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
The problem with this lack of consistency is that it may eventually hinder a company’s
To help you avoid these pitfalls, here are eight dimensions I beg you to align your team around:
- What are we – a product, a technology, a platform, a solution? What
do we do? To what category or quadrant do we belong?
“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.
- Value proposition – which use-cases do we cover and how do we address the
challenges inherent to those use cases. (Remember consistency!!)
- 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.
- Compelling events and qualifying criteria – What 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
you may use additional signals to qualify a customer (for example number of potential users,
of transactions etc..)
- 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.
- 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:
- Call scripts and agendas
- Product related, use-cases, cases-studies collateral
- Outline your sales process
- Clearly define what a lead, Marketing qualified lead (MQL), Sales Qualified lead
and opportunity are and who on you team is responsible at each stage.
- Define each funnel stage and rules for moving to the next stage
- List discovery & qualification questions
- Create guidelines for proposals (even if you eventually break those guidelines)
- List negotiation questions
- 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.
- 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.