceed – their targets. 

That involves instilling a sense of purpose and belief in your sales team to ensure they have the right tools to solve customers’ problems with total confidence and dedication. The best sales managers focus on strengths, share success stories and create a culture of training to empower the team.

Define and implement a sales plan

Plans are vital to a successful sales set-up, as they help find and convert leads and maintain a profitable business model. Having these processes in place increases the chance of having a well-functioning team across the board rather than one or a couple of star sales reps. 

Whether it’s a watertight script for phone sales or documentation, having an easy-to-follow sales plan that’s in-depth will get your team members all on the same page and create a well-oiled machine ready to surpass results. 

Be ready to learn and improve

It’s one thing to lead a sales team, but it’s another to recognise areas where you can improve further. The very best sales managers keep up with trends and aim to improve along with their team. An always-evolving attitude will serve you well. 

Some sales managers may opt to use a sales coach or mentor, while others take regular courses. Regardless of the approach, you should keep your finger on the pulse and strive to take your skills to the next level, improving leadership traits and your own selling skills. 

Managing a sales team to success

A great sales manager has all the attributes to lead their team to success. By recruiting the right talent and inspiring and motivating them while also recognising areas where you can improve, there’s every chance that you’ll build a great sales team that goes beyond expectations and takes the business to the next level.

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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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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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