Up and coming entrepreneurs always want to know the silver bullet to success or funding. There isn't one, and if we really want to help entreprenuers at large, we'd stop acting like there was. We'd tell them that its all about hard work and sales. Alastair Mitchell from Huddle.net did just that a few weeks ago during the Web 2 Expo, by uncovering why sales is not a dirty word and why your company shouldn't avoid sales people despite their pressed shirts, blackberries, and dell laptops.
The talk inspired me to kick off a series of posts about sales starting with some bullet points from Alastair on sales:
1) Distribution is Everything
Sales people can get you distribution in ways that marketing/PR cannot. Even the best app in the world won't generate revenue if no one knows about it.
2) Sales Is hard work
Yes its expensive, it requires people, its not scalable, and its repetitive. But you need it, so get over it. It is/was popular for VCs to say they won't invest in companies that require sales people, but they'll change their mind in this down turn as good technologies go un-noticed.
3) Its a numbers game
Talk to a real estate broker about #2 and #3. When I was selling software to them, I saw a poster that said head lights to work in the morning and home in the evening. Which meant get into the office early enough that you see headlights on the road, and leave the office late enough that you see them again. Its 99% perspiration to fill the pipeline, and 1% inspiration.
4) Leave it to the professionals
Entreprenuers, developers, product managers are all great evangelists, and they might even generate some sales, but in the end they are terrible closers. Bring in the sales pro to close bigger deals faster. To get a good look at the pros talk to my buddy Mark at QuotaCrush, and if you're lucky enough, go watch him close. I promise you'll see the difference.
5) Know which type of sales professional to hire
Hiring sales teams for a tech startup can be quite a chore. At angelsoft, we looked at dozens of people before we found the right fit, and thats not an easy task when you don't have an HR department. You need to find the righ balance of sales "shark" and startup attitude, or the culture of your company could be at risk. Managing huge technical accounts at Cisco is a very different job than entering a new market and selling something thats never been sold before, so understand the different types of sales people.
6) Choose your leader first
Your VP of Sales is an extremely important person to hire. Once the right person's on board, let them build the team that they can get the most out of. They probably know sales best. Yet again, see Mark over at Quota Crush, he's the outsourced VP of Sales for a couple of companies right now, and he's in high demand.
7) Build a "bunker spirit"
Nothing helps people close faster than necessity. If the sales guys and the rest of the company are isolated from market forces, they won't have the right sense of urgency. Also, the whole team should be in the bunker together in order to bond. Sales guys need to better understand the tech team, and the tech team needs to understand how tough it can be to grow sales of a new product.
This also gives you a better idea of when the products not selling, or if the salesperson is just not capable. If they're "in the bunker" working hard, then you can use this as feedback that the products not quite right.
8 ) Forecasts, double the time, halve the value
This is tough work, see #2. In a new market, with a new product, you'll feeling like you're going for a job in knee deep mud. Its going to take longer than you expect and in the beggining you'll bring in half of what you estimated. Be patient, count on your talented VP of sales, but its going to move slow, and the numbers will pick up.
9) A product that does everything a customer wants won't sell itself
In the Software as a service (SaaS) world, you can't just build the perfect product and give it away, you have to build in pain points so that the customer feels the strong desire to remove those pain points by paying. A good sales person can me the customers see those pain points, and a better one can make them feel it. The stronger the pain, the more willing they are to cut checks.
10) The emperor is not wearing new cloths.
This is my favorite, though my version is "We are not in Never Never Land"! The tools of buisiness have changed drastically, but the rules are not that different, and you still have to grow up. If you're venture backed, this is not a vacation, you exist to generate value, and sales people are a very effective way to do that!