Sales is a bedeviling problem for startups, mid-size and Enterprise companies. Whether a company has an established sales force or is just making the leap to start one, the common problem exists: Sales teams are told to ‘go sell’ regardless of whether a target market or value proposition has been established. Why?

At the heart of it, there is a belief that the ‘right’ salesperson is just around the corner and can easily sell the products. My unofficial count is that 100% of companies I’ve asked think their sales force needs ‘modernization’ or at least retraining/retooling right now. No wonder Sales Enablement has become a household word. Sale Enablement is tasked with improving Sales and a host of vendors have jumped on board offering training, sales efficiency tools and recruitment aids to predict the future success of new hire candidates. However, these efforts are hard to measure and companies seem to still believe they need changes to make Sales work better (see my 100% statistic above).

For businesses with large and long-standing sales teams, a belief that a ‘new deck’ of sellers or increased attention to education/training/tooling will change sale trajectory is understandable. Complacency with the status quo is never a way to change lagging sales or make your mark as a sales leader. Conversely, for startups and small businesses who are newly establishing a sales force, they believe they need to invest in expensive salespeople to have a better chance of getting off the ground. They believe you get what you pay for especially when competing against larger and more well-known employers. But this argument also falls flat. We have personally fallen into this assumption at Thought Horizon and it was not a silver bullet. In fact, it drained our resources and left us wondering if we will ever start to see a full funnel that can quickly grow our revenues.

The missing link here is Marketing. Specifically, content marketing that gives the sales force a clear sense of what problems they solve and what markets and corporate roles they serve and, therefore, should be selling to. We recently came to this epiphany. After several false starts on the sales side we realized two things:

  1. We need to establish our value proposition and sales methodology before we hire salespeople. We cannot assume that smart salespeople will just figure this out for us. They will become frustrated far sooner than they will find a way to sell around this gaping hole of confusion.
  2. Our best hope is to invest in our marketing and some marketing automation to create leads first. Luckily, both I and my partner enjoy and can sell. Step one for us is to create a lead generation machine that keeps us busy first. Once we are at capacity we can very naturally hire a sales team and give them specific and repeatable instructions on how to close deals that are dripping in. Since these leads all have the same genesis, it is easy for the sales team to replicate the close.

With this new knowledge, we are entering a new phase that I believe many companies have yet to internalise. Even if the Marketing department has created a thick deck with buyer personas and unique value propositions, the question is how are these findings used to create targeted leads? Simple content distribution will not be enough. We will tackle the issue of exactly how to do this in a future post.

Until then, do yourself a favour and remove that Sales job requirement from your ‘careers’ page. Like my Czech partner likes to say “the helping hands you need may be at the end of your arm.” Do the hard work first and finding that perfect seller will become a foregone conclusion.

Additional Resources

Learn the steps we take to help B2B teams generate 8X ROI in their social selling program.

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