Sales is the fuel that makes the startup engine run. In my previous post I focused on hiring the right sales talent and motivating them. However, having only highly motivated, talented people is like having a speed boat with no rudder . . . it can get you somewhere quickly but it may not be where you wanted to go. The right sales process and metrics coupled with talented, motivated people can be a winning combination that yields the revenue and traction that startups need.
- Right Process – The best sales talent on the planet saddled with a poor sales process will underperform everytime. The process itself is very important and, when done properly, can yield success even with a less than stellar sales team. Major elements of a good sales process include:
- Identifying true prospects who are ready to buy – Talking to folks who aren’t ready to buy is a waste of sales resources. Many prospects won’t tell you “no” but they also won’t tell you “yes”.
- Establishing credibility – There has to be some level of trust in the service/product provider before someone will buy. Use your understanding of their business, previous sales, channel partners, etc . . . to establish the necessary credibility. Do your homework on prospects before you engagement them.
- Appealing to their major pain points(operations, costs, complexity, etc . . ), desires, or greed – Solve their challenge and you win, but first you have to get them to reveal their true challenges and goals.
- Showing them how your product/service alleviates their pain, makes them feel better, or puts money in their pocket better than any other alternatives – Saying your product is better is not enough . . . they hear that from sales people ten times per day.
- Closing sales at the proper strike point – If the prospect has their check book out when you contact them, feel free to close the sale on the spot. However, don’t expect to close a sale until the prospect is satisfied with most, if not all, of the elements of the process previously mentioned. Learn how to read prospects.
Sales processes vary from company to company and you have to figure out what works for your product. Find similar products and services in your market or other markets, study how they sell, and learn how to differentiate your product/service.
- Right Metrics – Having the right people and the right process are great but if you aren’t using the right metrics to track results, you will not optimize your sales or be able to figure out why something isn’t working as you had expected. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a great tool to help with this. While there are many flavors of these systems from freemium models to Salesforce (considered by many to be the mother of all CRM systems), almost anything is better than the Excel spreadsheet you’ve been using. Any basic CRM system will allow you to track prospects, their contact info, what stage of the sales cycle they are in, pertinent info on their family, friends, relationships, hobbies (information used to develop a relationship), notes from your conversations, next steps you need to take with them and when you need to contact them again. When set up properly, the metrics that can be generated with these systems can help you track what is working and what is broken in the process and why so you can make changes in the process and/or messaging. Several of my startup and small business consulting clients use Zoho, Insightly, and Pipedrive. The best approach is to do a little online research, ask your fellow business owners what they use, sign up for a free trial for the most promising applications, test drive them and select the one that will best fit in your company culture with your users.
THE TAKEAWAY: Talent and motivation are not enough. Processes and metrics are not enough. It takes all four elements of the sales process working in unison to yield success. Approach sales as a sophisticated engine in which the key components must all work together for optimal performance. If a key component is out of sync, optimal performance is undermined. It is a constant process of tracking and refining.