This is the second post in the series “After the Funding“. Each post identifies a pitfall you must avoid and tells you how to invest the funding wisely and how to successfully unlock growth of your recently funded startup.
Today’s post is about the right approach to expanding the sales force. It argues that you need to be well prepared before you can ramp up sales.
Set-up a Repeatable Sales Process First, Then Expand Sales Force
Many startup founders are highly charismatic, visionary and persuasive sales people with a great network. They know the product intimately. And they understand the market as well as the future product vision like no one else. This combination allows them to go to virtually any prospect and design a unique solution that at the same time solves the customer’s problem, brings in revenue and advances the product development.
Now you will want to aggressively accelerate sales by strengthening presence in your home market or expanding geographically. But before you start hiring top-notch sales talent and before you start pondering the most promising countries for expansion you need to think about how to enable others to sell as successfully as you did. Building a sales force before you are ready is the “second fastest way to burn cash after buying traffic for a new dot-com” according to Max Bleyleben.
You first need to set-up a repeatable and measurable sales process. Tacit knowledge used successfully by the founders and early-days sales champions needs to be unlocked, captured and made available to the to-be-built sales force. You need to identify the unique selling point, define an ideal prospect profile and make sure every sales person pitches the same, non-customer specific solution. You must invest in sales training. And finally you need to have at least a simple sales process supported by a basic CRM system in place. See Andy Blackstone’s article “Ready for a Sales Force?” for more details.
After the Funding
In the first post of the series I explained that decision-making needs to be based on long-term strategy. In a rapidly growing company, the owners need to spend time defining a clear and concise strategy while day-to-day decision making shifts to others based on their roles in the company. Next week I will highlight the importance of aligning business and technology around a product roadmap.
- Dharmesh Shah’s blog “On Startups” frequently touches on sales issues for startups. You might want to start with Dharmesh’s “5 Startup Sales Tips From Turkish Rug Dealers“. Or check out this great example of how the founders of the Blue Man Group successfully managed expansion by publishing a “Why To” guide.
- For more about sales process try Andy Blackstone’s other “Thoughts on High-Tech Sales“