Building a startup is a time consuming and difficult slog, there is no denying it. You have to be a generalist and a specialist, wearing a thousand different hats simultaneously, managing people, contractors, investors, projects and even levels of toilet paper. All of these different priorities are important but are all competing for your most valuable resource, time.
Throughout my interviews with founders and CEO’s for the Startup Storiesinterview series, or while discussing sales strategy the common refrain from early stage leaders is that “I am too busy and can’t focus on sales.” There are many different reasons why they say this, “we are in a capital raise,” “our existing customers are demanding our time for support,” “we are focusing on hiring our team right now,” and “we just need to build this next key feature.” The list could, and does, go on.
They are all important and imperative steps required to grow your business but they are just delaying the inevitable, Sales is the one activity that defines whether your startup succeeds, fails quickly otherwise you are on the path to a slow and painful death.
A wise man once said, in all businesses, startups especially……
“Sales cures all your problems”
In the early stages of your startup the act of selling is going to help you validate whether you are solving a problem your customers will pay for. For later stage startups the incoming revenue will help you to increase the valuation of your business, be more attractive to your new hire, enable you to spend more money fixing bugs to solve the customer’s problem, begin targeting a new customer segment.
Once you having regular engagements, not just emails or surveys, but real conversations with your customers, it will help you build a better product, and, the revenue create opens up an endless funnel of opportunities. The most important resource revenue gives you is time. Time to hire the build the best team, time to wait for the right investor & term sheet, time select the right partner. Time opens up endless possibilities.
So why is selling constantly being pushed down the activity totem pole? Because rejection is tough and it pushes you out of your comfort zone. There isn’t a magic trick for solving this challenge but here are a few tips to help you stay focused on generating revenue,
1. Build your ideal customer profile
Take the time to truly understand whom it is you are targeting. Not the businesses but the individuals within those businesses, the ones who actually make the purchase decision. By better understanding the challenges they face in the day to day grind of their working lives you are going to be able to understand the challenges they face, have meaningful conversation about their problem and your value propositions.
Once you have documented your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) you then have a baseline to begin a/b testing in the wild. When the value propositions start resonating and you start converting at a good rate, you can begin to scale your activities
2. Set your goals
Once you have identified how your ICPs want to be contacted you need to start setting goals for the activities you will complete regularly to progress you towards your revenue target. All of your sales activities should be focused on either bringing deals into your funnel, or driving them through it. Once you understand the activities you need to set effectiveness goals to maintain and improve the quality of your output and accelerate what is successful.
The key here is regularly. Break these goals and targets into short achievable ‘chunks’. Once you start knocking down these small activity goals daily, the larger goals will start to fall like dominoes!
3. Allocate the time
This is never as easy it sounds, there are many meetings, disasters, even mundane activities that will get in the way of your selling time. Once you have allocated and prioritized the time for this activity, protect it as if it was your golden ticket to a successful exit.
When is the best time to sell? You need to think back to your ideal customer profile, their preferred channel of communication and when is the best time for you to engage with them. When can you reach them for maximum cut through and impact. Many studies have shown that Tuesday morning is the worst time to call people, as that is when they have the most meetings planned. When is the best time? When they are at at their desk, before 9am and after 4pm. When are they active in their emails but not being inundated with new messages? For many executives and SMB decision makers this is later on a Sunday night when they are planning their week.
Put your customer at centre stage and plan your engagement time when they are going to be available.
4. Just fcuking do it!
There are a thousand excuses but none of them matter. Your product is not going to sell itself and sales isn’t easy but you just need to get on with it. Break your activity goals into smaller daily chunks, print them out and hold yourself accountable by sharing them with a co-founder, investor, friend or even your pet. Remove all distractions, disable your email, log out of Facebook, turn off your mobile and start channelling your inner Nike……..Just Do It!
Sales is a tough gig for everyone, career sales people, developers, marketers, accountants all alike, full of hardship and rejection. Hopefully these tips can help you put sales on the top of your to do list and help your startup succeed.