The next in our series, we get down to the brass tacks of how every morning likely starts out for you. Hang in there because even veterans start here.
Did any salesperson not say those words?
It is even more frequent with a startup.
There are no leads. There are very few references (maybe none). The product is relatively unproven.
It takes a unique customer to buy from a startup, and it takes a special sales team to work for a company that has 0.00000% market share.
Sure it is exciting to build something from scratch. If it works, it will be incredibly rewarding (hopefully personally and financially). You rolled the dice! You are all in!
But even with all of that excitement, it is still hard work. The leads are not there. There is never enough.
As the VP of Sales, what are you going to do? Not only are you the lead salesperson on all big deals, but you are also the cheerleader and motivator for your sales force.
Every day is straightforward even though it is tough. Here are my thoughts that get me through the day.
You Are Going To Work 80 Hours A Week
OK, if you didn't already know this going in then let me spell it out - you can kiss your significant others goodbye in the morning and then kiss them goodnight before you go to bed. That's about as much time as you are going to see them. No, I don't mean you are in the office fourteen hours a day. In sales, you are on the phone all the time because of the time zone differences. So up early for east coast then calling late for the west coast. And when that really big prospect comes in the door, the hours don't matter so much as building that relationship at all costs and all times of the days. It's just the way it is.
You Are Going To Network With Everyone
I really don't think you get much advice on this. You are going to call *everyone.* That goes from grandma and uncle Joe to the highest level target audience you can get at a prospect. So don't leave any stone unturned because you simply never know who is networked to whom outside your immediate Level1 LinkedIn connections. For example, our head for BD is an adjunct at his alma mater. Through other professors, we now have a potential market in the education sector that we never imagined could be profitable. And it just so happens that professors are a great hunting ground for enterprise software.
You Are Going To Attend Every Show
Let me qualify this statement.... attend every show you can access free of charge. As a startup ourselves, the glamour of hitting the largest shows in our market is very tempting. So tempting that I probably flood my VP of Marketing's inbox with so many suggestions that I think he is now blocking me (he is my editor on this blog, so we will see if he leaves that line in the post).
The point of marketing events is not to spend money on sponsorships. The point is to meet people in your market face-to-face so they see you as a key player. In sales, we have to be everywhere at once, or at least give the perception that we are everywhere at once. I recommend getting as many free expo floor passes as you can and network with a purpose.
- Educate everyone on what you do.
- Listen to what they are saying about you.
- Listen to what they are saying about your competitors.
- Make your pitch better on the follow-up with this person.
- Find a lead to close!
You Are Going To Cold Call For Hours
Enough said. Look at my last two bullet points. Leads take time and hard work.
You Are Doing Cold Email For Days
Statistics show that somewhere between six to seven touches are required before a prospect makes any real decision about you. We live in an era of omni-channel sales and marketing. Use it to your advantage as low-cost ways to keep your prospect thinking about you. Also, it's just a polite thing to do to call someone then send them an email afterward even if you got their voicemail.
You Are Going To Do Whatever You Have To Do
This almost goes without saying, it all bubbles up to that one line. No job is below or above the VP Sales. Whatever you have to finish TODAY, you must do. That means sales is building their own pitch decks using canned templates from Prezi or PowerPoint. There is no marketing team that creates aesthetically phenomenal templates for you like in larger companies.
Or in some cases, you are the social media team by retweeting relevant articles to your market that you hope will show prospects you are bigger than you actually are. Just this week, I received kudos from my leadership for being the best employee advocate on social media. Follow me on Twitter at @soshaughnessey and on LinkedIn. It takes minutes out of my day, but the traction I am getting with thought-leaders is priceless. And it doesn't hurt I am up 400%+ on impressions. Additionally, these touches show prospects that I am passionate about my value proposition as they connect to the value points I tweet about. I know this is an indirect form of lead generation, but it is lead generation nonetheless.
You are also going to spend writing or critiquing marketing materials (I am finishing this post on the Monday of a 3-day holiday weekend). You are going to be involved in the web site redesign project. You will be involved in marketing events. All of this leads to getting the messaging right so when you make contact then you get the leads because you are prepared.
There is literally nothing that you are not going to do as the VP of Sales and that is exactly why you want the job. In a young startup, there is no job that is this invigorating or this demanding. You know the work is long, but you also know the rewards can be achieved.
Even if yesterday sucked, it doesn’t matter. Go out there and do it some more. You are in sales. Go make it happen. Tom Hank’s character in a League of Their Own said it best, “There is no crying in [sales].” And from another Tom Hanks movie (Apollo 13) “Failure [in sales] is not an option.”
A League of Their Own is a trademark of Columbia Pictures
Apollo 13 is a trademark and copyright of Universal Studios