Sharing Sales Experience at the Momentum Summit
Back on June 23, I moderated a lunch-time breakout session at the Momentum Summit at MIT. The topic of my session was on scaling up the sales effort. And, since so many entrepreneurs are frustrated with this subject, my subtitle was Lies, Damn Lies, and Salespeople.
My time in sales was very important in my career. In fact, I'd recommend that every CEO, marketing, product management, or business development person spend time in sales. There is nothing like having quota pressure and seeing how hard it is to get a customer to part with their money. I think that my sales experience made me a better marketeer, investor, and entrepreneur.
Every entrepreneur is in sales. They are selling their idea to investors, potential employees, early customers and partners, and just about everyone else. In many companies, the founder closes the first deals. One of the challenges we discussed was how to transition the sales responsibility to a sales team when a founder had done all the initial sales.
To me, the most important thing to understand before you hire any sales people is 'what's our sales model'? This includes things like:
- What are the best types of leads for us?
- How long does it take us to close a deal?
- Who else tends to be typically involved in a customer decision?
- What is the basis of their purchase decision? Is their an ROI model? Or, are you addressing significant needs that can't easily be met otherwise? Or, what?
In the end, you have to be able to turn the sales process into a recipe. It's almost impossible to build out a sales team without a well-defined recipe. A very entrepreneurial salesperson can help define the recipe, but you shouldn't hire more than one of these. Get the recipe right and then start to scale up the sales team. And, don't hire salespeople too quickly as it takes some time to integrate each one and make them productive.
Other subjects we covered include how to structure sales compensation plans, what CRM systems to use, how to figure out what level salesperson you should hire for a particular job, how to team up inside sales and outside sales, how do you know when to use resellers or other channel partners, etc. There are no right or wrong answers to any of these as each company is very different.
I'll try to write a series of posts that cover some of these subjects over the next few weeks. And, next year be sure to attend the Momentum Summit as the overall event was very valuable.