Most of the startups fail to consider an overall sales strategy or a sales guide before starting their startup. This article basically tells about how a sales guide can help an Indian startup.
Need for Sales Guide?
A sales guide is of utmost importance because it could help the company take their product or service to market more efficiently and effectively. This is done by focusing on the customers that are key to generating revenue.
Combined with techniques for recruiting effectively as well as measuring sales outcomes, a sales guide helps technology startups exceed growth aspirations and potentially reduce or even eliminate the requirement for external investment.
It’s worthwhile talking about the reality of the Indian startup ecosystem from a sales leadership perspective. They consist of young but promising sales leaders who have learnt the ropes. They can be tapped as a new head of sales at smaller startups.
It is still a very young ecosystem with primarily first-time founders and management teams with limited startup experience.
Hence a sales guide which gives a strategy about sales and startups is a must.
How to Start your sales?
Running a startup is a daily challenge, but there exist tools out there to simplify almost all aspects of a business, enabling entrepreneurs to minimize distractions and focus on their ‘core’.
Ideal Customer Profile Template –
A Customer Profile is a description of a customer or set of customers that includes demographic, geographic, and psycho-graphic characteristics, as well as buying patterns, creditworthiness, and purchase history.
There are many templates that could be used and in the below article we present one such template.
WordPress is the world’s most popular platform and GoDaddy is the world’s largest web host and domain provider. Together, they help you to create a beautiful website which will go on to become the face of your company when you are pitching for new businesses.
Many times you will need to conduct online surveys, just to test or improve your new product idea or to get feedback about your products and services. SurveyMonkey is an online tool which is perfectly made for it. It allows you to create your questionnaire with single selection and multi-selection answer choices. It also allows you to select the design for the survey. This tool provides various statistics about the survey. Its free up to first 100 responses, after that you can continue using the service by opting a suitable pricing plan.
As a startup, it is good to have a mailing platform to maintain your customer mailing list and conduct email marketing campaigns. email marketing is one of the most prevalent marketing technique, it helps you to spread the word about the startup and latest developments. It has an ‘Entrepreneur’ package which allows you to send 12 000 mails to 2000 subscribers for free.
This tools enables you to communicate with your team, manage them by allocating tasks and deadlines, follow their progress by sharing files and links and grouping your communications according to projects/teams.
These are two of the most popular project management tools used by many start-ups. They help you to effectively manage your tasks and projects on one common platform with the whole team on the same page.
As a startup founder, you will always have to manage many things and projects simultaneously. You have to handle multiple teams throughout the day. Trello is an online tool that can help you to manage your work, synchronize team work, organize your day to day tasks etc.
Sidekick lets you see Who Opens and Clicks Your Email. With Sidekick email tracking, one can get live notifications when someone opens or clicks on one’s emails.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) –
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. Managing client relationship is vital for a startups success and a web-based CRM can help startups maintain customer relationship – efficiently and effectively. Customer relationship right from the lead stage to assignment completion can today be managed very easily through online CRM tools. CRMs allow businesses to track prospective clients, quickly provide quotes and maintain all communication until conversion of the prospective client into a customer. After conversion, CRMs can help track the progress of work, invoices, client communications, etc., until completion of the assignment. CRM tools help effectively and efficiently manage all aspects of customer relationship and gain more insight into the business through various reports. Some examples of web based, on-demand CRMs include:
As a start-up founder, one must always have a mentor, a veteran, to help you do the right thing. It is the suggested best practice for a startup founder. SCORE provides you this, wherein a mentor is assigned who helps you to create your business model, decide the marketing strategy, test the product idea etc. And all of this is just for free. Nothing can beat the advice of a real mentor but this is a good reference.
Once you have validated your idea through customer meetings, you have to create a business model for your idea. A business model, as you know, captures various aspects of your startup viz. customer segments, value propositions, delivery channels, key resources, cost and revenue streams etc. Fiddle is an online tool which allows you to create and share your business model easily. It allows you to add attachments and notes, which makes it easier for your peers to understand and contribute to your business model.
It’s always a tough task to create product launch videos or company overview videos for free. Many times a start-up founder uses simple presentations to demonstrate the product. And it’s really unimpressive and dim. PowToons solves this problem by providing a very simple way to create promotional or introductory videos online. It provides you with templates which are easy to edit without a need to learn even a single bit about it. And the video gets ready within few minutes.
If your startup is operating in a service business, then you might have to manage multiple client projects with multiple teams working on them. In such case, Basecamp is a very useful web based tool which can be used to help you operate different project simultaneously.
