An amazing article from Sherry Buffington came across my inbox (by way of Alltop through a Posterous subscription email) a few days ago, and I couldn't get over how accurate she was with her 8 essential attributes of sales people. I don't imagine you're familiar with her work, as its in the self help space, and she's on rocking 30 followers on Twitter, but the article really stuck with me: Its a bit cheesy, but after a little reflection, I had a lot of questions. Do these attributes apply to early stage companies? Why do startups think sales is a four letter word? Why isn't revenue required to have a "company"? Otherwise isn't it just a hobby? Would startups even want to read this article because its copywrited 2006 (which is old new for them)?
To help bridge the gap, here's an analysis of how each of the attributes from Sherry's list maps out to the early stage startup world:
1) Achievement Drive
This may mean something in big business talk, but to us this means EXECUTION OBSESSED.
Sales people are fast talking fast acting deal closing machines. They're going to be more aggressive than your average startup hire, and they'll be just as goal focused as your google analytics addicted user conversion team. Like everyone else in the startup space, don't be afraid to let sales people learn on the job, because they should be more than comfortable jumping into a new industry head first!
You need to be careful not to hire the time share selling Gordon Gecko that would sell his own mother to protect your startup's culture, but this extra "edge" is what you need to close big deals for big $.
A big part of the web2.0 / social media trend is about making companies more personal. Think Whole Foods having a facebook page. Sales people working for a startup need to reflect that as well.
They need to know what problems their products solve, and how they can help their customers. The cold hard sell does not work anymore because most people can sniff it out, and becaues they expect more from companies these days.
Empathize too much, and you won't close the deal. You'll spend all your time worrying about the features that have yet to be built, and not enough time closing what you currently have.
3) Self Confidence
90% of all startups fail... so yes, sales people at startups have to be EVEN more comfortable with failure. Their obsession with execution and strong belief or faith tha the startup is game changing (we'll touch on faith in a future post) has to keep them going in the worst of times.
After 100 phone calls, 20 touches/contacts, and 20 rejects, a good sales person will pick up the phone and close a deal on the 21 st call. A great sales person will close a deal on the 21st call AND give you a full analysis based on what they learned during the 20 calls in which they made contact.
- 10 of the calls were to this profile of customer, and this type of customer won't buy until they've reached X in revenue
- 5 of the calls were to the wrong person in the organization, and for 2 of them they told me the product manager was the decision maker
- 4 of the calls where to potential customers that were already using a competitors product, we need to follow up in 6 months once they're feeling the pain again
- 1 call came from a legitimate objection, he was an educated customer, and wants a demo with a product team to go through the details
With so much to say on the subject, and so little time, I'm going to break this up into several posts...