How to build a sales team in a tech startup

Annie Lin

Startups need to build a sales process before hiring salespeople to be able to effectively use their skills

Sales Team

So you’ve grown your startup to a point where you have achieved product market fit and are now building your pipeline in a scalable, repeatable and profitable way.

For a B2B SaaS startup, founders make initial sales up to a level where they know the process of getting customers through cold calling - from getting an initial word out about their product to generating initial leads to getting inbound interest to realizing that they need to expand their sales team to be able to meet the demand.

That’s when founders start hiring salespeople who can win the deals while they manage other important parts of their business such as hiring new talent, engaging with investors or thinking about the company's growth plan and vision.

Before you hand the torch to your salespeople, you need to provide them with a playbook that clearly tells them how to do the selling. There are some nuances to how sales is done in the B2B SaaS space at least when it comes to a startup that is still building trust and brand name in the industry.

Let’s explore common sales techniques that can help build credibility and bring success

Top-down vs bottom-up

(for a product that is applicable to a large market)

Top-down sales approach is when you research a list of potential companies and roles, then reach out to them individually to sell the product. This approach promotes the product value because a sales person would explain and demonstrate how to best utilize the product to fit the customers’ needs.

Bottom-up sales approach is when you offer a free trial of your product to potential customers. This approach attracts more customers but the customers might not get the best out of a product, thus flattening the revenue that could be generated. A combination of both sales approaches would provide the best result however in a purely B2B setting, top-down helps build initial trust.

Business Meeting

Ideal customer profile needs to be defined

You will need to determine and define an ideal customer profile (ICP) for your product; these are potential customers who will best benefit from your product. Understanding the background and characteristics of your ideal customers allows you to connect with them better and speak to them in an effective manner by providing a customized solution and value to their problems.

Selling requires a well-defined structure

There are three types of sales structures - a) transactional sales, b) customer self-service, c) enterprise sales. Transactional sales are high risk and high reward, as it contains high volume transactions with shorter sales cycles and faster onboarding. It provides personalized service to ensure the customers purchased what they exactly needed. Customer self-service sells at a high volume with lower cost, which still brings in significant revenue. Enterprise sales are sold at low volume and high cost as salespeople tend to spend months of personalized time with potential customers to meet the executive team, demo the product, and answer any questions. The adoption of these structures depends on the type of product you sell and the ICP that you want to focus on. This ZoomInfo article summarizes each sales structure in detail.

Team planning

Hire a team based on a success metric

Sales team is about providing solutions and value to customers’ problems and there are numerous success metrics that help track this. We can separate the success metrics into two categories: monetary and non-monetary. The monetary metrics are the monthly/annual recurring revenue, revenue per lead, and customer acquisition cost. The non-monetary metrics are the churn rate, net promoter score, sales leads, and demo-to-trial ratios. The success metric for the sales team should focus not only on how much revenue the salespeople generated, but also on customer satisfaction and potential sales leads after a great selling demonstration of the product.

Look for passionate players who think beyond quota

Passion is something that cannot be trained. People can fake passion just to meet the quota, but this is not a great long term plan for the company. The combination of passionate salespeople with the appropriate training brings out the best performance for the company. When you come across a great salesperson, even if you aren't hiring, stay in touch or invite them to attend a team gathering or some casual company events.

Passionate salespeople

Choose appropriate compensation model

There are two types of compensation models: salary and bonus based. Salary compensation model provides a stable income for your salespeople, but the compensation model encourages growth as their income is tied directly to the sales. The sales cycle, customers buying habits, and level of difficulty in the industry all play a part in this overall compensation model. It is important to create an environment for the salespeople to feel comfortable but rewarded for overperformers at the same time.

Have an effective onboarding and training process

Each salesperson has their own learning styles and it is critical to incorporate different types of onboarding and training processes that align best to each individual in order to make the process effective and retain people long term. Allowing time after each session for questions, providing recorded sessions so salespeople can go back and review the information as needed, and adjusting the process based on feedback are major keys to establish effective and efficient training.

To effectively hire and manage a sales team that helps your startup achieve its goals, you definitely need a sales tech stack that accelerates the momentum. If you are thinking about high volume transactions or faster onboarding, you need to provide right information about the industry, market, client and product that help new salesperson gear up faster.

Flyte provides team intelligence, market insights and deal intelligence to empower sales leaders to effectively coach their team and understand deal risks ahead of the time.

Are you ready to grow your team and scale your business faster? Book a demo today!

Keywords: Sales, Sales Quota, Training, Onboarding, Compensation, top-down, bottom-up, B2B SaaS

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