A Short Story About Startups and Sales

IMG_2329Let me tell you a story. One of the companies I work with is a small tech startup. About year ago, it was in the same place that many small tech startups find themselves in. They had some early traction, and they were well positioned to be a high-growth company. And, like many early stage companies, they were completely intimidated by sales.

The founders were truly talented on the tech side of the business, and the last thing they wanted to learn was sales. Early on, they didn’t have much need to, either. They were fortunate in that there was already a demand for their product, and they already had most of the connections they needed to make those early sales happen easily.

After their initial burst of growth, however, it became clear that they needed to scale the business. To do that, the founders knew they would need to bolster their sales. Like many startups, they thought that the obvious answer to the problem was to hire a sales director. Hiring someone to handle their sales wasn’t going to be cheap, and that meant finding a way to pay for the new position.

They asked for my help to find ways to get them the capital they needed. We talked about everything from the private equity process to securing loans, weighing the risks and benefits of each possibility as we went. The more we talked, the more clear the picture became for me. The easiest way for them to get the cash they needed wasn’t finding an outside investor, it was beefing up their sales process.

They didn’t have a lot of cash on hand, but they had just enough seed capital remaining to begin putting a solid sales foundation in place. For a relatively small amount of money, they were able to bring in an expert to help them set up the sales side of their business. This was mostly a matter of teaching them the fundamentals of sales, which increased their confidence.

The more they learned about sales, the less intimidating it became. For the first time, they had a means of controlling their revenue. They now had the means to fund their own growth, something that had seemed impossible only a few months earlier.

Armed with their new sales knowledge, they also knew what to look for when hiring sales reps. The knew how to train them, and they knew how to manage their activity. That sales knowledge became a part of their company culture, and sales priorities quickly became integrated into every aspect of their business.

Today, a year later, that company has several great sales reps. They’re making sales every day, and in several states. Their sales process is data-driven, repeatable, scalable and predictable. They are making much more money, and they’re having much more fun.

The most exciting part? They didn’t need outside investment to make it happen. The funny thing is that the company is now far more appealing to investors now, because they have the sales side of the business locked down.