Owning the Sales Process
Selling is the majority of the battle in any business and is especially acute in the early innings of B2B. I have come to notice that the best founding teams generally have complementary skill sets where one person is charged with selling in the early days. Until there’s a sales leader hired, that person often times is the CEO (even if they are technical) who needs to go find people to buy the result of their vision, the product.
A few thoughts on sales in the early days — would love to hear other perspectives.
- Layout the funnel/framework/process. It’s important to have some process to take prospects through as you sell to them. It’s never perfect and will change as you go. Take the time to define each step in the process and what signals might constitute a prospect moving through the funnel. Many a founder think they have a process, but when you question the details, they stumble. Similarly, it’s important to have a baseline to help track success and opportunities to improve/adjust the approach.
- Additionally, make sure you choose a tool that you’re comfortable with, works for your needs (don’t always need the Cadillac) but can ultimately help track your process. Founders I know sing praises of about Pipedrive, Streak, AgileCRM, Contactually, and more. At Dynamo, we manage our Fund’s deal flow using Streak.
- Optimize for the next step. While it might seem obvious that the end goal of any sales process is to land a paying customer, that rarely happens in one or two steps. It’s important to build towards the dollars — take actions to get you to the next step. For example, in the early steps, it’s important to optimize for a demo opportunities. So messaging across phones and email need to harmonize around such. For example, closing phones with “I would love an opportunity to demo our offering with your team, is there a day that works best?” or a call to action, “schedule a demo today” are a must. Similarly, optimize your messaging post-demo for a follow up call to further understand a client’s needs — you cannot speak intelligently around a proof of concept if you haven’t fleshed on the client’s needs!
- Calls are the best thing in your arsenal. When you’re trying to land a client and have no brand awareness, calling is a must. Calling prospects is the best way to get a few minutes of a potential client’s time to learn about their needs, plant the seeds of trust, and ask for a formal meeting.
- Email is a great way to follow up but cannot be the sole strategy — open rates are weak and messages are often relegated to the junk folder. This isn’t to say that email doesn’t have a place in the strategy. In fact, drip campaigns are great ways to turn cold leads to warm, over time. With proper timing and messaging, drip campaigns can help bring prospects to demo your offering. This brings me to the website…
- Websites: less is more. Remember that point on optimizing for the next step? Your website provide give just enough information that prospects are driven to call you. If you include too much, they will likely jump to conclusions regarding the product and never give you an opportunity to sell to them. Too much information also can be overwhelming and is often times what I discover to be the issue with upstart websites. Use your website to drive clients to the next step — from website to a personalized introductory call (maybe even a demo) with a salesperson (the opportunity to sell).
- Be transparent about the progress, and be held accountable to it. Given that we have a framework and strategy in place, it will be easy to show the sales progress to non-sales personnel. Remember how much you hate not knowing where features are in the development process? Set the tone by having weekly meetings about how your funnel is progressing, and to share feedback on product, and provide color as to potential PoCs/integration in the pipeline so that engineers can think ahead. Also, ask your CTO to hold you accountable to making calls everyday, iterating on your process, and executing on the strategy. They’ll feel apart of the sale and support your efforts
Sales is a beast, and I do think some of us are predisposed to selling better than others. That being said, everyone is capable of selling. We all need to sell as some point in our lives, one way or another. Startups are a prime example of this and the best CEOs, even if they prefer to write code, take the time to make calls, lead meetings, and manage client relationships.