By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
Startups need to begin by strategically envisioning where they want to be in the end—whether that’s a number, like earning $50 million in revenue, or a goal as simple as “I don’t want to have to pay to work, anymore,” said Cindy G. Goldsberry who spoke on How to Organize Your Startup Selling Strategy, Wednesday at Avinde Startup Accelerator’s first meetup.
Begin with the vision and reverse engineer your process, Goldsberry said. That will reveal gaps and opportunities that need addressing. One of the first steps is to envision who will be using your product or service. These days, she said, it’s reasonable to come up with several profiles of users. Who will be using it? How will they be using it? And how do you go about creating relationships with those customers? She suggested modeling customer lifestyles and buying cycles.
“What do you do to start building relationships within the area where you believe your ideal client is waiting for you to have a conversation? What do you have to do to start that conversation?” The focus is on the relationship, not what you have to do to get that person to buy from you. You have to envision the relationship and the customer using the product.
Goldsberry spent seven years as VP of strategic sales and services for Boundless Network, an Austin Ventures portfolio company. During that time, the sales organization grew from 11 sales reps to more than 150, and sales from $1 million to $54 million in 2012. In February, she launched the Z Factor, sales accelerator, to help startups with their sales strategies. In 2012 she co-authored The Z Factor Sales Accelerator from Vendor to Value Creator.
Everything she knows about sales, Goldsberry said, is based on the pillars of profit which include marketing, operations, communications, and service. The problem is that so many startup founders have to manage all those functions. So they have to be very “ecological” about where to invest their time or money next. They have to look carefully at their gaps and opportunities and see how they can advance toward their goals. And that’s not always in a straight line. Instead, she introduces the Z Factor sales accelerator wherein most actions fall on a grid with relational relevance as one vector and strategic relevance as another. Everything a company does, from creating a target customer persona, to sales to service, to hiring, has a place on that grid.
If a company just begins with its product or service, it’s a commodity, Goldsberry pointed out. Then company A offers a Koozie at 10 cents and company B at 8 cents, company B wins. What makes the difference is relational and strategic relevance.
Relational relevance used to come from being the one who brings the donuts, or the one the customer had martinis with. Now it’s begun with marketing, social media, service, and sometimes in person.
Strategic relevance is being the skin care product that’s there when you have an acne problem or the florist who knows what you want for your wedding. Frequently you gain strategic relevance by being on the ball with someone you already have a relationship with.
“Now,” Goldsberry said, “You’re very difficult to replace. Your services and your customer’s needs are so intimately aligned that the relationship can’t be busted.”
She told a story about working for Boundless Network, which provides schwag for events, and having a sales rep come in all excited about selling $30,000 worth of jackets.
“What do they want them for?” Goldsberry asked? The sales rep didn’t know. Hadn’t asked.
Goldsberry did some digging and found out it was part of a $300,000 safety campaign. There was a lot more opportunity in that sale than the 10 percent Boundless Network had won.
Boundless started learning everything it could about all the events thrown by various enterprises that might require their promotional products. That included annual parties, observance days, walks for causes, reunions, etc.
They got on all the Request For Proposal, or RFP, lists they could.
And they began approaching enterprises with how much money, time and trouble Boundless could save them if allowed to manage the entire category of spending involving promotional products. In one case, Goldsberry said, she was talking with a group of Gen-Xers and here she was a “gray-haired baby boomer.”
“I was not relevant to them,” she said. “But they took their responsibility for a $500,000 budget item seriously….. We had the strategic conversation, even if they weren’t ready for it.”
Shortly thereafter, the organization got a new CFO and weeks after that, Goldsberry got a call: “You know what you said you could do for our organization? Can you do that?”
It all came, not from knowing how totally awesome their products were, but from understanding the clients’ motivation.
Startups need to begin by filling out ideal client profiles and knowing they must target all those profiles differently. Whether it’s at events or on social media, she said, “you can still wind up having a conversation of insight.”
Next, startups should offer something for free. It could be a free sample or a consultation. In return, customers give something, perhaps just their email addresses.
“It can be pretty simple or it can go very deep,” she said.
Operations, she said, comes in to determine what talent you need and when. How you attract the people who will help attract your client. Who owns the client, and when?
Of course, if you’re a very small company, particularly someone who still has a “day” job, this will take longer. You’ll have to break the action items for gaps and opportunities into chunks.
But at least you’ll be moving forward.
Avinde is a women’s startup accelerator program. The meetup convened at Saltgrass Steakhouse.