How to build a strong sales team with a tight startup budget

Sales are revenue-getters. Giving enough importance to sales strategy, hiring and upskilling will help new startups scale their business.

17th Sep 2019
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One of the many reasons startups fail is due to the poor quality of their sales teams. Most tech entrepreneurs have an engineering background, and thus lack the professional know-how of effectively building a sales team. They encounter obstacles when it comes to amplifying visibility to a target audience. They often ignore the significance of building an effective and brilliant sales team, as it holds equal importance as building a brilliant tech team. According to a report by IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics, 90 percent Indian startups fail within the first five years.


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Sales are in effect the revenue getters for any startup. Early stage companies, amidst the perplexity of making crucial business decisions sometimes end up hiring amateurs to lead their sales efforts. 84 percent of companies in India were affected by bad hiring, revealed a study conducted by global human resource consultancy CareerBuilder. The cost of one single bad recruitment could be over Rs 20 lakh, added the survey.


Founders of smaller startups with a shoe-string budget are hesitant about hiring expensive sales representatives. However, analysing the value of sales prospects versus the expense of hiring will help businessmen take the right decisions when it comes to hiring.

 It is important to understand the concept of sales before a startup begins the process of interviewing, hiring and assessing a salesperson to avoid troublesome situations. A sale is basically the art of closing a deal, and mastering this art will get you closer to your business goals. A successful business strategy does not end with building an innovative product but also building an effective sales team. It may be a cliché but a true entrepreneur not only knows how to build a product but also how to sell it. Sales is not limited to customers’ only, as the entrepreneur has to also sell their ideas to prospective investors as well. Once you have developed a knack for selling products, guiding the sales team will be easier, and more focussed.


The success and failure of a startup are largely dependent on the capability of its sales team. No matter how tech-savvy and disruptive your product is, if you don’t know how to sell it well, soon you will have to put those shutters down.

Make your sales team a high performing one

●   Startups often delegate the responsibilities of a salesperson to existing employees owing to budget constraints. However, when an organisation attains a certain level of growth, then client meetings, inbound/outbound calls, request for demos, presentations, etc suddenly soar. This calls for an investment of time and resources in hiring a specialised salesperson who will help you leverage your opportunities.


●   Good salespeople are very expensive, and therefore the process of hiring calls for rigorous due diligence. Someone with past good experience in selling products might not necessarily be the right fit for your company, or product. Apart from the fact that he/she has the knack of selling, the individual must have a desire to attain the next level in sales, engage productively with customers, and take relevant feedback on products.


●   You can’t wash your hands off your responsibilities even after building the sales team until you see the impact of the sales team on your company’s revenue. Keep an eye on the team, interact with them almost every day, give feedback, and listen to suggestions to ensure constant improvement in the sales team.


●   A VP sales for a young startup might be an absolute necessity, yet consider several things first - Remember and ensure that the high salary is within your purview. Take into account that prior experience in a well-established organisation can sometimes be a challenge in meeting the dynamic goals of another organisation.


●   Since the sales team is the one to persuade potential clients, educating them about the products in detail is a top priority, before they actually start selling products. Salespersons should be armed with comprehensive product knowledge to identify the client’s problems and solve them. And to track their performance, they should be able to leverage online tools.


●   To motivate salespeople, you need to reward high performers, thereby attracting other employees to follow their examples.


●   Sales can be quite diversified, and can be broken down into inside sales, field sales, client services, lead generation, etc. The type of sales will determine the criteria for selection such as past experience and background. 


●   Startups founders often fall for a charming personality, and this has little to do with the ability and intent to sell products. A wise decision would be to do due diligence of past successes in accomplishing tasks, and successfully closing a large number of deals.


●   The concept of gamification is really catching on when it comes to training and motivating the sales team. With millennials dominating the workplace, engaging sales staff in the learning process using gaming techniques actually plays a crucial role in motivating and improving sales training methods. Gamification actually infuses the interest of self-learning in sales representatives, readying them to excel in the competitive world. A report by MarketsandMarkets revealed that Sales Performance Management (SPM) services is expected to double to $5.6 billion by 2020 which includes gamification products that focus on sales acceleration.


●   Embracing e-learning is one of the most effective ways to educate sales staff on new products, procedures, handling client issues and understanding how the products and services will benefit the customers. E-learning enables sales staff to educate themselves with the content readily available on the internet. 


●   The sales training sessions should be short and crisp. No matter how interesting the content of the training is, staff can focus only for 15-20 minutes at a stretch. The attention span is getting shorter and shorter, therefore the training session should be short, engaging and easy to understand. 


Building a sales team from scratch requires many elements to come together, but it’s worth spending time on developing a plan that will take you to the next level. Adequate sales training should be the priority among all other factors, without which the team will stagger, and the business growth will come to a halt.

One of the crucial ways to sustain new and seasoned talent is to conduct training on a regular basis. An incredible sales team will definitely increase the possibility of scaling your startup into a successful and established organisation.


(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


(Edited by Suruchi Kapur- Gomes)



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Mihir Shah

Mihir Shah is a Founder of Yatharth Marketing Solutions with a reputed Speaker, Corporate Trainer, and Motivator who transforms businesses and teams with insightful training. With decades of experience in Corporate Training, he is sought after for his latest techniques to drive faster scale, higher efficiency and sustained development. Mihir’s sessions have inspired more than 200 companies all over the country.

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