Hiring Sales People in Start-ups !

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Courtesy Google

In this world of start-ups, everyone wants to be a part of it, but are you really ready to take the challenges of start-up environment. Everyday in newspapers or online blogs we read about start-ups getting funding’s and many top honchos from corporate world joining them. Does that mean you should also join the start-up? Have you evaluated your risk taking appetite? I have always been a strong believer in joining a start-ups as it gives you a chance to learn more than what you would have learnt in a big corporate firm, but learning also comes at a price and the price is your extra efforts that you have put while working in a start-up.

Sales in an important domain in any organisation be it a top corporate or a start-up. I believe hiring sales people in Start-up is a challenging job because one wrong hiring can cost time and money. So, my advice to start-ups is after you are ready with your product and you are ready to enter the market, before you hire any sales guy be sure how your product is doing in the market and what response are you getting from the market. To evaluate this the founders should approach couple of clients themselves, that you think will be key for your business. This way you will have the market knowledge also and you can guide your sales team about the approach that they need to take to sell the product. Many a times, founders make the mistake of  not reaching to the market themselves, this starves them from the market knowledge and response that the product is getting, and if to your bad luck you have hired a wrong sales person, the person can easily fool you.

Now, when you are pretty much convinced about your market and you are ready to hire your first sales guy, you should look for following qualities in him/her:

1) Does she/he has entrepreneurial mindset?

2) How comfortable is she/he in challenging environment?

3) Is she/he well spoken?

4) Is she/he ready to be on the road ?

5) Is she/he ambitious?

It is not necessary to hire a senior sales person initially, because they might not be able to deliver what your expectations are. So try to find a resource who is smart and has go-getter attitude. Because once he joins, he can always be groomed according to the market needs, which would be very difficult for a senior sales guy, as his expectation from the role would be totally different.  Besides, senior people may not have the passion of someone who is younger and less experienced. Plus, they can be very expensive.

So, once you have your first sales person on board, your responsibility does not end there. I have seen founders of many start-ups, not interacting much with their sales team, and expect them to do wonders within six months of hiring. Once your sales person is briefed about the product and sit with him/her to understand what does he/she think about the product, try to clear his/her doubts, ask him/her to make his/her first sales pitch to you itself, as this will help you understand where is he/she going wrong. You need to invest your time in your first sales person, so that he/she delivers according to your expectations.

If you make the wrong hire at the wrong time, you can set your startup back months, if not years. However, if you build a killer sales team by hiring the right people at the right time, you will raise your chances of growing your startup into a successful company.

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StartupSpeaks Launches Communication Solutions Tailored Exclusively for Start-ups & Small Businesses

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When I founded my first startup, amongst other challenges, I struggled in marketing it along the right channels and making it visible to my desired audience. The reasons were manifold but primary among them was lack of required bandwidth and shortage of funds. Many startups, most with really good offerings die within 6 months of their incorporation because their lack of momentum in gaining visibility in their particular industry sounds the death knell for their dreams.

StartupSpeaks was born out of the idea of providing startups a dynamic and yet cost effective platform where to market and promote themselves. The platform was envisioned to be independent of the industry in which the startup wishes to operates and hence be beneficial to startups from a variety of industry verticals. The first step in this direction was a “Twitter Interview” which got a wonderful response from the startups. The Twitter interview not only provide them with the desired visibility on twitter but also by using different hashtags helps them in mapping their respective industry and market segment. The format of this social media platform keeps the conversation between the startup and us very crisp and to the point. This interview as of now is a free service being provided to any startup from any part of the world.

My experience within the startup ecosystem for more than 3 years now, lets me state confidently that startups are hungry to maximize value delivered out of any investment being made towards marketing and promotional efforts. In that, they do so with greater abandon than most established brands. Understanding this nature and delivering consistently is what makes us confident of working with startups and matching their aspirations. Here we have the advantage of utilizing our expertise and come up with the package which can guarantee them some visibility without hurting them much on their budgets. Most entrepreneurs have grandiose dreams for their startups and we’d like them to devote as much of their time towards refining and developing their products/services better while we use our expertise to get them the desired visibility and brand recall in the minds of their consumers.

The plan is to enable startups to choose a tailor made communications solution which they feels benefits them the most. This can be a mix and match of services and time duration for which they would like to avail of these services. The aim is to offer them a balanced mix of deliverables, the impact of which can be measured and further built upon. 

