Even if it wins over venture capitalists to provide seed funding, attracts media attention or even the envy of other entrepreneurs, an “elevator pitch” in and of itself will never be enough to drive a startup’s initial sales.
In large organizations, selling doesn’t merely begin and end with hiring persuasive people with an impressive list of connections. Sales pros are supported by a wide range of resources and materials that educate them on products, deepen their understanding of customers or prospects and encourage them to use best practices. These tend to fall under the umbrella term of “sales enablement,” and while some may interpret it differently, market research firm Forrester developed a definition more than five years ago that companies of any kind could apply:
Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer's problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.
Note that this way of describing sales enablement doesn’t focus on a particular tool but a set of objectives that tie directly into business value and growth. Startups need sales enablement as much as any organization, and perhaps even more than most, because they are often still unknown to their market and may be competing against huge, established entrants.
1. Develop A Sales Pro Persona – And Map Out Their Month
In marketing departments, the use of personas to sketch out the key characteristics and behaviours of established customers or targets is a common practice. Boosting sales for an early stage startup, however, should involve doing the same exercise for the company’s own team, particularly those charged with driving revenue opportunities. The big difference is that, while some aspects of customer personas may rely on anecdotal information, sales personas can be crafted in partnership with the actual people. Some of the areas to discuss include:
As you develop your personas, walk through their typical activities and tactics. Don’t limit yourself to a simple “day in the life,” which is more common than customer personas, however. Look at a full month, which may include events such as a new product release or feature set upgrade, a peak moment in the average customer purchase cycle or conferences where many customers tend to congregate and consider their budget investments. You’ll be far better able to align what you offer in terms of sales enablement when you know this off the bat.
2. Host Virtual Or Video-Based Sales Enablement Sessions Vs. A Kickoff
Given their size and the number of sales reps they need to manage, many enterprise organizations host an annual “sales kickoff” event in the early part of the year. These sessions not only provide product roadmaps and go-to-market strategy updates but often feature inspiring speakers to motivate the team to boost its performance. That may not seem feasible for a startup that employs only a handful of people, or even a few dozen.
Instead, look at distance technologies that could allow your firm to enjoy the benefits of a sales kickoff by making routine enablement sessions an ongoing part of the process. Video-based communication, for example, is now available across almost any smartphone or tablet, allowing startups to connect with team members even if they’re often on the road. The same conversations and coaching that would take place in a kickoff can be led by a senior manager, while inspiration and helpful support can be delivered via animated tutorials or live chats. Experiment with several different styles to see what resonates best with your team.
3. Make Everything Mobile-First
Traditional companies can offer considerable sales enablement through intranets and other online repositories that tend to be accessed via desktops, but startups are different. Many of them are building their business model via apps on smartphones, so it makes sense to approach sales enablement in a similar way. A lot of startup sales opportunities may happen in hallway conversations at conferences or in other sudden encounters, to it’s best to ensure reps can get everything they need instantly. Here are just a few ways to ensure what you’re offering will work on a smaller screen:
Your sales enablement strategy will change as your startup grows, but the important thing is to get started. That way it will become an established part of the way your company works no matter how the organization matures.
Find more tips on sales enablement, visit our blog post “A Sales Enablement Starter Kit For Canadian Small and Medium Businesses.”