sales readiness for startupsYou can’t just set and forget sales enablement or readiness initiatives. As your startup grows and your operating environment changes, so do the challenges that your sales organization is dealing with. That’s why your sales reps will need different things to develop and improve their sales readiness at each stage of your business’ evolution.

Sales-Stages-of-Startup

1. Sales acceleration

Product stage:

Focus is on testing and validating your product
Revenue:

$100k to $500k
Funding stage:

Bootstrapping or seed funding
Size of sales team:

1 to 2 (often including the founder)
Sales structure:

Often unstructured with ad hoc process development
Sales challenges:

No dedicated sales enablement resources but the business needs some quick wins to help it validate its business model. The key challenge here is making sure they hire the right salesperson as one wrong move can lead to disaster.

Essential sales readiness initiatives:

At sales acceleration, it’s all hands on deck. While resources are scarce, putting in place the bare bones of a sales readiness program will set your business up and help new reps hit the ground running. These initiatives include:

  • Basic sales onboarding to give new hires the knowledge they need to get up to speed quickly.

  • Basic collaterals to support sales conversations and drive simple marketing campaigns.

  • Preliminary buyer personas that start defining who your target audience is.

  • Simple processes that ensure you’re not recreating the wheel either every new hire or customer conversation. This includes bringing together information and tools and putting in place same basic messaging principles.

2. Revenue acceleration

Product stage:

Refining and testing as market knowledge increases
Revenue:

$2m to $10m
Funding stage:

Series A to Series C
Size of sales team:

5 to 30
Sales structure:

As you hire rapidly the sales team is scaling. To meet the needs of the growing team defined sales processes, guidelines and procedures are put in place.
Sales challenges:

New product features are being added every week which is continuously impacting your customer value proposition and pitch. Sales team turnover is increasing as you hire rapidly and need to show investors that you can achieve results quickly.

Essential sales readiness initiatives:

It’s all systems go with both your product and sales team. To meet growth targets your sales team needs to keep up with a constantly evolving product and new team members. This small startup is now looking like a fully-fledged business.

  • As the product is refined, the customer messaging changes regularly. To keep up your sales reps’ messaging needs to be almost constantly re-calibrated.  

  • Your competitors are just as active as you, which means your sales reps need to be updated regularly on your product, competition and industry changes to make sure they’re always one step ahead of their customers.

  • A structured onboarding program is now essential thanks to your fast-growing sales team.

  • While individuals have previously led process initiatives, it’s now important to develop sales processes that are driven by business requirements.

  • Getting the most from every sales reps is crucial. Driving sales efficiency, so you can achieve more with the same resources will help drive sales performance.

  • Other support departments in your business are also growing, like Marketing and Product. In order to stay on top of what they’re doing and co-ordinate efforts collaboration is vital.

3. Hyper-growth

Product stage:

This is now

well-refined
Revenue:

$10m to $100m
Funding stage:

Series D to Series E
Size of sales team:

30 to 250
Sales structure:

Distributed

sales force located in multiple markets. Your competitors are starting to take notice and more are entering your niche.
Sales challenges:

As you grow hiring and onboarding increasingly become even more challenging especially as you start hiring in new geographies and internationally. Sales management starts to feel the unique challenges of managing remote individuals and teams.

New products are introduced which also requires reboarding of your existing reps.

Essential sales readiness initiatives:

You’re no longer part of a small business. With growth comes the challenge of managing more people and ensuring they’re all on strategy and singing in the same key.

  • Sales onboarding continues to evolve and is now a regular and predictable process.

  • With each new product launch there is a need to co-ordinate the approach, not just within your sales team, but also between your other business functions.

  • A sales kickoff is now an integral part of your sales calendar, designed to invigorate, inspire and keep your reps on track.

  • With so many reps across a wide range of locations, keeping them all on message can be a struggle. That’s where certifying their message can help bring consistency regardless of geography.

  • Coaching is now an essential part of your sales managers’ roles. They lead this initiative to drive sales effectiveness and skill development.

4. Profit and expansion

Product stage:

Maturing
Revenue:

$100m and beyond
Funding stage:

Pre-IPO
Size of sales team:

250+
Sales structure:

Proven sales processes and methodologies are in place and they support your mature sales organization. The goal now is to achieve a predictable sales method that produces predictable results.  
Sales challenges:

Sales effectiveness and capacity building are key, but they must be achieved while still managing to keep costs under control.
Essential sales readiness initiatives:

Your sales engine is now scaling to achieve predictable revenue. All your sales initiatives are designed to keep the machine humming along while identifying new and innovative ways to enable your sales team and continuously improve how they operate.

  • It’s all about the data now, so you’re constantly looking for ways to refine and improve the metrics that are helping you drive your business.

  • New capabilities and capacity are being built to ensure that predictable revenue can be achieved.

  • Your internal culture needs some focus to ensure that it is geared to constantly enable your business. This mindset should permeate every aspect of your business including strategy, analytics, logistics and operations.

What your reps need to always be prepared and sales ready is constantly changing. Even once your business has matured post-IPO your sales readiness initiatives will need to be evaluated and reviewed on an ongoing basis. This is because, just as your business always strives to achieve more, so do your competitors and your customers. This drives the momentum for continuous improvement. Once you have the essentials in place, sales readiness is about taking your sales reps to the next level so they can always stay at the top of their game.