Scaling Sales as a Founder

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The question that’s on the lips of many - if not all - founders is:  “How do I scale my startup?"

At the beginning of your business journey, you’ve come up with a great product or service, and started to build up a dedicated and talented team to help bring your business to life, but at what point should you take the next step?

The first thing to bring to your attention is that your sales function is a vital component for the eventual expansion of your business.

Why? Because your sales team wins over clients who directly impact your bottom line, and your bottom line is what determines whether you can do more with your business or not.

So, in order to increase your bottom line and get more clients, you’ve got to equip your sales function and processes to handle more customers and a bigger market.

What’s the difference between growth and scaling?

Firstly, you need to understand that the concept of “scaling” is different to the concept of “growth”. When we talk about growth, we are generally referring to the idea of a company increasing their resources, and, as a result, increasing their ROI.

Scaling, however, implies that a business is able to generate more revenue, without having to increase resources too much. If you’ve implemented processes that scale, such as email marketing, you’ll be able to reach greater audiences effectively, with minimal, and only incremental, costs to the company.

What your sales structure should look like

Before scaling your sales function, you’ve got to ensure you have the correct sales structure in place. This structure is crucial for making your processes simpler and more scalable. Here are the four components of an organisational sales structure:

Sales Development Reps (SDRs)

Your SDRs are responsible for knowing your ideal customer profile (buyer personas) like the back of their hand and using this knowledge to give account executives a number of sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

To scale SDRs you could use automation on social platforms and email marketing, to reach out to a larger number of SQLs.

Account Executives

The role of the Account Executive (AE) is to help SQLs make the best possible purchase decision based on their needs and wants.

The AE uses the sales pipeline - in other words, a series of steps towards the eventual closing of a sale - to build relationships with each client and help to meet their sales needs.

Customer Success Manager (CSM)

The CSM takes over from the AE once a sale has been made, and their job is to ensure the customer knows how to use or set up the product effectively, and gain the necessary value from it.

Revenue Operations

You can expect that within your sales function, there will be a tonne of software tools being used by various members of the team. This software could be crucial to help you scale your processes, and so it’s important that your teams are trained in how to use it.

The Revenue Operations team is responsible for ensuring the tools are being used effectively.

How to scale your sales team and processes

Running a startup is no joke, and it might seem like there are a million boxes to tick and lists to cross off. We’ve outlined how to build your scaling sales team in six (fairly) simple steps:

Step 1: Determine the type of sales team you want

Naturally, you’ve got to make sure that you know who you need on your team and what you need them for. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when searching for your ideal sales team:

  • Are you focusing on inside or outside sales?
  • What experience is necessary for your team members to have?
  • How many people will it take to scale the team?
  • What sort of resources do you have available to support them?
  • What skill sets are you looking for?
  • What tools do you require in order to scale within your budget?

Step 2: Choose your dream team

Now that you know the ideal sales structure, you’ll see that Account Executives should be the first people you hire on your sales team. They are the sellers of your product and need to have a specific set of skills to make their customer relationships work.

Here are a number of characteristics and skills you can consider when hiring your AEs:

  • Creative thinkers
  • Teachable and excited to learn
  • Competitive and driven
  • Thoughtful in their interactions with others
  • Resilient and agile
  • Self-starters
  • People-oriented
  • Not afraid to ask questions to better understand 

Remember to also consider that your sales team should ideally consist of a diverse range of genders, cultures, experiences, ethnicities and background so you can reach a wide range of prospects.

Step 3: Implement a repeatable sales process

Process is an important part of scaling. It’s not just about growing your team, but about implementing a method that allows your team to operate at scale. Whether it’s analysing data; tracking progress; allocating sales time; or outlining tasks, your process needs to be simple and repeatable so that new hires who join the team know exactly what to do and how to do it.

Your sales process should include the following:

  • Key Performance Indicators 
  • Specific stages in the pipeline 
  • Criteria for what qualifies a lead at each stage of the pipeline
  • Defined tasks for salespeople to complete at each stage of the pipeline

Step 4: Subscribe to an activity-based selling philosophy

Activity-based selling draws focus to your team’s activities and the flow of the activities too

These are actions from your team that have a direct impact on sales results. When you optimise your team’s activities and ensure the flow of tasks is efficient and effective, you will improve your team in the following ways:

  • Keep reps focused on the tasks at hand rather than worried about hitting targets
  • Everyone is following the same process and focusing on the same activities, making the process easier to measure and manage
  • Enables you to determine if the process is scalable or not. If every rep is accomplishing their activities, the process is working and is scalable. If only one rep is failing to complete activities, it is likely not because of your process, and highlights that the rep may need extra training 
  • Provides clarity and specificity, which injects confidence into sales reps - a quality that is very much needed in an industry where rejection is rife. If you are encouraging your reps to focus on achievable activities, they will see results, and this will give them a much- needed morale boost

Step 5: Invest in a good CRM

A CRM is a must-have investment if your company is getting bigger. It helps you to cut down on and automate administrative work so your team can focus on what matters: The sales. It’s important you research the various CRMs available and ensure you invest in one that:

  • Your team feels comfortable using and learning
  • Doesn’t require too much training time 
  • Is able to scale alongside your business
  • Offers features like automation 
  • Can integrate with other tools and software

Step 6: Use KPIs to make smarter decisions

In order to scale, you need to make smarter decisions. And to make smarter decisions you need to be able to predict any possible obstacles in the future, or concerns that might impact your business success.

By implementing key performance indicators (KPIs) into your sales scaling process, you’ll be able to anticipate and counter any areas of weakness, and focus on increasing your sales growth.

Avoid these 5 mistakes when scaling your sales

Now that you know how to go about scaling your sales, be sure to not make the following errors along the way:

  1. Failing to target the right customer
  2. Not prioritising customer retention and focusing solely on acquisition 
  3. Failing to clearly define your sales process
  4. Not upskilling your sales reps through training opportunities
  5. Providing your sales reps with unclear roles and responsibilities

Remember, don’t wait too long to scale

The biggest mistake you can make is waiting to scale.

You should be implementing systems and processes, designed for scaling, from the very outset of starting your business.

If you wait too long, and allow your team to grow big, you’ll waste time and resources having to institute new processes and teach them to the team.

So, no matter where you are at with your startup - whether you have a minimum viable product and an established customer base or not - you must always move forward with scaling in mind.

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