In a world flooded with startups and brilliant entrepreneurs, it’s hard to ignore the news that we hear so often about another tech startup going under or another founder struggling to get his product to consistently sell. Surprisingly enough, this isn’t due to a lack of tech talent, poor funding or ineffective products and services. The diagnosis is much simpler than that — sales.
In a startup, there is not a single thing that matters more than the ability to sell. Yet so few companies have it figured out. I’ve had the pleasure over the last decade of running large, successful technology sales teams across the country that have generated revenues exceeding $500,000,000. I’ve since dedicated my entire career and mission to supporting and working with business-to-business tech founders in their early stages, helping them scale their businesses through the implementation of world-class sales.
This is what I have found to date. The answer to every sales problem is really the proper execution of three simple principles that must exist for you to start, grow and develop a world-class sales team — no matter the size.
First, you must have the right people. The biggest mistake I see on the roster of failing sales organizations is the lack of importance put on the management level. It’s so easy to blame poor sales numbers on the salespeople in the trenches. However, if this is the case, management at the director and VP level are almost always asleep at the wheel. Hiring great salespeople is important, yes. But, it doesn’t matter how talented, trained or hungry your team is if they are being managed by a mediocre boss.
Second, a strategic process must be in place. Once you have the right people on your team, what are the actions and activities that you expect them to take? How many calls are they making to your prospects? What are they doing after they make a call? How many touches are they giving to each prospect before giving up? What other channels are they using to reach out? What are they saying when they talk with prospects or face objections? What problems do you solve for your customers?
These are a few of the things that need to be sorted out in the war room before you have a salesperson make a single call. The “wing it” model just doesn’t work here. Once this process — what I call your sales playbook — is created, figure out how you are going to formally train your team to perform the process and who is going to hold them accountable. They aren’t going to figure it out on their own. Your managers should be the hardest working people in your organization, performing constant training and holding the whole team accountable to the process you expect them to follow.
Once you have the right people and process in place, the third ingredient is your culture. This is where so many people have it wrong. Culture does not mean you have a ping pong table in the break room or nap pods in the common area. Sure, those things are cool. But they have nothing to do with your culture. Your culture is defined as the set of rules and values that your organization embodies, established from the very top down.
If the CEO is the most disciplined person in the room, the culture of the sales team will follow suit. If the VP of sales is committed to continual self-development, the culture of the sales team will reflect that. If the sales manager holds themselves accountable to a high level of achievement and a strong desire to win, so will the culture of the sales team. This is never what leaders want to hear, but it’s the truth. Too many people look at leadership roles as a way to escape the accountability of doing the most difficult tasks. Instead, come in early, stay late and roll up your sleeves to help the team.
The biggest rewards in life are often found in the smallest of details. There’s nothing too complex about finding the right people, building a solid process and establishing a strong culture. It’s simple, yet difficult. You just have to be willing to do the work. The curse of failure in the startup world doesn’t have to be a statistic you spend your life attempting to dodge. Get ahead of the curve and win the sales game.