Diversifying risk to achieve predictable sales

by James Ker-Reid - September 16, 2021

There have been thousands of books, blogs and webinars written about what it takes to be successful in business. 

At Sales for Startups, we believe that predictable sales equates to business success. Yet too often we witness Founders and CEOs make the mistake of betting on one individual to grow predictable sales. In this article, I’ll show you why that is too big of a risk.

As a Founder myself I can relate to the efforts made to diversify our risk through investing in board members, hiring new staff and developing new products. Why don’t we do the same when it comes to sales?

Take a look at your sales strategy today. Who is in charge of it? Your Sales Leader, Board Advisor or yourself, the Founder?

When we look at the bigger picture, job tenure has decreased dramatically in the last decade from 10-15 years on average to as little as 17 months. The term ‘job hopper’ used to be seen as a negative attribute. It conjured ideas of disloyal employees and secret spying from competitors. Those days are gone. Your job security is not something your employer controls anymore. You control it.

In this article I explore diversifying your risk across the organisational roles of the Sales Leader, Board Member and Founder to create predictable sales.

The Sales Leader

We’re asking a lot of our sales leaders today. We’re expecting them to be experts in sales, marketing and customer success. It’s like we’re asking them to do mountain climbing without any ropes or equipment – free climbing does have its risks.

When we start our careers we choose or fall into a specific domain, in this instance, Sales. We then try and work our way up the company, responsibility and salary ladder eventually becoming a Sales Manager, then hopefully a Sales Director. Our success has been predicated on being successful in sales and then leading a team to be successful in sales.

Although this makes perfect sense, and follows the logical norm of about 90% of careers of Sales Leaders, in today’s climate we expect them to have complete proficiency in marketing and customer success. When did they fit that in?

Each is a career of its own with varying duties and responsibilities and progression does require focus often to the exclusion of other domains and disciplines. We do learn to appreciate and educate ourselves on these other departments but we don’t often get down to a practical level with these other domains.

Therefore placing all of the responsibility on the shoulders of one person results in people becoming a Jack of all trades and master of none. And drastic underperformance.

Furthermore,  beyond the classic startup mistakes of hiring leaders from large and well-known companies who want to try their hand at startups.  We’re blindsiding ourselves in two other ways:

  1. We’re recruiting for yesterday’s experience rather than today’s and what we need right now.
  2. We forget, with hindsight, our story and recollections constantly evolve and hence we can look back on things with rose tinted glasses.

So what’s the solution?

Sales consultancy?

Despite the term being relatively unknown, the UK is the second fastest growing market for self-employment. We’ve seen a 72% increase in consultants over the last three years. The market statistics show that these are experienced individuals, who have experience and family commitments. Therefore it’s no wonder now that 49% of freelancers are in the highly skilled category.

This massive growth has been supported by freelance platforms freelancer, Upwork, fiverr and also access to affordable business management tools like Xero, Starling and Google.

The challenge?

Experienced sales leaders are looking at freelancing to replace their full-time salary with a portfolio career – working with multiple companies to provide a total remuneration package equivalent to their earnings before.

The driver here is money. With limited time and resources available you can only scale your efforts with a couple of clients, so the way to increase your earnings is to charge more per client for shorter engagements. You only have 5 days in each week and one person.

Furthermore, are you just concentrating your risk here but with a part-time resource instead of a full-time resource?

The contractual relationship may have changed but you’re still betting on one individual.

There is a silver lining through this highly expanding and congested market. A place where Sales Leaders get the support they need to be successful, clients get better value from longer-term projects, obtain the relevant experience of professionals who are doing today what you want them to do tomorrow.

Also who really wants to be alone? Who do you go to for support?

We believe that collective and peer learning on a practical level with a team is one of the best ways to grow yourself, your career and your clients.

The Board Member

The Board Members steer the organisation towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies. More often than not they’re required to support the Founder as a mentor, leader, coach and advisor.

But do they have enough time to lead?

From our research, the average board member sits on three other boards and either has a full-time role or is the Founder of their own company. Therefore their ability to support you as a Founder on building the sales operations of your company to gain predictability is limited.

A board member is not there to steer the boat by managing the day-to-day operations, but to provide foresight, oversight, and insight.

The best value from board members is helping you network and meet other credible investors. And once speaking to the investors, they can help you present the mission, business plan and financial projections in an attractive way.

If the board member is effective, you will get your Series A when they make fundraising their primary role.

The Founder

When I speak to Founders, I often ask is sales your core strength, is it your sweet spot? Most of them say no it’s not at all.

In fact research shows that 68% of tech Founders are not from a sales and marketing background. Furthermore, on average Founders only spend six hours selling per week.

So the question is: If you’re left to your own devices, can you meet your revenue targets?

If you continue the same way the business has for the last 6 months in terms of Net New Revenue and number of customers won, will you reach your necessary revenue to gain Series A funding?

An easy way to find out:

Take the last 6 months of revenue and multiply it by 3, does it get you to your number? If not, you need another strategy.

At Sales for Startups we have created a winning sales strategy with a sequence for success to accelerate your growth by making the right choices at each business stage.

Conclusion

Don’t rely solely on your Sales Leader, Board Member or Founder, instead identify the right team to diversify your risk and call on them as and when you need them.

If your organisation is growing, dedicate your marketing team to generating leads and your sales team to close them enabling you to grow predictable sales. There will always be overlap, but when Sales and Marketing are working together on their own tasks, you get a lot more for a lot less.

So finally, I invite you to invest in a company and its partners that gives you what you want, when you need it.

After all, when was diversification such a bad thing?!

If you’d like to discuss the topics raised in this article, please feel free to book a call with me.



Further Reading

March 18, 2021

Crafting A Winning Sales Strategy For B2B Tech Companies [Part 2]

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Patrick Thorp
January 26, 2021

How to improve customer experience with technology

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Patrick Thorp
March 30, 2021

Challenges you’ll face, and how to overcome them, at Pre-Seed

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