Though Microsoft PowerPoint is a very nice tool for making company presentations, the world of presentations is undergoing a huge change. Do you want to take the first step? Want to improve? Prezi is a free online tool that allows you to create really nice presentations with zooming effects and a lot of other 3D designs and templates.
When working with different teams simultaneously, team members need to manage many documents, codes, databases simultaneously. Often you will be required to access one of the shared files. To avoid future confusions about the latest version of such artifacts, it is better to store them on cloud. This enables everyone to make changes to the correct file and update the file centrally. One of the best free solution to achieve this is Dropbox. It’s an online cloud storage tool that allows you to manage your data on cloud. Dropbox is available for mobiles too so that makes it more usable.
This application lets you interact with your customers/prospective customers on a one to one basis through live chats, targeted emails, specialised in-app messages which are triggered by behaviour and time to build your business.
Meetup is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world. It can help you meet your fellow entrepreneurs in your region/industry and get a better understanding of the market.
As a founder, you will have to manage different company accounts eg. sales, marketing etc. Moreover, you will be required to send invoices and bills to your customers. Wave apps provide an online accounting and invoicing solution. It provides features like invoice creation, bills creation, accounting etc.
27) CoFoundersLab If you have a great start-up idea and are looking for like-minded co-founders to partner with, this online matchmaking service is the place to go. It helps you to find the right people online and in-person events.
LaunchRock is a platform that enables its users to create viral “Launching Soon” pages with built in sharing tools and analytics. It help its clients incentivize and reward users for telling others about their projects through email and social networks.
With a focus on content marketing, Scoop.it helps professionals and businesses publish content online in a meaningful, easy and rewarding way. It is a convenient form of finding and creating content for social media marketing.
People are one of the biggest asset of any startup. Therefore, startups spend tremendous amount of time, energy and resources in finding the right talent for the positions. The following are great tools that can help startups recruit the right talent in India:
Homerun is a lightweight tool that makes recruitment personal and effective. It enables businesses to create authentic job openings, receive richer applications and review applicants faster and more effectively.
It is Google’s advertising system in which advertisers bid on certain keywords in order for their clickable ads to appear in Google’s search results. It is definitely one of the most important tools to advertise online.
Phone System –
Startups must quickly try to portray a professional image to its clients. Telephone answering machines and automated telephone exchanges is a great way to quickly establishing an image of sophistication among prospective customers and existing clients. The following cloud based telephone exchange platforms can help your business have an automated telephone system without the hassles of capital investment or maintenance.
TinyJPG helps make websites faster by compressing JPEG images by 40-60%. It analyses images and chooses an optimal strategy to apply the best possible JPEG encoding, keeping the quality impact but reducing the size at the same time.
Rewardstream lets one create engagement and lead generation through well-designed, best-practice-driven, and highly tailored referral marketing plans tuned to meet one’s business’ changing needs. It makes it quick and easy for marketers to incorporate digital, mobile, and word-of-mouth referrals into their customer acquisition and brand awareness mix.
PostMark is a web app which removes the headaches of delivering and parsing transactional email for web apps, all with minimal setup time and zero maintenance. It lets you see who opened your emails, where they opened it, what clients and platforms they used, and even how long they read the email.
Near Me is a peer-to-peer commerce solution enabling anyone to setup their own branded marketplace. Users can create peer-to-peer marketplaces to share, trade, swap or rent anything all over the world.
Codecademy is an online interactive platform that offers free coding classes in eight different programming languages. It also provides a forum where enthusiasts, beginners, and advanced coders can come together and help each other.
For more sales and marketing tools, click here and here.
And for more details related to How to start sales for your startup, click here.
Basic Tips on the Sales Guide Strategy for Indian Startups
Given where we are, it is even more important that startups have a sales guide to think about their sales leader hire and find a match that increases chances of success. Hence here is a sales guide that could be of great use for the Indian startup companies.
1) Know your Steps –
Before jumping into the fire, make sure to go through these essential steps for Starting a New Business.
Thus these steps for Small Business Startups will help you cover the essentials as well as save your time.
2) Small can turn out to be Big –
India’s major urban cities include governance hub Delhi, financial capital Mumbai, and technology hub Bangalore. Consumer tech startups like food delivery company Swiggy and e-commerce site Flipkart have had considerable success in these regions. But it gets more difficult once you get out of urban areas and the upper class. Hence, small is the new big.
With 22+ official languages across 29 states and seven union territories, India is diverse. Add to that innumerable religions and major class differences. Hence, you have a melting pot of customers that is impossible to tackle at once. So start small by focusing on a single region and moving outward.