To know more about the services provided by StartupSpeaks contact us ankush@startupspeaks.in

Follow us on:

Facebook : www.facebook.com/StartupSpeaks

Twitter: @StartupSpeaks

Google+: google.com/+StartupspeaksInc

 

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Be a Disciplined Start-Up Entrepreneur

 

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Courtesy Google

Discipline is taught to us from the childhood days. Be it discipline at home, discipline at school, discipline when you visit your relatives etc. we all grow up learning disciplines. But unfortunately as we grow up we become more in-disciplined and hence most of us face problems at home or at work or may be health issues, work-life balance etc. Have you ever thought why is this happening to us? What is the reason behind it? Why I am not able to perform at work place? Why am I stressed and think of work even when I am at home? Why my business is not growing? 

The answer to all the above question is “In-Discipline”. Starting a new venture is really easy but growing it and sustaining is the key. And most of the start-ups fail within six months of their operation. Most of us feel that now since we have started the company, its time for us to take a back seat and let my employees work for me.” I will only take “Strategic Level Decisions””. 

Following are the few points which Start-Up Entrepreneur should keep in mind:

1) Have a Routine: Most of us don’t really follow a routine after starting up our own venture. But I strongly recommend you should follow the routine as you were doing when you worked for someone else. This will not only make a strong impact on your employees but will also ensure work discipline in them. This way they will know that they can contact you when they are stuck somewhere and will reflect your seriousness towards business. You can hire the best of the resources for your company but if you are not disciplined at  work, so will be your employees. And if you’re working from home, set up a separate room in your house that’s exclusively used for work.

2) Plan your Day: It is always good to structure your day. If you are one of those who are more productive in evenings than keep most of your important business meetings during evening hours. And first half of the day you can spend with your employees. In the start-up scenario it is always better to spend more time with your employees as they will feel your involvement in the business and this will keep them motivated.Managing your own business involves juggling lots of different tasks and different clients. So plan you day in a way that you are able to finish all the important activities of the day including spending time with your employees, taking stock of their activity for the day.

3) Keep Targets For Yourself: If you can have targets for your employees, why cant you have targets for yourself. Set targets for the day, week and month. For start-ups even a day target matters. You should be very particular in achieving your targets. Make sure your employees are able to achieve their targets and to achieve that you should set your own targets and share it with team. This way your team will also feel the urgency of achieving their targets. 

4) Spend Time with Your Family: It’s also important to regularly meet friends and family, exercise or do something just for you, or you’ll end up stressed and unhappy.While work-life balance is very important, and although you tend to spend more time on your business than other aspects of your life, it’s very important to find some balance. 

5) Accept Failures: You cannot always be 100% successful. It is very important to accept failures and learn from them. Most of the people are not able to cope up with the failure and hence their down fall starts, instead of learning from it, they tend to repeat them as they cannot face failures.Ask for help, you should always ask for help from your friend, family and even your employees. May be you might be missing on some point. Fear of failure is commonly behind procrastination. 

You have the ability to build a successful business. Thousands of people have done it who have no more ability than you do. To succeed, they simply learned the necessary behaviors to make their dreams a reality, and consistently took action to reach their goals. You can do the same.

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It is a Start-Up World

Courtesy Google

It is a Start-Up World. Every morning when I get up and grab a newspaper to read, I see a new start-up with new and wonderful products. Today morning the news which really brought a smile on my face is “Flipkart hits $1 Billion GMV”. Isn’t it a great news for Indian e-commerce industry. I am a strong believer of starting something on your own and when I read about companies raising huge investments for their expansion, it is motivating.

But let’s face the real world now. Do you think all the start-ups are able to sustain? Do you think all the start-ups have their strategies in place before even starting their operations?

You have to ask yourself, why do you want to start your business?

-Is it money?

-Is it fame?

-Is it because you think it’s cool to start your business?

– Do you want to solve a problem?

– Are you bored of your job and you want to do something challenging.

-Or is it because your friend started his business and you want to prove that you can also do that?

I feel you should know the reason why you want to start something on your own. If the reason is only money than my dear friends, you should just continue to do whatever you are doing. Money is a motivating factor but it should not be the only reason for your venture. I keep interacting with my friends and colleagues, and I feel disheartening when they plan “Ferrari” even before they have started working on their ideas. I am not against a person buying a “Ferrari”, but the motive behind starting your business. In fact a person should concentrate more on his product/service that he plans to offer. If all your strategies are right, no one in this world can stop you from buying your dream car/home.

I keep following new start-ups and I work only for start-ups and help them formulate their sales strategies. I have seen many start-ups failing within six months of their launch. There are many reasons; I will mention few important ones:

– Lack of vision

-Lack of market research, I have even come across companies which does not even know what their competitors are doing. What pricing are they following?

-Founders inability to find a target market for their company.

