The experts are in, and they agree: sales is some of the most important fuel for startups – yet very few companies seem to execute the fundamentals perfectly.
Nowadays, the excess of information in social media seem to drag startups into distracting endeavors, such as hiring community managers, getting into the hottest social networks, or trying to create viral content – all before having a complete product or even defining their sales strategy.
At our last Startup Grind Barcelona event, we hosted one of the most renowned sales people in the entire country, Lluís Font. Among his accomplishments, Lluís took Zyncro to an international level and sold it last year to Desarrolladora Río Paraná for 30M €. To continue putting his energy and hustle to use, he now mentors at Kompyte and leads Captio.
The fireside chat revolved around sales for startups, and this is what we learnt from him.
1. No Introverts, No Extroverts
When confronted with the question “what makes a better salesman, an introvert person or an extrovert one?” most people would choose the extrovert. However, Lluís pointed out some studies that say that extrovert people have poorer empathic skills because they don’t listen as carefully as introverts. Sales require understanding of your customer's needs – where extroverts are at a clear disadvantage.
That does not make an introvert a perfect salesman either. Introverts usually lack the communication skills or the drive to go out and talk to people they don’t know.
Therefore, according to Lluís, the perfect salesman is someone in between these two classifications. Someone who can listen and understand the client, and at the same time is able to convey clearly his message and reach out to unknown people.
2. Use Sales Hacking
Lluís pointed out that traditional sales processes are on the decline. As markets and companies evolve, so do their processes. Therefore, it is imperative to break away from old school traditional sales methodologies and start thinking outside of the box. He himself did it ten years ago, ahead of his time, but now there is no excuse not to do it.
Tools that did not exist ten years ago are having a major impact on sales teams, making it much easier to get information regardless of where we are (Evernote), manage our sales funnel on mobile devices (PipeDrive) or check whether our email has been read (Mailtrack).
Enter the concept of Sales Hacking. Sales Hacking is loosely defined as using creative techniques that aim to increase sales by using tools, channels and data in a disruptive way.
For instance, FindThatLead, one of our favorite startups in Barcelona, posted a job opening in the main online recruiting platforms looking for salesmen. That way, they earned loads of contacts in the sales area, many of which turned into customers of their product.
3. Don't Work for Entrepreneurs
Lluís asked the audience who the worst customer is - and it took many by surprise. It's not big companies, not startups, and not even the government.. Lluís was adamant about this:
"The worst customer you will have is the one-man project entrepreneur. That guy that is risking his marriage, all his reputation, his friends and his last pennies on you will be the most demanding customer. He will make dead sure you complete every task, petition a million changes overnight in order to satisfy investors, delay the payments, discuss every clause on the contract... it is too energy-draining and totally not worth it. Avoid these clients."
For every 20 customers of this category, you'll find one or two great customers. According to Lluís, it may even be a bank, as it was for him, and it can transform your entire business. Save your energy for the latter.
4. Do Your Research
When asked about his biggest mistake in business, he brought the audience back to his consulting years. Lluís was selling a popular Spanish product for remote administration of computers. It was successful among local corporations, but the company soon decided to attempt entry into the US market.
With no research and poor preparation, the product failed terribly: it didn't meet the American standards for quality, it was not visually attractive, it had way too many options – all which contributed to making it a complete failure in the eyes of the American customers.
Learning the customer's needs would have taken a fraction of the time and cost as pursuing an expansion plan.
5. Preparation is essential
Startups should not always trust their gut, contrary to popular belief. According to Lluís, preparation is 90% of a sale, leaving only 10% to other arbitrary criteria, such as luck, intuition, or charm.
Researching the customer's company, finding out who the decision makers are, understanding their needs, writing personalized offers trying to add value to their company, or offering them free content are just some of the many strategies one can use to warm and close a good contract.
Lluís was full of sales advice, and these tips just begin to scratch the surface. A sales expert yourself? What is your best advise for founders hustling on distribution and promotion of their product? Let us know in the comments!