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Now is the time for startups to overhaul and automate their sales machine

If you are starting to build your startup sales engine, here are some important lessons to consider.

Now is the time for startups to overhaul and automate their sales machine

Thursday September 22, 2022 , 6 min Read

I want you to think about everything sales.

Are you picturing sales reps searching through call lists and cold-calling prospects? Maybe they're sifting through website forms and emailing leads, hoping for a reply or a product demo?

If the answer is yes, well…you're not alone.

A lot of startups are stuck in a sales time warp. Larger sales teams don't guarantee more customers. When sales reps spend their days scraping cold leads from LinkedIn or holding multiple demos for leads who aren't yet ready to buy, startups are essentially throwing money away.

Our sales team at Freshworks is larger now than when we were a startup, but the biggest change has been our mindset. We've invested in automation and built sales tools to give our team the edge over our competitors, so they can focus on turning prospects into paying customers.

Here are some important lessons to consider if you are starting to build your startup sales engine.

The sales process is changing — here's why you should care

The buyer's journey has changed. Have your processes?

Don't blame COVID — buyers’ expectations were changing long before the pandemic.

Shaped by online buying experiences with the likes of Amazon and Netflix in their personal lives, customers now expect products to be available instantly and on their terms. For B2B buyers, the journey has grown more complex with longer sales cycles, more conversations, and more deal stages.

Startups must adapt to these changes early and create a buying experience that meets these challenges. The reality is that customers don't want multiple sales meetings to be scheduled just to get a product demo or pricing information — they want information available instantly at their fingertips.

Startups that give customers a simple way to buy products and complete orders will come out on top.

Prospecting and outreach are becoming instant and automated

Forget everything you know about how you think sales should work.

To grow a customer base, startups must go beyond cold calling and email if they are to survive.

Now, teams can rely on AI-powered chatbots to talk to website visitors and potential leads in real-time. If the bot predicts the lead is a good product fit, it can instantly direct them to pricing information or book a slot on a sales rep's calendar for a demo. Then, AI can automatically sift through prospects and create predictions to see who is most likely to convert into a paying customer.

Tasks that would historically take sales reps hours of time are now done in the background. This tech is a huge boost for new startups willing to invest in a sales tech stack that empowers their team.

Sales teams are being restructured and reimagined

With more processes being automated, traditional sales team structures are shifting.

Investment in the right tools can enable and empower sales teams to fill their pipelines and close more deals. McKinsey estimates roughly 30 percent of sales tasks — from quota setting to pipeline management — can now be automated.

Startups can benefit from creating smaller, smarter sales teams from scratch instead of downsizing like many SMBs and enterprises are now doing. Investment in niche sales suites is now a realistic, affordable solution to keep startup sales teams small yet productive until the company is ready to scale.

AI is changing the game to help startups snag more leads

AI gives startups the freedom to grow their customer base without paying for an expensive sales team. Investment in new technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and CRMs can improve productivity and prospecting efforts while automating repetitive tasks like data input and forecasting.

Gartner predicts AI software revenue will total $62.5 billion this year, and 43 percent of businesses say AI and machine learning (ML) matter much more than they first expected. These figures show startups are now waking up to the power AI can bring to the table, from accurately predicting customer behaviour to identifying cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

The end result is a more focused sales team who spends its time on quality leads — but this can only come with an investment in the right sales software.

Startup life is easier with a partner

There are more than 1,190 unicorns worldwide — and most of the companies on that list didn't make it there by accident.

They had the right engineers, sales reps, and partners to build the company from the ground up. Skype hired just three Estonian developers to build the company’s application back-end. And when Slack was starting out in 2012, it outsourced some of its prototype design to British MetaLab.

Unfortunately, these success stories aren't guaranteed. As many as 70 percent of startups fail by the time they are 20 months old. Most shut their doors because capital dries up, but this risk can be minimised by investing in the right software and partners.

Startups now see the importance of selecting a partner (and tech solution) that grows as the company scales. Startups like Hello HR are working to build a smarter tech stack and more agile sales team. This approach empowers its small team to focus on customer engagement while automating everyday tasks to save time.

The startup is just one of many that have joined a global community of 400+ VCs, accelerators, incubators, and startup communities from 87 countries through the Freshworks for Startups program. Early-stage companies can work alongside Freshworks — a company that has been through the startup grind — to get advice on the scaling process, sales software, and IT support. Founders give growing startups feedback on what tools work best and which processes to automate throughout your journey to give your startup the best chance at growth.

When you sign up for the Freshworks for Startups program, you get:

01.Up to $10,000 in credits across products built for sales, marketing, support and IT teams

02.Get 1:1 guidance from our team

03.A dedicated consultant every step of the way

04.Access our startup mentorship community

Get your sales machine aligned with customers' expectations from day one, and your startup could be the next unicorn.