For example, if you’re selling inventory management software, choosing a small niche market could mean starting with pitching only to businesses that manufacture construction equipment.
You could narrow your beginning niche by focusing only on these types of companies. These are located in the western United States and have 100 to 250 employees.
By working your sales strategy only with this homogeneous group of companies, you’ll be able to perfect your pitch for this space much quicker than if you were mixing in businesses of all shapes and sizes.
3) Ability to hire great sales people –
This is a fundamental requirement that you need to do reference check upon. Good sales leaders are able to attract a strong sales team.
Ask how they go about the hiring process and how quickly can them assemble a team. Within 3-4 months, your new sales leader should have made a lot of progress in putting a team in place. This includes being able to fire under-performing sale reps and yet maintain a positive atmosphere.
Also, it’s necessary to hire people who interact with the founders, product teams as well as the customers.
Feedback on chemistry from your other teams could be the tie-breaker that makes you decide on a candidate.
For example, imagine a scenario where you have two well-qualified candidates. One is a seasoned veteran from the industry who worked at a large organisation and had delivered large numbers. Other is a candidate who had succeeded in a smaller organisation without much of a brand name. While both were great individuals, the latter gets the job due to higher quality of interaction with functional teams.
4) Present the Perfect Sales Pitch –
Once you’re confident that you’ve connected with the right point of contact, you need to have an effective sales pitch. One that captures the attention of your prospect and keeps the conversation moving in the right direction.
Spend too much time talking about your company, the benefits of your solution, the clients you’ve worked with, why your prospect should sign up today and you’ll risk ruining the relationship straight out of the gates.
Entrepreneur, investor, and co-star of ABC’s Shark Tank, Robert Herjavechas heard an elevator pitch (or two) in his day. When it comes to delivering an effective pitch, he says it’s more about showing your expertise. It’s not just rattling off the highlight reel of numbers and clients you’ve worked with.
Lean heavily upon showing your prospect that you’ve already developed an understanding of the challenges they’re facing, as related to the area of the business your solution will help with.
5) Ask the Right Questions –
Selling is not telling. The most fundamental intent of a sales guide is to create a systematic platform for discovery and analysis. A well-considered sales execution strategy should provide clear answers to questions such as:
Who are the most influential customers in the target market?
What are the poignant business issues that they face?
What are the tactical problems that are created?
How might the value proposition address these problems and what impact would it have?
How motivated might they be to buy, given the value proposition?
Who would they consider the competition to be?
How would the customers perceive the difference between the startup and its competition?
What would they be prepared to pay?
How and for what would they pay?
Who would they tell?
Hence, answering these basic but very important questions, can be the most helpful sales guide tip. This is because the product or service would reach out completely to the customers, according to the customers.
6) Setup and Competition –
Setting up shop in India can take a while. Startups have conventionally gotten around this by headquartering in Singapore or Mauritius, and servicing in India. The government has thus taken action to change this, however. There’s a “Startup India” portalwhere you can register your startup online.
For foreign nationals, the best route is to start a private limited company. While a non-Indian can act as a director, at least one director must be an Indian citizen and resident.
One method is for a non-Indian company to create an Indian subsidiary and make a foreign direct investment (FDI) into it. The subsidiary will have to include participation by at least one Indian national. FDIs don’t require government approval unless you’re investing in particular sectors like natural gas, defense and strategy, atomic minerals, and print media. Foreign investment in proprietorship or partnership requires prior approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Lack of an effective sales process is an area of weakness for startups, and founders often don’t spent enough time understanding how the new hire is going to make it better. You certainly don’t want someone trying to duplicate a big company process in a startup. However, running a simple but metrics-driven lead generation, conversion, sales pipeline, and deal-close process goes a long way in most cases.
Ask about tools they have used or how they plan to monitor targets in terms of inbound leads, conversion rates, deal sizes, and account growth.
If it’s a SaaS solution, can they articulate SaaS-specific, lead-generation activity, discussions, sales order ratios, and how to increase conversion rates.
An important part about entering a new country is launching your global team. India is set to have the highest number of developers in the world by 2018. They’re generally more affordable than their Western counterparts. The biggest job site in India is Naukri. For startup hiring, LinkedIn, AngelList, and HasJob are also popular. Freelancing is also gaining popularity. Don’t be afraid of the informality – sites like HackerEarth let employers test developers for their skills before hiring.
8) Clearly articulate end results –
People buy results, not just products or services. End results equal value.
