Growing revenue in an early-stage company takes relentless grit, determination, and trust in the sales process. As we start the climb to new goals in the New Year, review your sales engine in the following areas to ensure you’re aligned to crush your goals this year:
- Is your Ideal Buyer Persona building your pipeline? Early-stage companies go through many iterations of the ideal buyer persona as they identify their best path to success within an industry. You can’t solve problems for customers that aren’t a good fit for your solution or service so it may take two or three revisions before settling into serving the right client that can 10x your growth. Need to refine your buyer persona in 2021? Hubspot provides a great template for this here.
- Forecasting Is A Mix of Mostly Reality With A Bit of Stretch. How was your forecast attainment in 2020? Did you consistently hit or miss your goals? Setting a big, hairy audacious goal can be fun but can also very ineffective and deflating to your revenue team if you’re not forecasting revenue with reality. Imagine ending last year with $400k in revenue and then making a goal in 2021 for your team to hit $4M. No resources to significantly ramp marketing, sales coverage, or operations to fulfill client delivery. WISH is also a four-letter word. Revenue forecasts can be met repeatedly when you have 3x the amount of pipeline to support your sales goal and a strategy around your top accounts and new business acquisition to reach your growth goal. You may want to keep your high revenue forecast for the year but take bets on achieving a smaller number in Q1 to allow your team time to build a supporting, qualified pipeline.
- So Many Sales Tools, Free Trials, So Little Time! There are many sales tools on the market today promising to cut your prospecting time in half through their sales intelligence offering, tools for sales leaders when coaching, various flavors of CRMs (customer relationship management), etc. How do you choose the right toolset for your early-stage company? The first step is to identify your ideal customer fit and the experience you want them to have with your company. What are the touchpoints? Work those touchpoints into your overall sales process. Your sales process should be more than “let’s qualify for (BANT) budget, authority, need, time”. The sales process should manage both internal and external needs around the buying cycle for your company’s product/service. Once you have that, you’re ready to build the process into a CRM, like Hubspot, and consistently use it as a guiding star along your sales prospecting journey to the finish line. Sales intelligence tools like Lead IQ, Seamless AI, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator are great tools to utilize when you have a sales team heavily focused on prospecting new business. I recommend that my clients use these tools from the beginning as a Founder. Prospect with accuracy and build your winning playbook as you build.
- Prove your own model before hiring a sales rep. If you haven’t hired your first salesperson yet, you need to ensure as the Founder/ CEO that you have proved the sales model yourself. Document your processes, playbook to win deals, and ensure that it is repeatable. Too often organizations hire sales reps thinking that they will bring their Rolodex and magically make sales happen when the Founder/ CEO hasn’t proved out their own business. Your success and enthusiasm around proving out your own success in your business will be infectious when the time is right to expand your sales team.
- Do I Hire Hunters Or Farmers This Year? Sales roles are dramatically changing. For early-stage tech and SAAS companies, I recommend hiring based on personality for a startup vs. focus on hunter and farmer roles. In a startup, your sales reps will need to be nimble as you grow the company and wear many hats. Your ideal sales rep may be someone that understands marketing and has the skillset to farm an existing account while hunting for new business. You should clearly set guidelines for their job as you can’t expect them to run the company for you but hiring someone that has both the ability and fire to hunt for new business, test new markets while also taking care of long-term customer relationships could be a great fit. Hiring for a Rolodex rarely ever works as quickly as you want it to so hiring for a multi-faceted skillset in early-stage is important. Hiring for sales development reps, sales enablement teams won’t come into play until you move closer to Series C and beyond.
- Moving From Founder Sales To Hiring Your First Sales Leader. Did you prove the model and hire a couple of sales reps in 2020, now to find yourself ready to hire your first sales leader? Many early-stage Founders have grown revenue to $2M+ million finding their niche market and now need to move from working in the business to on the business. You’re ready to hire once you have reps to manage or hire a leader. If you’re not ready to hire a full-time sales leader which most Seed, Series A & B companies are not then you may consider a fractional sales leader. This is a growing trend that quite popular on the East Coast, making its way West. Early-stage companies are able to partner with fractional sales leaders that bring deep expertise in growing revenue, leading sales teams, and acting as that cross-functional translator between sales, marketing, and the product team to provide sales enablement. They may support your team 10, 20+ hours per week depending on your needs and are flexible to grow with your organization as you collectively grow the business.
Subscribe to Relativity Consulting’s Blog in January as we take a more in-depth look at growth tactics per startup stage.
Amy Looper, Founder of Relativity Consulting works with innovative technology startups nationwide by providing fractional sales leadership and sales enablement services. She consistently produces award-winning results in highly competitive markets bringing past leadership experience working from a Vista Equity company, working with Fortune 500 companies with global cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks. At Relativity, we are passionate about creating long-term revenue for our clients and operate under a customer-first mentality that elevates sales performance.