Renaissance Sales Reps —helping startups find product-market fit faster

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I have worked at Microsoft and Tapjoy, and in those experiences, I have bumped into stereotype sales person from time to time. Quota is their God. Revenue matters above all. And it’s their job to sell as much as possible. There are totally valid reasons behind this set up. But sometimes it caused sales people to make unrealistic promises to customers, and in the process made my job as a product manager suck.

Couple of years ago during an important team meeting, I heard that the CTO of our largest account was furious with us. When he was considering our software, our sales person promised a feature that wasn’t yet available. Disaster.

During my time at Tradecraft, I learned about a new type of sales, called Renaissance Sales Representative.

Mark Leslie & Charles A. Holloway introduced the idea of a renaissance rep in their Harvard Business Review article — The Sales Learning Curve. To them, these reps are entrepreneurial and they join early stage companies. Instead of selling mature products in a turn-key way, renaissance reps help their companies understand who their ideal customers are and what features are needed to best fulfill their needs. Rather than repeatedly reciting the same sales script, they ask intelligent questions, adapt their language, and refine their understanding of the product-market fit. And, most importantly, they share their learnings with the rest of the team.

Renaissance sales reps are not for every company, though. If your ideal customers have low Life Time Value, like at most consumer companies, the cost of hiring a renaissance rep is probably too high to justify.

Want to learn more about how to be a renaissance rep? Follow Sean Sheppard and Gabriel Dillon on Twitter. They are my sources.

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