Over the past two years I have had the good fortune of working closely with more than 30 fast growing startups. The common denominator for most of these software companies was that they were circling around the product-market fit zone. While some managed to become “fast-growing” because they were successful in securing funding, many ended up in a worse spot feeling the heat from investors, demanding tangible results quickly.

This pressure often led startups to focus on the opportunities at hand and postpone the formulation of the sales playbook, instead they compromised and generated ad hoc collateral (case studies built upon a customer request, demo “scripts” are simply recordings of the most successful sales call)

The problem with this lack of consistency is that it may eventually hinder a company’s scalability.

To help you avoid these pitfalls, here are eight dimensions I beg you to align your team around:

  1. What are wea product, a technology, a platform, a solution? What do we do? To what category or quadrant do we belong?

    Remember, the “buyer” doesn’t care if you think you are the first / best of your kind, she wants to understand what you do and why she would be better off with you than with the many alternatives out there.
  1. Value proposition – which use-cases do we cover and how do we address the challenges inherent to those use cases. (Remember consistency!!)
  1. Challenges we address (and challenges we don’t) - I have heard sales people offer to address global warming with task management solutions. Here is where you must be clear - know and articulate well the challenges you address. Use this as a basis to engineer a set of qualifying questions that will open the customer up to admitting their list of priorities, which will then help you to identify the compelling events that could enable a deal.
  1. Compelling events and qualifying criteriaWhat are the potential triggers that may cause your buyer to acquire your product or service this year? For example, maybe your customer is losing millions, or her CEO instructed her to reduce a regulatory exposure, or maybe your prospect is growing like mad and has lost his ability to control the organization.

    Don’t sugar-coat it, if the prospect doesn’t show the symptoms articulated in this list of events, don’t expect the opportunity to evolve this year.

    While I personally believe the compelling event is the single most important qualification criteria, you may use additional signals to qualify a customer (for example number of potential users, number of transactions etc..)
  1. Vertical – which verticals should you target (Telco, Healthcare, Etc.), should you articulate yourself differently when you approach the same persona in a different vertical? Should you use different use-cases and different collateral?

    Consider which verticals are more likely to experience the challenges you cover and have the potential to show “compelling event” signals.
  1. Personas and consequent messaging – Who are the different players: buyer, influencers, decision maker, and gator (the one just looking for an excuse to keep you out)?

    Identify these players and tailor your messaging and collateral to each audience:
    1. Call scripts and agendas
    2. Product related, use-cases, cases-studies collateral
    3. Outline your sales process
      1. Clearly define what a lead, Marketing qualified lead (MQL), Sales Qualified lead (SQL) and opportunity are and who on you team is responsible at each stage.
      2. Define each funnel stage and rules for moving to the next stage
    • Write sample emails
    1. List discovery & qualification questions
    2. Create guidelines for proposals (even if you eventually break those guidelines)
    3. List negotiation questions
  1. Demo script – Consistency (!!!) in the demo you need to show the capabilities of your solution and how it addresses the challenges and compelling event the sales person qualified.
  1. Objection handling – Make sure your sales team is prepared by creating an evolving Q&A form containing potential objections and pushbacks you are likely to hear and your best answers.

Hope this comes handy, and please remember a good articulation of your playbook is mandatory in order to achieve scalability and growth.