-No discipline, by this I don’t mean dress code n all, I mean work discipline.

– Lack of founders involvement in business. If as a founder of the company you are not getting involved in business, how do you expect your employees to do that? I have seen failing companies founders think that their job was only to start the company and get some investments.

– Not hiring the right resources.

– Not keeping the track of expenses. It doesn’t mean you have started the company and you can spend flamboyantly on your business trips and other things. Keep a track of your expenses, do not spend unnecessarily, as it is said “Penny Saved is Penny Earned”.

Last but not least, your product/service will not sell automatically. You have to push it to the market even-though “YOU THINK” your product/service is best in the market. It is important to show the value to the customers. Nothing sells automatically, even to sell the well-known brand in the industry you need to put efforts, after all it is a competitive world.

Few Quotes:

“Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you.”  –Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

Make your team feel respected, empowered and genuinely excited about the company’s mission.”  –Tim Westergen, Pandora Founder

“If you’re passionate about something and you work hard, then I think you will be successful.”  –Pierre Omidyar, eBay Founder and Chairman

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Social Selling: Adopt It or Face the Heat

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Courtesy Google

Everyday we hear about the concept of social selling and most of us may argue that selling has always been a social activity. Selling is always about relationship building and hence focus on rapport building, networking and leveraging existing relationship. No doubt this has been the sales activity since the people started selling and hence still we are doing that.

But the buyer today is well informed about the product even before he/she meets you. He/she has an access to huge amount of data and information available online about the product/service, about your competitor’s offerings and about your credibility in the market. They do not have to depend on your website for the information; instead they have access to large number of blogs, discussion forums, online community where they will get the unedited version of your product/service. Buyers are now more expressive in their thoughts than ever. Any failed product or poor service from you or your company and you can see a huge discussion about it on social networking websites.

Following are the reasons why Sales People need to be more Social:

1) Lead Generation: Lead generation in the past has been a very critical process in the sales cycle and involved an elaborated cycle. But with linkedin,facebook,twitter etc. it has become easier for sales people to know their prospect and hence can know their sentiments about the product/service they are looking for, which in turn will help sales people to position their offerings accordingly. Being a part of right online forum and community is really important as it will give you the insight on buyers need and hence the product/service can be altered accordingly.

2) Information on your Competition: We all want to know about our competition and what unique are they providing to their customers. Sometimes uniqueness is so small that you will not be able to know till you see their advertising or public relation campaign and this  differentiators are so small that any advantage can make the difference between success and failure. Social business tools can give you advanced notice in these shifts in positioning. By monitoring what your competitors are saying – especially what individuals within the company are saying and the comments of those they’ve spoken to – you can spot competitive movement earlier and have an opportunity to react earlier.

3) Relationship Building: As discussed earlier that sales has always been about rapport building, relationship building and leveraging existing relationship. If as a sales person you are not a part of any social networking forum or you are not active on any of the discussion regarding your industry, than there is a good chance that your competitor is taking an advantage of this and eating up your prospects. Social networks gives you a great platform to network with your customers and build relationship with them through discussions on various forums.

Social Selling has reduced the sales cycle to a great extent. Even before you approach a buyer he has already gathered the required information and is almost done with the 50%-60% of sales cycle. So it is very important for you to be really active on your social networks and join the communities which are of interest to your business. Regularly updating your communities about your offerings and any new features that has been added to your product/service, will help in maintaining the interest of community members or your network in your product/service and you never know when they can approach you for the same.

Peer recommendations are the number one trusted source of information for any business decision (and always have been). Today, however, the definition of ‘peers’ has widened considerably. It’s no longer simply those we work with or have worked with in the past (though even this has grown exponentially with the likes of LinkedIn and Xing). Today, peers cover a vast range of people connected in a wide variety of ways.

Social networks have become the binding force that holds these connections together. They make it easier than ever for people to share information and solicit recommendations about services and suppliers. And they’re public.

While many worry about the threat of social media, if you’re in sales, it’s time to look more closely at the opportunities.

 

 

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Start-up Sales Strategy

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Courtesy Google

Sales is an important ingredient for any company’s success and it becomes more critical when it comes to start-up. Closing your first sales is an important part of your sales strategy and many of the start-up companies die even before they close a deal. And if you are not entering a well established industry than your efforts to sell your product/service increases by three folds no matter how exciting your product/service is. In that case you don’t only have to sell your product but you also have to educate your customer about your product/service as how can they be benefited from it and trust me convening for a product which is new in the market is not a cake walk.

Most common sales mistakes committed by start-ups: 

1) Not knowing their target segment.

