At Sales for Startups, we are always seeking to expand our expertise and find talented people to work with our growing portfolio of startups.
We sat down with Andy Hutt, one of our CROs to get his insight into working with startups, his biggest advice and to find out when he thinks it is the right time to hire a VP of Sales.
Can you introduce yourself, Andy, and tell us more about your role at Sales for Startups?
Yes, firstly thank you for sitting down with me, it’s nice to take a moment and look back over the last few months since joining the team here.
My role is Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). I guess over my career I’ve seen the term CRO mean many things to many people. Here at Sales for Startups, the CRO leads an early-stage tech startup in building the sales and marketing foundations from which to build a high growth business. This is a blend of creating the right proposition, establishing the correct processes (marketing, sales and customer success) and lastly having the right people with the right skills in place.
Having worked for many startups myself, I’ve become very passionate about what makes a successful startup and the classic mistakes that are made.
What have you learnt working with multiple startups at once?
Sales for Startups work with a wide range of tech businesses from Pre-Seed to Series A+. I joined the team back in January this year, and started working on my first project about 40 days after joining and by the 90-day mark, I was working with three different B2B tech companies.
I learnt quickly that being well organised is paramount.
One of the keys to client success at Sales for Startups is in their ability to prioritise and deduce what are the most important things to focus on right now.
Secondly, the two-week sprint culture that we run internally and with clients was a gear change for me. We pride ourselves on getting things done in a very short amount of time. It is certainly more intense than working as a full-time VP of Sales.
There’s no standard formula to managing your time as a CRO. Some of my colleagues block out certain days for certain clients during the week. Personally, I prefer to prioritise by specific issues, so I balance clients throughout my week and work in a flexible fashion to adapt to the needs of the day. This works for my current commitments, but it could all change…we’ll see!
What led you to become a CRO? What’s your background?
It is not a conventional story but in the last 18 months everything has changed. The pandemic created a time for reflection and reevaluation.
It was during one of those socially distanced walks with a good friend that we got talking about a passion of mine, which is helping early-stage businesses get set up for growth and acquire larger rounds of funding.
My friend, and as it happens, knew James Ker-Reid, the Founder and CEO of the Sales for Startups team, so we were introduced. And then I went through the in-depth and rigorous recruiting process, which luckily I passed.
I’ve had a career in high-tech sales for over 30 years, the majority with startups, early-stage or turnaround businesses. I’ve witnessed the challenges and common mistakes that tech founders make, many of which Sales for Startups has identified.
It’s a real shame that fewer than 1 in 10 tech startups succeed and this is normally down to the founder’s lack of sales experience, not a poor product or service. It’s so sad that they bring great technology to the market but can’t commercialise it. Sales for Startups’ proposition hits home on all the challenges I’ve witnessed in my career, so it made sense for me to join the growing team here and help more startups get traction.
What are the signs a startup needs CRO?
There is no clear cut answer to this question, each startup is unique, but in my experience, there are three common challenges that a CRO can solve:
- Proposition: not pinpointing what the actual proposition is and how to communicate that to the market is a key challenge. If you can’t articulate the relevance of what you do, the quantifiable benefits and how you differentiate from your competitors you will not win the hearts and minds of the customer.
- People: not being focused on their key roles or making the most of their skillset, or indeed hiring the wrong people or wrong roles altogether. We see the biggest value coming from really understanding who you need to hire next and then implementing an in-depth selection process to get the very best talent. Most tech founders take on the recruitment of sales and marketing people with no previous experience in sales or marketing. It’s a big ask, as salespeople are often very good at selling themselves!
- Process: lack of sales process. Every customer needs to be taken on a journey in the sales cycle where progress and incremental customer buy-in can be measured. Qualifying out of an opportunity early is just as important as qualifying into the pipeline so it’s crucial that you fully understand customer needs at the outset.
But it’s also necessary to do things in the right order, I have an analogy that I always use,
When you fire a gun it is a simple process of getting the gun ready (loading the bullet), taking aim and then firing. So often in sales, I see the “Ready, Fire, Aim” sequence, and not surprisingly there’s no chance of hitting the target.
It is important that founders get the process right, and once you have it in place it can then be repeated time and time again to bring predictability into the pipeline and forecast.
If you’re dealing with any of the above challenges, bringing in a CRO can make an enormous difference to any start-up.
For a startup, what is the advantage of working with Sales for Startups rather than having an in-house CRO?
Evidence shows us that hiring a CRO or VP of Sales too early normally results in the wrong person being hired, resulting in lots of headaches, including wasting time, high costs and slow revenue growth.
At Sales for Startups, we create the foundations from which to build a high growth tech startup and will know exactly the type of person required to lead each individual company’s sales function. We get tech startups VP ready!
The team get a real buzz from bringing in the right person to carry on the good work we’ve already done. For the new leader, their onboarding is like no other, so they massively benefit from the handover.
What’s your favourite success story as a CRO?
For me, success isn’t something experienced at the end of a project. Clearly, winning revenue and seeing a business thrive as a result of any engagement is very rewarding but for me, it’s seeing the “eureka” moments.
Watching founders and their team fully understand the journey they need to take to be successful. Hitting those smaller milestones, grasping where the gaps are through analysing sales data and actioning the deliverables I help to implement, are all rewarding.
Can you share one tip for founders to increase their revenue?
Yes! The quicker you transform your business from a technically led one to a sales led one the better. Don’t delay. The earlier you create your sales machine the quicker you will ramp.
When do you think is the right time to hire a VP of Sales?
Getting the foundations for startup success in place is critical, and not all VP of Sales are adept at doing this.
The beauty of working with Sales for Startups is that we have the knowledge and skills covering all areas of sales, marketing and customer success.
This ensures that the sales strategy and model we put in place is the right one for your business. Once that is in place and working, then we assist in the hiring process and onboard a talented VP of Sales to take it forward.
Finally, how do you think the tech startup scene has been shaped by the pandemic, and what does the future hold?
I’m happy to report that we have seen really good growth during the pandemic.
Naturally, it is always hard to start a business but the last 18 months have proven to be tougher. Trying to start a business during these restricted times, has led tech founders to think of a different approach.
This quiet period has given them an opportunity to get their sales strategy right before the economy starts to open up again. Our approach with our customers has not been any different except that we hold all our workshops, meetings, and strategy sessions etc over Zoom.
It works well but doesn’t substitute the face to face approach, which I have to say I am looking forward to getting back to, while still offering the virtual meetings where applicable.
To find out more about anything in this interview and how Sales for Startups can support your revenue goals, book a free consultation.