Once you’ve captured your prospect’s attention with what they’ll be able to achieve by using your solution, it’s now your job to clearly explain how that’ll happen and what they’ll get after signing up.
Don’t immediately show them that you don’t have empathy for their position. You’re not even trying to understand them—which is the first step towards providing meaningful solutions that’ll actually turn them into happy, loyal customers.
Your prospect needs to know exactly what they’re going to get as far as deliverable, when those milestones will be met, and the downstream impact they’re expected to have on their business.
9) Be flexible –
Since saying “you can’t,” “won’t,” “that’s impossible” and other variations of no to your prospect is a death sentence, your sales strategy needs to be flexible enough to adapt in the face of new challenges on the go.
It’s that simple: You can’t afford to say no.
When you do, you lose your perception as a problem-solver and instantly close the door to a room full of possibilities.
Instead of disagreeing with or flat out turning down a request from your prospect, use a response like, “I’d love to make that happen for you”. This will give you the opportunity to check with the rest of your team and see if there’s any possibility to accommodate their request.
10) Listen to what your prospects are telling you –
By building your sales strategy around listening carefully to (and recording) the most common objections, feature requests, competitor software in use and other key bits of information, you’ll be able to perfect your approach and gradually increase your close rate.
More than just listening, how are you actually sharing this feedback with the rest of your team? Don’t let your learning slip into a black hole where they don’t reach other team members who are making product decisions that could potentially increase the effectiveness of your product.
Since side comments are often forgotten, use these strategies for sharing meaningful customer feedback with your team.
Host a public feature request page with voting options like how Asana does
11) Negotiate for a win-win –
The real purpose of negotiating for a win-win with your prospects is to demonstrate respect and the intention to work with them again in the future. It’s valuing long-term relationships over insignificant details.
Providing additional value, rather than axing your pricing structure is a must.
Prepare yourself ahead of time with a list of additional features, bonus add-ons and special offers you can potentially throw in to sweeten the negotiation if necessary.
Keep in mind the higher the value of the solution you’re pitching, the more important it’ll be to remain flexible enough—and get your manager’s buy-in for leveraging win-win deals that overlook the minor details as much as you can.
12) Follow up until you get a definite answer
Following up is the necessary backbone of any good sales guide. Having a couple of good sales calls with your prospect, only to let them silently drop off the face of the planet signifies a death spiral for your sales guide strategy.
The point of following up until you get a definitive answer is that you’re never leaving a maybe on the table.
In the world of startups, “maybe” can kill your business and you need to strive for extremely clear outcomes with every prospect you speak to. Otherwise, if you have a great first call and you allow them to drop off the map without a clear yes or no, they’ll just hang around on your list of “people you should get back to” and you’ll never move on from them.
Hence, get the definitive answer—no matter how long it takes or how many follow ups you need to send.
13) Ask for specific referrals –
In 99% of the scenarios, the person you ask for a broad referral from will tell you they need to think about it and get back to you. But this rarely happens. Not because they don’t want to help, but because they’re probably busy doing their own job.
If your sales guide strategy includes tapping into your existing network or leveraging current customers to get in touch with new sales leads, you can get more high-quality referrals by taking the time to identify prospects in advance.
Check out their list of connections on LinkedIn and look through previous companies they’ve worked with to create a shortlist of strong potential referrals you can ask for.
Check out this article that tells about how to ask referrals in sales, by clicking here.
14) Give short product demos –
Giving a product demo that sells isn’t just about knowing your product inside and out.
By showcasing upfront how your product will specifically address your prospect’s challenges, you’re leaving no room for ambiguity.
Focus on showing the solution your prospect is most interested in rather than running through a laundry list of product features.
Rather than showing up to your next product demo meeting with the standard presentation you use for everyone, crafting your product demo to suit the needs of each prospect will translate into more closed sales.
Personalization is what matters most. When you’re demoing a product, you always want to demonstrate value, not features or functionalities. Nobody cares about the features of your software. The only thing they care about is what it’ll do for them.
15) Address uncertainty when you see it –
If you’re in the middle of a product demo and there’s been some head nodding so far, but not too many questions from your prospects. You’re starting to feel that there’s a little uncertainty about whether or not this is right for them,but you’re not exactly sure why.
Instead of pushing through your presentation or sales script for the sake of finishing up quickly, pause and use this as an opportunity to address the uncertainty you’re feeling in the room. The deal isn’t lost yet and demonstrating how your product does what they need can help you recover in this situation.
