Improving Sales: The Excuse Department is Closed

Improving Sales: The Excuse Department is Closed:  by Mark Suster started circulating a few of weeks ago but I was too busy to do anything with it at the time. Nevertheless, its wisdom demanded that I come back to it and comment. Mark has done a fabulous job of succinctly articulating the challenges of managing a sales team in a start-up. If you are Founder, this article is a must-read.

Salespeople (or at least great sales people) are coin-operated. That is why I was not a great sales person. I am good at both visionary and consultative selling but do not have that killer instinct that drives so many of the great sales people with whom I have worked. In contrast, many these great sales people have had their best success at a point in their career when they have worked for established companies and have failed miserably at companies in their start-up phase.

I recently attended Mentor Monday.  One of the presenters described their company as four founders who were collectively, "running sales off the side of their desk". They felt it was time to hire a VP of Sales and build out the sales organization.

One of the participants in the audience was Mark Organ,  founder of Eloqua. Mark's had some great advice for the presenter. He told a story from the early days of Eloqua when he and his partner were about to make a similar decision. Their advisor told them that in start-ups, early-adopter customers want to deal with the Founder so putting a layer between them in the customer was counterproductive. He also pointed out that not being sales people themselves, they were unqualified to select, hire and manage a professional sales leader.  Instead, their advisor recommended that Mark and his partner get formally trained in sales and for the early part of the journey, they needed to be the sales leaders, which is what they did.

I loved Mark Organ's advice. Like Mark Suster, I too love sales people and agree they are the lifeblood of a company but that said, for start-ups, the Founders will be the best sales people in a company's early stage so you better get good at selling before you try and hire a sales organization.

© 2011 Meaford Group

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