Lessons Learned by Sales Professional and #GAmentor Martin Guersoy
When expanding your business into a new market there are many things to consider and oftentimes the sentence “do your homework” is the credo during the preparation phase. With sales, this rings true on your home turf but especially in new markets where sales processes might not even have been tested yet, it is even more important. In our “ultimate guide to sales” session, German Accelerator mentor and sales veteran Martin Guersoy gave an overview of the most important aspects for startups aiming for success in the U.S. Having made his passion for coaching his main occupation, as Managing Partner at Kaan & Associates, he also acts as a sales advisor for U.S. and European companies. The data-driven approach in building teams, improving processes, and making sales more predictable enhances their clients’ success.
Lesson No. 1:
Do Your Homework – Know Your Customer
In order to understand who your customers are, startups need to define who they want their customers to be. Asking questions such as ‘who can benefit from our product’ or ‘who do we want to target with our service’ can save valuable time for newcomers in the U.S. market. “As a startup, you always have a limited amount of resources. You should know who you’re going after as a customer and where you have the highest chances of winning,” Guersoy says.
Lesson No. 2:
Sales Process and Cycles – Establish, Test, Evolve
In sales, efficiency can be a deal maker. Having a proper sales process in place is one of the most important ways to work effectively. Therefore, any company should spend time making sure to establish a qualification process and criteria setup for all stages in their sales process and pipeline – starting from prospects and leads to opportunities and close deals. This helps avoid overcrowded pipelines and a waste of valuable sales resources on the wrong prospects because, in their early expansion phase, smaller companies won’t typically have sales managers yet. For the ‘proposal’ stage, it is especially vital to have a clear definition of the qualification criteria, as this is where “most deals get stuck and that’s where they go to die,” says Guersoy.
Lesson No. 3:
Target Personas and Profiles – Adding on to the Process
Continuing with the homework for startups, Guersoy recommends defining target personas and customer profiles. If their definition is too broad, it can lead to the sales representative having to juggle too many different types of opportunities that need different tactics and timelines. “Pitches to CEOs are different from pitches to CFOs and so on,” stresses Guersoy. For the duration of the German Accelerator program, he recommends focusing on progress over perfection as time goes on quickly and adjustments are necessary. Therefore, companies should test and evolve their sales processes.
Lesson No. 4:
Sales Strategy and Building a Sales Team – Validate Before You Hire
With regard to expansion to the U.S. market, Guersoy argues that it is helpful to have an established and proven process from the product and go-to-market perspective, respectively: “Make sure your product works and it’s something you can sell.” In Guersoy’s opinion, you should not bring a salesperson on board in the U.S. before the sales process is not repeatable. A company needs to understand what works and what doesn’t. Metrics play an important role in the process too because they “can help reverse engineer revenue plans which make sales much less of a gamble.” Guersoy also advises startups to split the tasks of lead generation, usually done by Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), and the actual deal closing, usually part of the responsibility of Account Executives, in order to ensure a steady deal flow.
Lesson No. 5:
Software to Support a Sales Team – Give Them the Tools to Excel
Guersoy states that a more expensive lead generation tool and an integratable software can increase the efficiency sometimes. Startups will then benefit in the long term, as, according to him, “there’s nothing more expensive than cheap data.” As for deciding on which tools to use, whether they are customer engagement software or lead generation, he recommends doing multiple trials to really find the right fit for each startup.