For better or worse, the startup world has always attracted visionaries and idealists.
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On the one hand, these kinds of dreamers have brought us world-changing innovations like the internet or social media. But on the other, company after company has vanished, many without ever making a headline, because their founders were too enamored with the potential of a technology they’d envisioned or even built to realize they weren’t developing traction with actual customers until it was too late.
Getting realistic with operationalizing a sales system from the inception of a startup is essential to avoiding that fate. Here are three keys to building those scalable systems.
Salesmanship isn’t just for sales team
Founders can be dreamers, but they also need to be salespeople who can concretely articulate the value proposition they’re selling to customers.
This is crucial not just for high-profile business development opportunities that need the CEO in the room, but also for being a leader that inspires the sales team to do their best work to grow the company.
If a founder can sell their salespeople on why the product or service they’ve created has practical value, they’ll turn around and bring in new customers.
Take time up front to build scalable sales processes
The operative word here is scalable, and to develop such a self-sustaining process you need to invest a substantial amount of time and effort into building an excellent sales team and equipping it with a comprehensive but modifiable sales playbook.
Core components of that playbook are detailed buyer personas, call scripts tailored to each of those personas (because even in this day and age, some direct human contact does what any number of emails can’t), sales funnel sequences from top to bottom, and overall deal intelligence.
Each of these pieces can and should be regularly revisited to remain current with the company’s offerings and to include learnings about target customers.
Prepare for pushback
Sales isn’t a one-way monologue. It’s a conversation, and every member of the sales team must be prepared to handle any objection. That playbook I just mentioned must also include a list of foreseeable objections and responses that grow out of empathetic understanding of what potential customers need and value most.
As your startup grows, carefully collected and archived call notes are a gold mine for refining and further developing that section of the playbook. They’re also crucial feedback for continuing to refine your offering so that you’re building must-have products or services, not just nice-to-haves.
Implement all of these measures, and your startup will be in an excellent position to grow its business. That said, it’s essential that everyone from founders to sales agents maintain perspective on who it is they’re selling to and what their evolving needs look like.
A scalable sales system has many repeatable routines, but without taking time to revisit those processes and revitalize them with the latest information gleaned both from individual sales calls and from broader market research those routines can grow stagnant.
That’s why founders must continually bring themselves down to earth and ensure that they’re angling to meet present needs and not just building for an imaginary future.
Marc Schröder is the managing partner and co-founder of Maschmeyer Group Ventures (MGV), and is focused on working with world-class tech entrepreneurs and establishing the MGV legacy. Before co-founding MGV, Schröder served as the head of global sales at the Maschmeyer Group and was an investor at Seed + Speed Ventures. Originally from the Netherlands, Marc grew up in South Africa and graduated with a law degree from Bertolt-Brecht University.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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