Mark Cuban may be the most famous bootstrapped billionaire in America. According to him, the secret to success is straightforward: sales cures all. It is important to find out why sales come first — and how to make more of them.
Why sales come first.
Startups today are obsessed with metrics — but it seems many startups can’t sell. Many startups and other businesses are preoccupied with user acquisition. Cuban and other experts argue that without sales, none of the other stuff matters. Companies must figure out how to transform influence into profit, or before long, their would-be customers (and investors) will find other brands to replace them.
Why sales matter more than ever.
The most successful startups don’t appeal to everyone at first, nor all at once. Instead, they focus on a hyper-specific niche, redefine that niche and then use their positioning to expand.
For most companies, that means selling a new product or service to a group of people in desperate need of change. Buzz is great, but buzz can only go so far. Startups need to get their products in the hands of people who can use them and leverage successful case studies into further sales.
Sales — how to make more of them.
Sure, some of the early cases will encounter obstacles. That’s the point. By making early sales and getting past the problems that arise, startups can fix the issues and turn around to sell more products with fewer problems. Sales and hands-on user experiences — not marketing and internal testing — are the key ingredients to product optimization and company growth.
Startups don’t just sell to grow, though. They have to sell to survive. Investor money doesn’t last forever, and when it runs out, cash in the bank allows startups to keep going without asking for more. Even if the company needs an influx of cash, sales allow founders to play hardball in negotiations with investors who would otherwise demand bigger chunks of stock.
A sales-driven startup is a startup on the right track. How can founders make the sales they need to survive?
1. Turn thought leadership into a conversion tool.
Blogs, whitepapers and other thought leadership vehicles are great tools to boost your brand. They are tools for turning interested parties into buyers.
Figure out which questions your prospects ask most frequently and build content around those questions. Highlight correct information in your marketing content. Then, A/B test different sales techniques to turn those questions into conversions.
If your customer is better informed — you’ll have found “how to make more of them.
Do your prospects want to know the specifics of one of your core features? Create a post about that feature and send an email to people who would benefit from its use. Make it easy for visitors to either purchase directly from the landing page or view other articles about what your company does. Keep users a click away from a conversion or a conversation with a sales agent no matter where they go on your site.
2. Get personal with sales reps.
Salespeople have a hard job. They must get in front of prospects every day, which means they must always keep their spirits up. That constant pressure to stay chipper can lead to emotional burnout, especially when reps face multiple rejections in a row.
Regularly visit with salespeople to talk about the challenges they face.
Let sales and marketing vent their frustrations. Don’t tell them things like, “I want solutions, not problems.” Treat them with respect and take their concerns seriously. If they’re good at what they do, they can tell you what would help them do their jobs better.
Do salespeople not know enough about the products they sell?
Connect them with developers and designers to help them learn. Take them to the sites of successful clients to show them how those clients get the most value from the products and services. When salespeople start to exhibit signs of burnout, don’t double the pressure — allow them to step back, regroup and get back up when they’re ready.
3. Eliminate administrative work for sales teams.
If salespeople are supposed to make money, why do they spend barely a third of their time selling?
According to one report from InsideSales.com Labs, salespeople spend 37 percent of their time generating revenue, 18 percent of their time in CRMs and 10 percent of their time working on spreadsheets.
You didn’t hire your top sellers to worry about spreadsheets: you hired them to convince people to buy your products.
Invest in tools that do the heavy administrative lifting for your sales and marketing teams. This means even when those tools are more expensive than the other options. Hire a sales enablement assistant or two to take care of the busywork so salespeople can spend more of their time on the phone and at prospect sites.
Startups can’t afford to waste all their time posturing and branding.
Sales beget more sales, and companies that fail to convert leave themselves vulnerable to competitors. All competitors may have been able to turn buzz into dollars and you can too. Rethink your marketing strategy to include more conversion opportunities and give your salespeople the attention and tools they deserve to get your sales numbers higher.