It is amazing how much traction a business can get on purely founder-led and word-of-mouth sales. Many companies go years, and reach significant milestones, before building a sales team, and those with product-led growth can go even longer. However, the “no sales team” approach often has a ceiling. At some point, growth may start to slow and flatten. Typically, the desire to build a sales team increases as a business wants to move up-market towards larger customers that bring more significant and secure revenue.
When that time comes, the company is ready to build a true go-to-market (GTM) motion powered by sales and marketing. This is where many entrepreneurs and operators make a common but critical mistake: we try to start doing sales before we have marketing.
At first glance, it often appears that we can “brute force” the sales process by hiring an individual, high-performing sales rep and just hitting the phones or cold emails. While this can yield some results, it is often a fool’s errand because that sales rep lacks the marketing and sales management support needed to be successful. So, why is it so tough to make sales work prior to having any marketing in place?
One of the most important jobs for the Founder/CEO of an early stage startup is selling. We are talking to prospects, pitching the solution, gathering feedback, closing deals, and building the foundation of a sales process. When we start to see early success, our natural inclination is “This is working! Yes! If only we just could clone me so we could go faster…”
It’s at this point in the story where many founders make a critical mistake – a mistake I have personally made over and over again. We hire the “business hacker”– a hungry, ambitious, inexperienced person who we believe we can train in how to pitch, how to do cold outreach, and if they are good, scale from individual contributor to our future sales leader. We imagine that they will reduce our workload and enable us to sell more. Perhaps this person has some previous experience as a sales rep, but has never built a sales team or process from scratch themselves. Or, this person may have aspirations to be a founder – i.e., the “clone” that the CEO was hoping for.
Imagine the CRM (Customer Relationship Management software) as the brain of your sales and marketing team. The CRM is used to track every person who interacts with in your funnel.
Every time a lead downloads an ebook or speaks with you on the phone, that action is tracked in the CRM. Each time you engage with that lead, you have a record of what you have told them so far and what you need to do to move them along in the buyer journey.
The CRM is a primary component of your organization’s sales and marketing stack (the set of tools you use), alongside your marketing automation system. For a new B2B startup just building your team and launching your first CRM, here is how to approach it: