Typically, a startup company looking to have a successful journey from concept to the first sale and an eventual exit needs to have strong, visionary leadership in place. Why do so many startups fail, even when they seem to have all the elements needed for success? We believe that it is largely due to not having an experienced sales executive involved early to drive the right Go-to-Market strategy. Even when the early missteps are recognized, it’s usually too late by that time as the company foundation is not mature enough to withstand a full course correction.
However, an experienced executive – particularly in the world of technology sales – can be a cumbersome cost for a young company to carry. An Interim Sales Leader can bring all the benefits of knowledge, experience and skills expected of a proven industry veteran, but be a just-in-time, just-enough solution that frees up the company to judiciously invest where needed. This leader be an anchor of calm during chaos, helping the business grow with expertise and good decisions, and guide the company through a critical and delicate period.
It’s common for less experienced sales managers to focus almost exclusively on short-term tactics and current operations, especially when the company is in its early stages. It’s hard to fault them, but the consequences for failing to think and act in a way that supports the longer-term needs of their businesses can be dire.
The biggest problem with a short-term sales mentality is that managers develop blind spots around crucial success factors such as recruiting, hiring, sales best practices and training and development. These blind spots are especially prevalent in early-stage firms where a common rationalization is: “I know those issues are important, and I’ll get to them when the quarter closes and things settle down.”
At FireOne, we know that ignoring these issues, particularly talent processes and strategies, can have unintended consequences and stall one’s growth efforts. There are ways to avoid these blind spots, however. Below were the areas and some of the results from this engagement with a Silicon Valley technology startup company:
- Recruiting: We focused on bringing top tier sales reps, staffing a field team of 8.
- Onboarding: Many companies reduce their field of vision by following a hire-and forget approach. For this engagement, we implemented a solid onboarding process for new sales hires to get them productive as fast as possible.
- Training and development: We focused on command of the message and developing evangelists for the products. We also developed tools and resources such as sales playbooks, prospect profiles, and buying personas.
- CRM implementation: We rolled out Salesforce.com with customized fields and reports to align to the company’s sales process.
- New Logo wins: Successfully acquired new clients on North America with Geo-centric sales model.
- ELT engagement: Provided strong feedback loop to the company’s executive leadership team to ensure alignment and support.
- Recruited, hired and integrated permanent sales leader