“Hey, we are planning to build our Sales Team, you guys are doing great sales, how do you do it?” asked my alum who started his company, but was the only one in the team who was doing sales.
Sales have been our primary growth driver, it brought in customer money which helped us bootstrap the company and be profitable. We doubled our numbers in last one year and have been consistently been able to sign-up ~10 customers a month! The most interesting part is, it is all with an Inside Sales Team, contrary to popular belief that selling to academic institutions require you to have an on-field sales team. All kudos to the efforts of our sales team!
While answering his questions I realised we had a few profound learnings, though we have some more time before we can say we have successfully built an efficient & scalable sales machine, I thought it would be good to share them.
Sales for any organization is its lifeline, especially for the B2B companies! Like any other machine, if the sales machine starts rolling, we have a lot less to worry about. Sales set every other aspect of a business in order, right from the cash flows to product roadmaps. We learnt this very early in our journey from our seed investor Mr Mohsin Khan @ Utthishta. We understood that building a predictable and repeatable sales processes gonna be the key to our success.
Having known that, building it was not so easy, it required a lot of experimentation, focus and discipline. Here is our quick practical playbook on building a scalable sales machine:
1. Choose the best customer, get more of those.
Once we get into the market for finding customers, we usually get the initial adopters by hook or crook — references, hard sell, free trails, influencers. As they start using the product, try answering these questions:
- Of all the customers who are your best customers? Which of these customers you would like to have more and more? Parameters shall be the intensity of need, active usage, ability to pay.
- What are the top 3 reasons customers brought your products?
- How did the decision to purchase take place: Who are in the decision-making unit (DMU)? Who are the champions or influencers?
- Next couple of months focus on getting more of those customers
- Repeat the process every quarter
All you have to do is getting more of your best customers and ignore every other customer persona!
The simple process will help you narrow down your customers’ segment, to build a buyer persona and know the buying process. You will now be more confident as you exactly know whom should you look for.
Yeah, the set of parameters to filter out leads has been our magic sauce! It allows us to Focus!
2. The Sales Process
Scalability to sales comes from the process we build. It has three main parts
a) Hunting — Generating qualified leads
b) Nurturing — Qualifying and getting them interested
c) Harvesting — Negotiating and Closing
a) Hunting or Prospecting:
As we now know the customer persona or the kind of customers we need to go after, prospecting is all about finding more of them. It isthe most important part of any sales process as it fills the sales funnel.
The Traction — a book by Gabriel Weinberg has been “The Bible” for us. It lists 19 different channels to get more customers and goes on to explain about the Bull’s-eye framework. The Bulls-eye framework helps us narrow down to one traction channel we should focus on. We use this once every quarter to decide what to focus on!
b) Farming or Nurturing:
Once we know that someone may want our solution, it is very important to explain to them our value proposition and make them interested in buying the product.
Pursuing a lead and following up with them is a time consuming and resource-intensive. It is very important to qualify a lead before we pursue them.
Our pre-sales team does it on 4 parameters called BANT — Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline
- Budget: Does the prospect have the ability to pay and preferably an allocated budget for the product.
- Authority: Is the lead a decision-maker or can he connect to decision-maker? Any conversation without a person who can sign the cheque is a waste of time.
- Need: Does he really need the solution, and also has a willingness to pay for it.
- Timeline: When does he need the solution? For most of the B2B products any timeline more than 3 months can be considered not immediately. While we may still want to nurture them and put them in sales drips, the sales team need not actively pursue them.
c) Harvesting or Closing
Sales will realise if we can close a deal and get the cheque. This stage comprises of giving a demo, designing the solutions (in some cases), sending proposals, objection handling, negotiating and closure. The sales team usually comes in the picture only in this stage.
There will be a lot more to write about this stage but will be specific to your Business. If you are not sure of these, just list down the activities you are doing to close a deal like — writing proposals, giving demos, answering questions and negotiating and document it.
3. Sales Team
Like a good football team has clear positions — defenders, midfield and strikers, a sales team also need to have dedicated people for each role with responsibilities seldom overlapping. A separate team for data research or lead generation, pre-sales team to qualify and get the leads to demo, and the strikers (sales guys) to negotiate and close the deals.
Accountability is key to sales and creating such dedicated roles will also help define metrics to each of the roles.
Hiring for Sales:
- Process: Hiring for sales is usually difficult and we need more doers here! We have been stringent with our hiring process and hire only if we find a good guy/girl. We give an assignment for every role and just ignore if they do not do the assignment, however good his resume may be.
- Skills: We specifically look for listening skills, with the ability to comprehend and engage in a meaningful conversation. Just speaking skills with good English and vocabulary does not qualify.
- Avoid these: Our sales requires more of solutions architect mindset, the ones who can listen to customers and advice. We avoid those who have experience in selling ready products like insurance or banking or telecom.
Training for Sales:
Training is crucial for every sales team member and we emphasize a bit more on that. Every new recruit has to go through the entire sales process right from data research to cold calling. That is when he will understand the product better.
To be able to provide great training, it is important to document your process at every step. For example, one hack we use is, we have documented every kind of questions that a client can ask and have ready answers for each of them
Sales is Simple, Predictability is the key!
Sales actually is very simple, all you have to do is 1) Getting more leads 2) Increasing conversion ratio at every stage
Predictability of sales is key to sales
As a Founder, you should sell, no excuse!
As a founder, you should have the ability to sell. No other guy form your team can do the sales with the same conviction as you. If you cannot sell, no one else will be able to!
While you should focus on building processes and a scalable and predictable sales machine, you will not be able to do it if you don’t do sales yourself. Also, as a super sales guy, your sales teams look up to you! Be the striker!
I am a product guy, a techie, but even today I sell and I love it!
If you need more insights or practical examples on any specific topic in the post, please do let me know in comments, I will try to share the same.
Know more about or product: www.vaave.com
Want to join our sales team and become a striker? Drop us an email with your “Why” to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Inside Sales is a term used for selling without any face-to-face meetings. It helps to keep the cost of acquisition very low. Read more: What is Inside Sales by HubSpot https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/inside-vs-outside-sales
3. Drip Marketing: The Complete Guide to Drip Campaigns by Zapier https://zapier.com/learn/email-marketing/drip-marketing-campaign/
4. “Traction” Book by Gabriel Weinberg: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1591848369/ and the 19 Channels: https://medium.com/@yegg/the-19-channels-you-can-use-to-get-traction-93c762d19339