Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht spoke last week at GeekWire Startup Day — a day-long conference of entrepreneurs, investors, tinkerers and builders getting together to discuss, inspire and learn about the startup journey. Henry shared insight and advice on how to build a sales-friendly startup (that’s built for survival).
In case you missed it, here’s the recap from his presentation.
7 lessons on how to build a sales-friendly startup
1. You can’t outsource customer discovery
As the company’s CEO, you should be the first salesperson. You need to get out of the office building (or your garage) and in front of customers to learn and discover their problems and why your product will solve them. You have to listen to your buyers to deliver a product they need.
2. Don’t hire a sales team prematurely
Salespeople can be expensive — and if they’re spectacular, they’re extremely expensive. And that’s OK because they’re the life of the business. But hiring a bunch of people who are expensive before you know what you’re selling is a huge mistake.
3. Don’t buy it until you need it
Don’t buy salestools until you need them. Excel and a whiteboard are great. Don’t buy a pricey software solution until you actually need it. Overinvesting in complex technology is a tax on everyone in the company.
4. Start small
Don’t go after big deals right away. Think of sales like a food chain. Start with plankton, then shrimp and work your way to salmon. Start with smaller deals now to attract the bigger ones – it’s easier to land them when you have a couple references from an earlier level in the food chain.
5. Say yes
There’s going to be a point in time as a startup where you have to say yes, even if you don’t know the answer or if you can pull off the request. So you’ll say “yes, and we’ll have that figured out by the time we launch.” Then redirect every resource in your company toward that one thing.
6. Get paid cash
Get paid annually in advance, period. If asked, say monthly payments are an option, but there’s a slight service charge for that. If you can make payroll because a customer paid in advance, then getting money upfront could ultimately save your business.
7. Build an intentional culture from the get-go
Hire for fit based on your culture. Don’t hire someone who will close a bunch of deals but isn’t a culture fit. The cost of turnover is so much more than you can imagine — with high-quality salespeople, you’re also losing every relationship they’ve ever built. You can’t put dollars on that.