Apr 2 2014, 5:11pm CDT | by Forbes
When raising our Series A round, we heard it probably 100 times, “what is your sales strategy?” All of our potential investors wanted to know how we planned on growing the business. It was a pretty obvious question to ask. We did have some traction and some very passionate early adopters, but we were far from profitable.
As a startup working in higher education we told investors that we were focused on a top down and bottom up approach. We would focus our attention on calling and meeting with Deans, Chairs, VPs and other administrative officials at universities as well as the bottom up, which was professors and instructors.
This effort was a theory, but we soon learned it was not a process. Our theory for how to approach the market was correct. What we needed to learn was how to create a scalable and repeatable process. When it comes to sales, process is how you really create momentum and build a big book of business. As a founder of Late Nite Labs I had tons of passion for the company and our products. Passion has a unique ability to spread to those you interact with, however, one person’s passion is very hard to scale.
Repeatable and scalable processes is key to driving sales
Tracking your opportunities and whom you are calling on is key. We learned early on how important data is to sales. Sales is a business of relationships, whether you are selling planes, cars or software. The key is to create a quantitative approach to your qualitative process so that what you do is repeatable, scalable and traceable. By tracking your efforts and by efforts we are talking about relationships, you enable yourself to look back at your historical relationships and understand them as well as maintain an up to date Rolodex of contacts. It’s called a CRM for a reason… client relationship management.
You buy from the people you trust.
Trust is something that can be built on a number of foundations. I have seen sales teams built with world-class experts so that the sales team is a group of peers to those they are selling to. I have seen sales teams that are genuine, sincere and confident. Both of these models can work if you can make sure to keep the customer at the focal point of everything you do.
About a year ago a potential customer returned a voicemail I left two days earlier. Not knowing who they were when they called left me vulnerable and unable to respond with a friendly tone. After catching my grounding I was able to recover, but not without ruining some confidence from the potential customer.
When you have no context to the history of a relationship you will fail and your potential customer will think you are a jerk. You might have reached out to thousands of people in under a few months and can’t even remember your mother’s name, but when an opportunity calls, you better know she’s a biology teacher teaching an online course and her favorite animal is a sea otter.
Having a well-maintained CRM can help your sales team as individual as well as team selling. The value of a CRM is only as good as the date entered so make sure to structure some sort of a bonus plan or job description around proper CRM notation.
Three Key takeaways in how to build your sales team:
1. Hire passionate people who are genuine
2. Treat your customer relationships with care, they are precious
3. Data tracking and managing is first step toward repeatable and scalable processes
You can follow Harris Goodman on Twitter at @trgoodman.
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