Companies live and die by sales. Obviously. But for startups, sales is a different kind of beast.
For startups, just one sale can mean the difference between surviving the week and surviving the year. But with extremely limited resources, no name recognition, and a brand new product or service, the path to startup sales success is both murky and challenging.
Using our own experience of starting out and our experience of working with small- to medium-sized businesses, we’ve put together this, a list of four commandments for startup sales success. Keep reading.
Thou shalt set stage-based goals
One of the most common mistakes made by startups when it comes to sales is diving in without having established specific and measureable goals. The focus is often to land a sale, any sale, in any way possible.
We recommend a more tailored, strategic approach. Instead of hunting for any sale, look for the sale or sales that will help you get to your next stage.
For example, at the very beginning, focus on getting your product or service in the hands of a person or company with industry clout — even if it means temporarily providing it for free. A written testimonial and/or their logo on your website’s Client list will go a long way in helping you land paying customers — stage two.
Thou shalt prioritize hiring a sales leader
It might be years before your startup has a veritable sales team. But you can only continue wearing every hat — sales, marketing, product development, HR — for so long. Allocating your limited resources to finding and hiring a truly great sales leader to head up your sales effort can deliver results much more quickly.
It all starts with the job description. Make sure it accurately reflects your needs and realistic goals. If you can’t offer much in the way of salary or commission to start, think about what you can offer that will help you get the type of leader you need: part-time hours, remote work, extra vacation time, and etcetera.
Most importantly, don’t skimp on your vetting process. Multiple interviews, assignments and thorough reference checks (with past customers, if possible) are essential.
Thou shalt limit free offers
For startups especially, free trials are an excellent way to amass prospects, garner user feedback and, if all goes well, acquire paying customers.
The problem is with trials that are too long. The longer a trial period lasts, the more likely users are to forget about actually using it. Plus, long trials draw out your sales cycle. If your trial lasts 90 days, that’s three months before you can move that prospect onto the next stage of your sales process.
Offer trial users just enough time to gain a feel for and an understanding of how your product works. Assuming your pool of trial users is small enough, call them at the very start of the trial to answer any questions and on their last day to collect feedback and to try to convert. Waiting for days or weeks after the trial ends is a kiss of death.
Thou shalt automate
The wide availability of platforms and tools that organize, manage and automate business activities, from social media to payroll to yes, sales, is a huge boon to startup founders.
For what can be a small monetary investment, startup founders can access these tools to boost efficiency and results, and in some cases, to even delay having to make certain hires.
A quick Google search reveals plenty of good advice on what tools are most recommended for startup sales, but let us make a quick plug for Salesforce. The world’s #1 CRM isn’t just for huge corporations; at AppSolve, we help small- and medium-sized businesses implement Salesforce and its affiliated tools for marketing, customer service and communication, in ways that best suit their business size, type and goals.
Curious about how Salesforce might be able to help your small business reach its sales goals? Let’s chat.