When you’re a start-up, the one thing you can never get enough of is time. Getting great ideas to market ahead of the competition is what separates the winners from those who wish they won. After all, it’s not just about how great your product or service is, it’s also about who is the first to lock up the market. The winners are the ones who get out there and execute.
Many entrepreneurs face the challenge of how to catapult sales in spite of limited resources and time. Getting it right can feel daunting, especially to those without sales experience. Getting it wrong is not an option; the stakes are too high, especially when you’re wooing investors.
“Go get 5 marquee clients to sign on and I’m in!” Have you heard something like this from potential investors recently? It’s pretty common.
Investors want assurances that their start-up of choice has what it takes to be successful. Before they’ll commit to the big bucks, they want to see that your great idea has legs and sparks excitement in the market you hope to win.
So what’s an entrepreneur to do? There are 4 main options, each with pros and cons:
- The business owner does the selling himself/herself
- Hire a top-notch business developer internally
- Hire low-level sellers and train them
- Outsource part or all of the business development function
The right choice depends on your specific situation. However, when speed to market matters most and you don’t have one more minute in your day, the decision becomes pretty clear.
When I was in this exact situation, I chose #4. Here’s why:
- My time was limited and valuable. It was critical for me to spend time only on the activities that no one else could do. For me, that was developing sales strategy, running the high-level prospect meetings and closing deals! Having a senior level business developer pinpoint the right decision makers and initiate new prospect relationships for me was the most efficient and least risky way to capture opportunities.
- Internal hire = higher risk
- Hiring an inexperienced seller looked attractive financially but would have required even more of my time to train and manage with no assurance that it would work.
- Any new hire (even experienced sellers) can take 2-3 months before he/she is able to go out alone and bring opportunities back. Add another 6-12 months to close a deal plus my time diverted from where I needed to focus and it just didn’t add up.
Outsourcing to a lead generation company was clearly my best option to get new clients on board in less time. Once I had made this decision, it was just a matter of determining what kind of lead generation company was right for me and my business.
As with most things in life, outsourced sales organizations are not all created equally. If you’re selling coffee to an office manager, almost any lead generation company can help. But when you have big ideas and need a seller who can articulate your vision, only seasoned business developers can do that successfully. I wanted someone who could initiate relationships with high-level decision makers and deliver opportunities to me on a silver platter.
Here’s what I used to measure the sales organizations I considered:
- Long history of engaging C-suite, SVP and VP level executives – I knew I could potentially fail if they hadn’t been able to do this for others successfully.
- Senior level business developers – To ensure I was getting top quality sellers, I checked out the careers section of their websites. I wanted to see if they were looking for sellers with 1-2 years’ experience, college grads or “actors with a good voice” kinds of people or mature sellers with 10+ years developing business as well as previously held decision maker roles.
- Experience the sellers for yourself – I asked to speak to a few of the business developers who would likely be making my calls. I was listening to hear how confident they sounded.
- How did they make me feel?
- Did they speak with conviction and sound trustworthy?
- Did they engage me?
- How many years of experience did they have calling on high-level decision makers?
- What was their track record of success?
- Had they held decision-making roles as well as sales roles?
- If they were calling me, would I want to hear more?
- Would they build top-notch sales messaging for me? – You only get one shot to get it right with busy executives, so I knew we needed the right talk track to spark curiosity and secure meetings. I considered:
- Was it a fill-in-the-blank script or did they have a strategic process in place to get down to the emotional root of why what I had to offer was of extreme value to the prospect?
- Did they work to develop rock solid answers for objections capable of moving past the objection and securing the meeting?
- How did they work with me to develop and understand who should be on the A-priority prospect list?
There are many ways to get to the finish line when it comes to sales. Start-ups don’t have the luxury to find out 6 months down the road that they took the wrong path to success. Following the straightest and fastest path to the cash separates the successful start-ups from the failures.
At Hireology I hired Kopp Consulting www.koppconsultingusa.com and their Door Opener Service. This is a company known for “getting in the door” by utilizing experienced business developers who knew how to open relationships with high-level executives. It helped us to close a number of high-profile clients in a new market we were entering.