In a startup sales is the only thing that matters!! I like this statement:
“In the early-stage days, building top line revenues becomes a nonstop adventure for the CEO; no other marketing plan should be considered. In essence, sales begin with a sales force of one. It is up to the CEO to get on the road and to flush out discrepancies in the business and revenue models. No amount of marketing planning experts back at the desk can possibly conceive what the CEO will discover on the road…. It is the CEO who needs to go out in the field, press flesh, and be the one person responsible for driving like hell to get the numbers up. This task cannot be assigned, cannot be outsourced, and cannot be buried deep in elaborate marketing plans”. Robert W Price of the Global Entrepreneurship Institute in ‘What is a sale crusader? Do we need sales reps?’
Startups know this already – In Stephan Schmidt developers blog post ’6 reasons why my VC funded startup did fail’, the first three reason given are “We didn’t sell anything”. The lessons keep on coming – “Traction is the only thing that matters”, from Rich Aberman post “5 things I “knew” (or should have known) before starting a company, but didn’t fully understand until now”. Time and time again I hear founders say ‘the product should sell itself..’, and it needs to but no one is listening, no matter how great the product is. “More startups fail from a lack of customers, than a failure of product development”, Steve Blank
We already know the answer to getting sales. “The Lean Startup Entrepreneur looks like a combination of salesman and scientist.”, Kevin Dewalt describes this as:
- Curious - an interest in discovering problems and solutions
- A Listener - Sales is about understanding customer needs
- Skeptical – Start with hypotheses of customer needs and search for evidence
- Risk Averse - Risk can’t be eliminated but placing smart bets can mitigate it.
- And …optimism, determination, and intelligence to succeed in anything
Good old Dharmesh Shah (On Startups) even gives us the tip on how to build a startup sales team. So, why do people still fail to sell in startups… Sales isn’t easy:
- Rejection – Sales involves lots of rejection. And of course most of us don’t like to be abruptly rejected, over and over again.
- Expense – Selling is not cheap. It takes many events, connections and calls to start the sales process. Then a sale requires expensive meetings, which often have to be repeated.
- Time – Sales take time. The average sale takes six communications before the sale is made. You have to patient and persistent.
- Belief – Money drives salespeople. However in a startup there is no money. The founders have to rely on their faith and belief in their product/service.
- Focus - Its much easier to work on a business plan, a marketing plan or develop some code. However there is no escaping the necessity for sales revenues (whether freemium or not!).
There is no choice in a startup, the founders have to be a the fore front of sales and all staff also have to sell. In a startup you are all selling for survival!! I’ll finish with a concluding quote from Robert W Price post: “Marketing Starts with a Crusader who can lead in the tough times, who can fight the odds and win. They are willing to lay their lives on the line”, Marketing High Technology: An Insider’s View, William H. Davidow