Head of Client Success at Sales for Startups, Stella Mead has hands on experience of the startup journey. Here she shares how former work in an EdTech startup has shaped how she approaches sales and supports our clients.
What were you doing before you joined Sales for Startups?
I joined an EdTech SaaS business that had only been going a matter of months. They had four non-paying customers that were in effect testing the software so a proof of concept and a logo, but not a lot else.
In the beginning it was such early days we were all doing everything really. But I ended up as Educational Director which included doing the demos, sales, training and client success.
How did the startup handle the early days?
It’s interesting looking back because we taught ourselves everything; how to demo, how to charge, how to manage feedback. As a business we did well because we had good relationships and were good at supporting our customers.
But we weren’t good at commercialising our product. None of us had any experience of running our own business before so we didn’t really know how to build the commercial engine. I often think that if Sales for Startups had existed we would have seriously benefited from it.
How did you manage sales?
Because none of us had that commercial experience as such, we recruited someone we knew into a sales role. Where we struggled as a business was that we didn’t know how to manage someone in a sales role. We didn’t really know how to structure a sales role, how to pay someone, how much commission to pay. On top of all that, we didn’t know how to enable her. We didn’t really give her any of the tools she needed, and we didn’t give her high enough quality content.
For us it was an expensive mistake. We lost traction in the market, and for her it was probably incredibly frustrating.
How has this experience informed your current role?
In the business I worked in we were all smart and hard working, but we just didn’t have the expertise in tech sales. I see this with a lot of our clients. They’re wearing so many hats and they are brilliant, but they have a gap and they’re recognising they need help to deliver in that space.
I can absolutely empathise with a lot of our clients because I’ve been in their shoes . I’ve seen first hand the challenges people are facing when they’re trying to scale.
What I feel now is that you can’t look at any part of your business in isolation. You have to see it as a whole system, from marketing to sales, to onboarding and feedback mechanisms.
Where does your experience benefit client success at Sales for Startups in particular?
Because I have direct experience of the product cycle, I can support clients specifically in this space. For example, it’s easy to end up in a space where you’re just reactive and firefighting. But ideally you need to get to a space where you’re proactively supporting clients.
I also really think it’s important that tech startups recognise the value of data. It’s so important to make sure it’s of good quality. Sometimes I can see that there’s a better way for businesses to be managing it, and I only know that because I’ve been there.
Finally, I think it’s important that when you’re struggling in certain areas, like the commercial part of your business, it’s in your power to change. You need a degree of self awareness to recognise what your strengths and weaknesses are, and don’t be afraid to buy help when you need it.