Revenue is the lifeblood for any start-up with ambitious plans to grow. It’s the fuel that enables founders to build teams, fund go-to-market plans and develop those next killer product features. However, creating early sale momentum is one of the most difficult things to achieve for any start-up. Customers aren’t aware of your product. They don’t understand the value it can deliver and you have few case studies to support the sale. To make things even more difficult, your competitors seem to have endless marketing and sales resources to wow customers!
In this article, I propose two solutions to help start-ups get ahead of the competition. It will require breaking with some traditional ways of working, but for those who take the leap, I believe it lays the foundation for sustained revenue growth over the longer term.
How you sell is more important than what you sell.
Your product may be infinitely better, but as a start-up, customers see you as a risky proposition. To win, you need to overcome those fears and create compelling reasons to buy. If product value alone is failing to win, you need to find other ways to influence customer thinking and steer them towards your solution. The question is how?
Customer Purchase Experience (CPX)
In a recent study, 81% of customers said they view the customer experience as a competitive differentiator. Customers are much more likely to do business with a company if they offer personalised experiences. How you sell has become more important than what you sell. Customer expectations are higher than ever. Suppliers must be highly responsive to their needs. They want new insights, tailored content and help making key decisions along the way. It’s a tall order for any team, but that’s the new reality for most. However, there is good news. When teams operate in this way, studies show they can outperform others by as much as 80%, which for any start-up is a potential game changer. If the strength of your product alone is not enough, then bolster its value with superior purchase experiences that remove any customer doubt. Turn every interaction into another compelling reason to buy.
How to build a culture of sales innovation?
You need to create the right conditions where cross-functional team members can come together to deliver this kind of superior purchase experience. Your team know your customers, the market and competitors better than anyone else. Together, they have the ability to deliver the high value, tailored experiences that customers now demand. Ensure they have the space to work on customer strategies and planning. Allow them to explore different sales tactics – to test, reflect and learn. Create a culture of creativity and sales innovation. Share best-practices and scale across teams as you grow. In this model, people are empowered and thrive with a common sense of purpose and alignment.
- Create a Vision: Bring the team together to create a vision for CPX. Include customers in this process. Align on expectations, understand what they value. Analyse what competitors are doing. Design CPX focused KPIs and measure at key stages in the buying process.
- Enable Sales Collaboration: Enable teams to adapt and respond to individual customer buying scenarios. Create the conditions for continuous cross functional collaboration across teams. Think of Marketing, Sales and Product working together to wow customers at each phase of the buying journey.
- Encourage Team Autonomy: Trust your team to make the right decisions. Your people know your customers, the market and competitors better than anyone else. Encourage teams to take control and self-direct. This will remove the need for constant top-down management.
- Unleash Creativity & Innovation: Leverage the collective skills and expertise of the team to create innovative sales solutions to tackle any customer buying scenario. Recognise and reward new innovations: a great way to maintain competitive advantage over the longer term.
- Shift to Qualitative Measures: Shift the emphasis from quantitative to qualitative measures of success, e.g., Measure the quality of CPX at key stages in the buying journey. Measure team effectiveness at building stakeholder advocacy and consensus to buy.
You need an agile and adaptive sales process!
Traditional rigid sales processes and methodologies are failing. They often don’t reflect the intricacies of what’s really happening in the customer buying process and as a result teams often have an overly simplistic understanding of the dynamics at play. The customer purchase experience suffers and they quickly lose interest in what you have to say. Over 50% of all deals stagnate in this way, which is not a place any start-up wants to be.
Why is this happening?
Put simply, teams get bogged down with rigid internal processes rather than focusing on what customers want and value. They become obsessed with managing deal stages, creating forecasts and arguing over close probabilities – instead of engaging more deeply in the customers agenda. As a result, teams are often out of step with the buying process. They appear unprepared, deliver little value and fail to convince at key moments in the buying process. Teams are then left scratching their heads wondering where it all went wrong.
How to avoid this problem?
You need to implement a sales process that is fully aligned with the customer buying process. Then create team selling activities that are 100% focused on elevating the customer purchase experience at every stage. If you get these two things right, you’ll be well on your way to impressing customers not just with the brilliance of your product, but with the amazing capabilities of your team!
- Identify Buying Process: Spend time speaking with your customers. Understand what their buying processes look-like. Confirm what expectations they have of suppliers. Understand how decisions are made and what they value.
- Define Team Roles: Bring the team together. Clearly define roles and responsibilities across the customer buying journey. Design a team charter that outlines how the team will work together, its purpose and values. Creating clarity and trust between team members is key.
- Adaptive Process Design: Ensure your sales process is closely aligned to the customer buying process but allow space for the creation of new tasks so the team can tailor and respond to individual customer scenarios. Implement team checkpoints after each stage in the process. Review successes, failures and risks to capture learnings and improve for next time.
- Sales Excellence: Show teams what great looks like. Create a framework of recommended team selling best-practices. Encourage teams to reflect on their own performance and course correct as needed. Provide access to coaching and training so team members can take control of their development.
- Measure What Matters: Shift the emphasis to measuring the customer purchase experience at key moments in the buying journey. Measure the effectiveness of the team at building stakeholder advocacy and consensus. Look for new team selling competencies developing over time. Check for correlations with the customer purchase experience and sales performance.
If you are a start-up, you may not yet have committed to a lot of sales process and procedure. This is an opportunity to build this from the ground up. The traditional approach of scaling a fixed sales process is no longer appropriate for today’s complex world. You’ve already innovated in your product or service, now it’s time to innovate how you sell.
If you’d like to know more about Adaptive Sales Collaboration and how Animis can operationalise in your business, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be delighted to hear from you.