Sales Reps Without Territories for SaaS

One of the more common strategies associated with sales reps is assigned geographic territories. Territories make sense when field sales are involved but with the growth of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), more and more sales are done over the phone and internet. A major downfall of territories is that in a fast-growing startup every additional sales rep that’s hired  shrinks someone’s territory, and shrinking territories is tough on morale. With a modern marketing automation system or CRM system there’s a better way.

Here’s one way to have sales reps without territories for SaaS-type sales teams:

  • Score and grade all inbound leads automatically and route them to a market response rep
  • Route sales qualified leads to a queue that distributes leads in a round robin fashion to the account executives
  • If there’s a particular source of lead that is sales qualified but even more valuable, like from a test drive, route those to a second queue of the same account executives (the idea is to have equitable distribution of the regular qualified leads and the best leads)

With one or more round robin lead queues, reps are assigned leads in a straightforward manner that is minimally dilutive when an additional sales person is added.

What else? What are some other ideas around sales reps without territories for SaaS?

Startup Marketing Needs to Answer WIIFM

Entrepreneurs writing marketing copy have a tendency to focus too much on features and not enough on benefits. There’s another aspect of startup marketing that needs more attention: what’s in it for me (WIIFM). WIIFM, pronounced “whif em”, is key for any persuasive message.

Let’s look at some startup marketing WIIFM examples:

  • Website personas whereby website visitors select which type of user they are to receive more specific content
  • Marketing copy that talks not only about the company benefits (ROI, efficiency, etc) but also individual benefits (increased personal recognition, skill set/resume enhancing, etc)
  • Referral initiatives whereby if you refer a friend you get more storage space or an Amazon.com gift card

The next time you read marketing content ask yourself what’s in it for the company and what’s in it for me. WIIFM is more important than you think.

What else? What are your thoughts on startup marketing needing to answer WIIFM?

Arc of Decision Making for Sales and Marketing Alignment

In the art of persuasion there’s a methodology called the arc of decision making that outlines five steps someone must go through to act. These steps are readily aligned with sales and marketing so as to understand where people and technology fit into the process. Here’s the arc of decision making with sales and marketing alignment:

  • Unaware – Outbound sales and marketing required (inbound marketing fails here because if they don’t know about it they won’t search for it)
  • Aware – SEO and inbound marketing work well
  • Understand – Educational content marketing like white papers and webinars
  • Believe – Content marketing plus consultative sales
  • Act – Sales rep asks for the deal when the prospect is ready to buy

The next time you contemplate a sales or marketing improvement, ask yourself where it fits on the arc of decision making to tailor your message and approach.

What else? What are your thoughts on the arc of decision making for sales and marketing alignment?

The Scalability of a Programmer’s Effort

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine who’s an attorney. We were talking about how most law firms operate with an intense focus on the billable hour including a number of tactics around CYA and risk mitigation that result in more dollars billed to clients. As an example, each year we get an external financial audit and as part of it they’re required to ask our law firm if we have any outstanding litigation, and that results in a $500 lawyer bill because each of the corporate-related departments has to chime in and say they don’t know of any thing. That $500 is a waste but I understand why it happens. I was excited to read that in England they passed a law allowing non-lawyers to be equity partners in firms that offer legal services. That’s right, in the United States you can’t own part of a firm that offers legal services unless you’re a lawyer — how crazy is that?

Law firms live and die by the billable hour due to a number of reasons one of which is the scalability of their efforts. Think about it: for each client they use boiler-plate documents but then spend extensive time customizing them to the situation, and there are always a thousand permutations. There are some economies of scale for senior lawyers with the associate pyramid scheme whereby junior people work hard for several years in hopes of becoming a partner, and the big pay increase that comes with it. Now, contrast that to the scalability of a skilled programmer’s efforts.

A skilled teenager can write software in his dorm room to help with the dating scene on campus and become a billionaire many times over less than a decade later (Facebook). The power of software is astounding. In fact, software is eating the world according to Marc Andreessen. With the proliferation of open source providing re-usable components at no cost, cloud computing for infinite scalability, and smart phones in millions of pockets the scalability of a programmer’s effort increased by a magnitude, if not more.