However, if you ask something along the lines of, “Are you getting this?” or “Did that make sense?”, most prospects aren’t likely to give you an honest answer because they don’t want to sound dumb in front of their peers.
Rather, when you’re sensing that uncertainty, call it out. If you notice a questionable reaction to something in particular that you just said, acknowledge it by saying, “I feel that might not have come across 100% clear. Would you like me to explain that more?”
16) Use the PAS framework –
P-A-S stands for problem-agitate-solution. This sales strategy is defined by shaping all interactions with your prospect around the context of identifying their biggest problems and positioning your product as the best possible solution to them—if indeed that’s true. Here are the three stages of the PAS framework in action.
Problem: Identify and clearly state the #1 problem your product solves for prospects.
Agitate:Highlight how dangerous the problem is and remind prospects about all the negative implications it can have.
Solution:Position your product as the solution to their specific problem.
It’s important to note that the PAS framework isn’t about generating false problems or convincing people to buy out of misplaced fear—the goal of this sales strategy is to help your prospect identify their problems. To make their challenges more clear, which gives you the opportunity to agitate that problem with more context around further implications, how the situation can worsen and what would be different for their business if they could solve it. Then, if your product can genuinely help your prospect solvethe problem at hand, positioning it as the solution is the natural last step in this sales guide strategy.
17) Intelligently use free trials –
Incorporating a free trial into your company’s sales guide strategy can lead to massive gains in paid signups—if you do it right.
But what constitutes a smart free trial? The answer is A short one.
The real purpose of giving your prospects a free trial should be to help the right people commit quickly to signing up, while giving others the opportunity to verify whether or not your product is right for them.
It’s a tool that needs to be used sparingly, which for 99% of startups means no more than 14 days in length, since usage statistics for most free trials show that only a small minority of people use products for more than three days in a row during trials.
By keeping your free trial short, you’ll also increase the likelihood of prospects taking it seriously and spending time truly evaluating your product.
18) Employ email automation –
Email automation will become an increasingly important component of your overall sales guide strategy as your organization grows. In the very beginning, you can get by with manual outreach to people who sign up for more information on your product, but that won’t last for long.
From delivering a timed sequence of educational content like a free sales course that introduces your product to new emails subscribers, to activity-based emails that get triggered when your prospects take a certain action, email automation is ultimately designed to create (or reinforce) the right behavior for encouraging conversion to paid accounts.
Think carefully about your customer’s journey from first discovering your website to eventually paying for your solution.
Interview your existing customers to get a consensus on what was most convincing for them to sign up—then construct a series of automated emails that are designed to get your newest readers and subscribers to experience that same positive effect or result.
It’s also essential to humanize your automated emails. Your subscribers want to know that there are real people behind your emails and that when they hit reply to ask a question, they’ll get an answer.
19) Update your Technical Knowledge –
One of the founder has to understand technology.
Way too many startups fail because of bad technical decision specially choosing wrong technology stack (I have done it).
Don’t just chose something because this is all you know. You can spend 3 months learning something which will be far more beneficial so be open for it.
Also do not do premature scaling. Don’t buy costly servers and start talking about scaling with you have few hundred records and your product don’t even need that.
Don’t use technology just because it is cool. Using AWS, angular, node.js is fine but may be overkill if all you need is $10/month hosting and a web framework which supports crud operation.
Also, make sure to keep track of the recent updates made in technology as well. This would surely help your company.
20) Sales, Marketing and Finance –
Make sure you grow organically initially. Nothing is better than growing without sales and marketing teams. There would be zero budget and growing by word of mouth.
It basically lets the users find you as this will validate your business model as well.
Avoid hiring too many sales and marketing people initially.
Premature hiring specially of sales and marketing team will burn your cash really fast.
Sales and Marketing will take more time and resources than technology but it is an integral part of business growth.
Another aspect that is equally important is finance.
If you are running a private limited company, make sure you keep your finances clean. All the data for private limited companies are publicly available with directors name so you don’t want to default anything as a director. Your name may get blacklisted if you don’t audit and the file would return. Hence, hire a good friendly CA (not a firm, they are only there to make money) who would give you good advice too.
So with these 20 tips, we wrap the huge sales guide or sales strategy. Hence, hopefully this sales guide helps you with your startup and thus you could grow your startup to reach higher growth levels.
Navaneetha, popularly known as "nav", loves to read, play badminton, play the keyboard and sing but when she's not doing any of those, she loves to write. What started as a high school hobby to write is now her ongoing passion. At AeroLeads, she manages Inbound Marketing and Social Media Marketing.