Back in 1949 Arthur Miller wrote the tragic novel about a salesman fighting for his “American Dream” but ending up in a suicide, which became an international bestseller. What is fascinating about this classic story is that by simply changing the American dream to the goal of becoming an “unicorn” and the suicide to a financial failure we still can use it as a metaphor for some of today’s challenges that startup founders are facing.
How many startups have a sales responsible in their founders team?
When it comes to the topic of sales, a lot of startups appear not to be real fans of it. Most founders are deeply involved in their product and the underlying tech, but are not keen on going out and talk to potential clients. The profession of a (traveling) salesman seems still to make a negative impression today.
Of course every person has its own strengths and interests — but to plan a startup (and later a real company) depends on getting customers that are willing to pay for the service. Our advice to the teams that participate in the Next Media Accelerator is to start as early as possible with planning how to address clients, partners and investors. And of course the best way to learn is practice. That’s why we bring them into real face to face situations as often as possible.
How can we help?
In general we separate three phases:
Pre-Acceleration — what happens before the teams join us
Acceleration — the six months within our program
Post Acceleration — what happens after the teams leave NMA
Together with our media investors we developed the “easy testing” method which means that the teams get pilot customers in a very early stage and are able to integrate the feedback from these tests into their further development during the acceleration phase.
And even besides easy testing with our investors we push all teams into sales and pitch situations as often as possible. But we are not letting them alone and help with special training and mentoring to prepare what it needs.
Last week we started with our brand new batch VI into this topic and already the first mentoring session showed us that it helps founders to think in a structured way about how to reach clients.
And just as the product development takes different levels during these phases so has the go-2-market and sales approach to do. Without going into detail here, the most important thing is to make clear that in the end someone has to go out and do the sales job. And of course that besides all risks of failure, doing sales e.g. connecting with people and tell them about your product can be a real fun part of the job!