2) Overselling their product/service

3) No sales strategy

4) Not the right price

5) Not able to understand customer

6) Not following up

7) Lack of market knowledge due to inadequate market research

8) Underestimating the competitors just because you think your product is superior

It is very much advised for the start-ups to formulate their sales strategy and have a clear understanding of the segment they want to target and don’t live in the illusion that just because you think you have wonderful product/service, it will sell like hot cakes in the market. You will just not have competition from other start-ups but also from the well established players who entered the same industry even before you were not aware of that industry and they would have gained a lot of market intelligence by now may be not the market share as the industry is still to mature.

Tactics for start-up sales:

1) Market Research & Competitive Analysis: Spend time in understanding your industry and market you are targeting. This will help you know the trends in the market and position your product/service accordingly. Research aggressively about your competitors, know their product thoroughly, as their strength and weakness will help you position your product in a competitive situation. It will also help you boost your confidence as you are more prepared and you will able to handle objections more comfortably.

2) Hire Right Sales People: It is very important to hire right sales people because they will be the one who will be driving your revenues. That means if you are a technology company you should hire sales person with technical skills, that does not mean he should be able to code but should be able to understand customer requirement and communicate same thing effectively to the technology team.He/she should be able to understand what clients are asking for in your product and can effectively work with your product and engineering teams to improve the product based on that feedback.

3) Cold Calling: Cold calling, cold calling and cold calling. Do not get discouraged when you hear no. Cold calling is important as it help you prepare your pipeline and you know which are the customers who needs immediate attention and which are the customers who can be attended at the later stage. To read more about cold calling read (http://bit.ly/ZKzRFS).

4) Pricing: Do not price your product/service without market research as this could have a negative impact on your sales strategy. Your price should be competitive with your competitors as demanding more just because you think you have an exciting product may lead to loss in sale. Pricing plays an important role in your sales cycle.

5) Use your networks: It is always advisable for start-up’s to use your networks to win initial sales, as this would help you enter market and when you go for new prospects, you have references to quote. 

6)  Focus on every customer: Just because you thing particular customer will give you more revenue you should not leave your less revenue generating customers. As a policy you should treat both customers equally and work towards satisfaction of both. In start up each deal and each customer matters as it help u gain that customer base.

 “What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone. Know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.”

– Dave Thomas, Founder, Wendy’s

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Why You Do Not Get Response To Your Emails ?

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Most of us get frustrated when we email to our prospect and we do not get any reply from their end. Have you ever wondered why? Every sales professional at one point in time must have experienced this scenario. You have talked to your prospect on the phone and he/she tells you to send an email about your company profile and you never get a reply to your email. You again call them for a follow up and you get to know that he/she never got your email. Is email really not delivered or he/she just did not care to notice?

Did you ever try to analyse, why is this happening and why your emails are getting unnoticed? You will not be the only one who will be emailing your prospect, there will be many other emails, might be from your competitor he/she gets in a day.

Reason why your emails are getting unnoticed:

-Wrong email id of your client

-Emails landing in the spam

-Your Subject line

-Your style of writing is putting people off

– Sending the wrong attachment

Email plays an important role during the entire sales cycle but if your emails are getting unnoticed during the initial stage than its an alarming situation and you are making way for your competitors.

Sales People should keep following things in mind before writing an email to their prospects:

1) Cross Check email address: Most of us do this common mistake of not cross checking the email id of our prospect. When on the phone he/she tells you his/her email id, make it a point to cross check by spelling out his/her email id. Not only this, when you have written an email and you are about to send it to your prospect, once again check his/her email id to make sure that their is no spelling mistake and its correct.

2) Use the prospect’s first name while addressing him: Always make it a point to address the prospect using his first name as this would make him feel that a particular email is intended for him and is not any random marketing email blast. This will also help in not landing your email to his/her spam folder.

3) Customize your email: As a sales person we are in habit of cut, copy and pasting same email to all our prospects. We tend to ignore email which is not specific to our need/interest. So how do you expect your prospect to read an email which is being used for everyone. Customize first few lines of email, many people preview their emails by reading the first few sentences in their email program before deciding to read the whole thing, so concentrate on writing a short and value laden opening that is addressed right to them.

4) Keep your email short: Imagine what will you do when you get a long email, either you save it for later or you just ignore by reading first few lines. So, how do you expect your prospects to read your lengthy emails and respond to them? Hence it is desirable to write short emails and use email as tool to get appointment for meeting during the initial stage of sales cycle.

5) Include your signature with company name: This will help prospect to recall you and your company once he/she reads your email.

6) Last but not least make sure to proof read your email before you hit the send key.

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