CEO of CA Consults Carol Ann Korpi Looks at How Consultants Help Startups Drive Sales Success
In the real estate world, the old — and still valid — adage is that the three most important factors in selling or investing in a property are “location, location and location.” Well, on the startup landscape, the three most crucial pillars of success are “sales, sales and sales.”
Indeed, the most game-changing product or service, or the most fertile and untapped marketplace, is rendered meaningless without ongoing sales; not just to generate capital, but to create brand equity and acquire market share.
Yet with this in mind, many entrepreneurs struggle to get their sales engine into high gear. That is where the guidance and insight of a seasoned consultant can make all the difference between achieving — or better yet, exceeding — sales targets, and missing the mark.
“The day-to-day experience for many startups is so frenzied and fast-paced, that implementing a robust sales strategy can be very difficult,” commented Carol Ann Korpi, the CEO of CA Consults, which focuses on helping startups grow and develop into world-class organizations. “An experienced and proven consultant turns the chaos into clarity, and helps entrepreneurs focus on short-term wins without undermining their long-term objectives and vision.”
According to Carol Ann Korpi, who worked at various successful startups for more than 20 years before launching CA Consults, there are two pivotal ways that consultants help startups drive sales success: focusing on high-value customers, and recruiting and retaining sales talent. Each of these elements is discussed below.
Focusing on High-Value Customers
Many startups fall into a dangerous trap: they spend too much money and time trying to engage and convert low-value customers. Why does this happen so often? Typically, it’s because low-value customers are easier and cheaper to find, and the sales cycle is usually short and simple. However, while this approach can lead to some early wins, it is for the most part unsustainable since the lack of profit margin severely limits scalability. A consultant identifies this pitfall well in advance, and helps startups head down a smarter, safer road.
“Since the lifeblood for startups is working capital, in terms of customer acquisition there is a compelling temptation to target low hanging fruit,” commented Carol Ann Korpi, whose firm CA Consults is headquartered in San Francisco. “Often, it’s wiser to have a less populated sales funnel with more profitable customers, including those who will generate future sales directly or by influencing other high-value prospects.”
Recruiting and Retaining Sales Talent
Most startups don’t have the capital to outspend their larger competitors when it comes to recruiting top sales performers. They cannot typically offer lucrative salaries and premium benefits and perks that include paid time off, generous expense accounts, and unlimited vacation. As such, they need to focus their sights on recruiting a specific type of sales professional: those who have an abundance of ambition and ability, and are energized by the idea of getting in on the ground floor. A consultant can help entrepreneurs target, engage, and onboard members of a results-oriented sales force that is motivated — rather than daunted — by working in a dynamic startup environment.
“Hiring the wrong type of sales professional can be fatal for startups,” commented Carol Ann Korpi. “That’s because some sales professionals who thrive in a structured enterprise environment struggle in a startup environment. Many entrepreneurs, despite their best efforts, end up hiring the wrong people. I’ve spent more than two decades in sales with various successful startups, and I deeply understand that it takes a certain kind of personality to thrive in a startup. You need to be very intrinsically motivated, highly ambitious, and driven to be part of a vision. You need to believe in your company and team, and more importantly you need to believe in yourself.”