Of course, without users or customers the value of a programmer’s efforts can be minimal but for startups that make it, economies of scale of software engineering is astronomical. Pinterest had over 10 million visitors last month, been in business a couple years, and yet only has 16 employees. The scalability of a talented programmer’s effort is incredible.

What else? What are some other thoughts on the scalability of a programmer’s effort?

Sales Prospecting Tools for Startups

Contrary to popular belief cold calling and sales prospecting still works. Certain markets and brands suffer from a lack of market awareness, meaning people aren’t proactively seeking out what they’re selling even though they potentially need it. Things like SEO, PPC, and other mechanisms work well when there’s a market actively looking for the product or service, but inbound marketing fails when there isn’t existing market demand. Prospecting via cold calls and acting like a missionary out in the field educating people one-on-one works great.

Here are some tools for sales prospecting:

  • Refractive Dialer takes a list from Salesforce.com and queues it up in a conference call-like manner so that sales reps can make significantly more phone calls in the same period of time.
  • Rapportive, recently acquired by LinkedIn, is a Gmail plug-in that takes the email address and shows additional information about the person. This is especially useful if you don’t know the person’s email address as you can make guesses and Rapportive will confirm when you’ve found the correct one.
  • Data.com, owned by Salesforce.com and formerly called Jigsaw, has crowd-sourced information about millions of companies and contacts making it easy to find and search information by categories like company size, geographic location, and job title.
  • LinkedIn almost always has the most current information on a professional and is a great resource to find prospects to call on as well as to confirm information found in Data.com.

Ideally, the prospect is just about to start the buying cycle upon first contact, so that the sales cycle is short and there’s maximum value for sales and marketing effort. In reality, prospects are at all different stages resulting in the need for marketing to help educate and nurture the lead so that a sales rep can take over once the prospect has entered the buying phase of the relationship. Sales prospecting works for B2B startups and I recommend it.

What else? What are some other sales prospecting tools for startups?

Startups Should Approach Everything as Marketing

Startups are great because they have a clean slate for all aspects of the business. While daunting, it’s also empowering in that there aren’t notions of “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” One theme I’m a fan of is the idea that startups should approach everything as marketing. Everything? Yes, everything.

Here are some examples of everything as marketing:

  • Awesome customer service so that clients love the startup and tell their friends
  • Amazing product interface and user experience that sets the tone for the brand
  • Quality sales people that are infectious with their passion
  • Enthusiastic team members in all aspects of the business

Marketing is defined as: the action or business of promoting and selling products or services (Webster’s dictionary). For startups, the product is the entire startup, not just the product that’s sold. The operative word in the definition is “promoting” since all interactions, whether digital or personal, are promoting or detracting from the startup. Startups should approach everything as marketing.

What else? What are some other examples of everything as marketing?

Startups Should Say No to 99% of Partnership Opportunities

At yesterday’s Startup Riot I enjoyed talking with a number of entrepreneurs. One item that kept coming up was partnership opportunities that entrepreneurs were excited about. Here are some example partnership opportunities:

  • Invite to be on someone else’s app store-like marketplace
  • Desire to white label or OEM the product by a bigger company
  • Exclusive reseller for a certain vertical or geography

Startups should say no to 99% of partnership opportunities. Most partnerships never go anywhere and don’t make sense for the startup to invest significant effort into the relationship due to being time and money constrained. Partnership opportunities do make sense when there is significant skin in the game on behalf of the partner (e.g. large up-front fees) or a super minimal way to work together (e.g. less than 20 hours of work to get something out the door that is useful).

Now, it isn’t that bigger companies are trying to take advantage of startups. Rather, bigger companies have more resources and less focus whereas startups are often looking for product/market fit and need to stay focused on work that’s applicable to 80% of their desired customers. The next time someone approaches you with a partnership idea, ask yourself the hard questions and assess the downside as well as the upside.

What else? What are other reasons startups should say no to 99% of partnership opportunities?