For any business excellence is a worthy ambition but the path to it is fraught with challenges that can make or break a start-up. On the subject of start-ups the boom is now replaced with the weeding out. Quiet typical to the survival of the fittest theory however, it would be unfair to demarcate existing, down and out or struggling start-ups all under a common category considering each one has cut their unique track on hard-worn market paths. No mean feat in India’s free and open market and economy.
All companies need to sell. Therefore, the importance of employing a stellar selling team cannot be underestimated under any given circumstance. The market is brimming with opportunity, the stakes will almost always be high and so the only factor that will keep the start-up afloat is a motivated and result generating sales team. It is scarily also the thin line between failing and succeeding and you can soon see ‘excellence or exceeding’ as part of the fictional star dust layered goal that’s eluding you and your organisation.
Culture is created and so producing a culture in which the sales team thrives is important and extremely tough. On the optimistic side of things one has to conform that an efficient sales team is the epicentre of the financial health and survival of the rest of the organisation and they need to be treated with that much aplomb but more often than not companies fail to see merit behind ‘pampering their team’ to create a cushion of reliability, trust, motivation and most importantly loyalty.
Sales is damaged with stereotype. It is by all means the coolest job around that is being touted as the underdog under the guise of all the pressure that keeps mounting at the time when performance is dismal. Sales is a multi-dimensional relationship, the one that they have with the organisation and the one that they foster externally with potential funders, partners and clients. They are the face and mouthpiece of the company irrespective of what your social media and PR professionals are driving on the media and communication end.
Start-ups with the advantage of being refreshing, new and original can straddle the advantage of building an authentic, natural sales team without the trappings of buckling under ‘pushy sales tactics’. Another trap is idealism, founders of start-ups are often blinded by a rush of passion that is probably responsible for the fact that the organisation now exists, however idealism cannot sell nor can it help your team sell. And, thus fostering a healthy environment or building a result producing sales culture needs human resource with strong sales skills and the strength to stomach market volatility.
Once founders and employees who find themselves within a start-up, embrace the truth about volatility (sooner the better), everyone can then function in an environment with no place for pressure, panic or either we sell or we die outlooks. Though experts will swear by results pressure building creates in the longer run it essentially translates into ‘sacking’ from the founders end or ‘quitting’ from the employers. When the discussion is centred around creating a healthy sales culture; ages old tactics may or may not work. The risk is inconsequential and should most likely be avoided.
Setting proper expectations is one of the best ways to start, the second is to streamline your lead generation and approach a selective dossier of clients who will truly be interested or have the potential to invest. One of the first things to do is to invest time and effort into ‘coaching your sellers to research their clients thoroughly’.
Research is one of the most authentic sales tactics. Knowing companies who will buy from you is key to crafting an effective sales plan. A plan, that gives results, is the biggest motivation to your entire team, because this is when everyone feels that they are truly experiencing something tangible and that they are making a difference. Once, euphoria of achievement sets in targets can be established. Here again, reasonable target setting is the key as its easier to not only achieve but once your team sets out believing they can do it the morale is intact and a higher sense of efficiency pushes a team to perform better than high target setting or incentivizing. Besides, incentives there’s communication, here’s why communication is as important as financial motivation. Simply, paying your team more will not ensure sales. To add to the employers chagrin, exciting incentives may work initially but later lead to a complacent sales team which you may feel tempted to let go of. Complacency can be frustrating for both the worker and the employer. Countless times, employers have wondered what makes the team slack despite attractive incentives. It is the incentives themselves.
Here, the solution is to guide the team to be accountable for their sale. Self-reliance and direction can be applied to follow a good lead. If you tell your team that fortune lies in the follow up, it will bring results. Consistency, tenacity and drive to follow a good lead for more than a couple of months. Your sales team needs to have an appetite. Because, a start-up will someday cease being a start-up, founders must realise they are paving way for a business that has to be future ready, for sake of originality do not give your team product knowledge just tell them – how to sell. Keep it real and simple.
When you build a sales team there is ‘information that’s been given’ and it’s around this time that leadership processes are set in place. While, your team receives competitor intelligence and targets the environment, the office space is a mixed bag of emotions. Now more than ever everyone within the ‘sales’ bubble needs to operate from a common orbit.
Establishing this orbit which functions on mutual faith and respect, one that eliminates hierarchy, pressure and barriers and is high on performance and motivation is the ideal place for your sales team to exist in. And, this place is created in the ‘head’ of your sales team. It is their comfortable and happy place and creating this space will spell not only success but the shiny beginnings of excellence for your start-up.
Prateek Kumar is the CEO at NeoNiche Integrated Pvt. Ltd. an experiential marketing company based in Mumbai (India).