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Why start up sales slow and how to fix it to kick start revenue growth

#demo #founders #qualification #revenue growth #scale up #start up
Wet sand on beach with small wave. Written in sand

Is this you? I’m a founder. I’ve found a great niche; a serious problem that I know how to solve. I had great traction early on. I love talking to people about this.  I’m inspired. I’ve built a great product.  I do great demos.  I’m now struggling to scale.  I think I hate sales.  Why have sales slowed down?

What a journey! You are not alone. How do you go from start up to scale up?  How do I keep growing revenue?

Let’s expand on this and provide some revenue growth/scale up fixes.

In the early stages of your start up, at some point you get amazing clarity on the problem you solve and on who you solve it for.  This is your “origin” story. Your “why”.  It’s the story you tell at BBQ’s and parties about what you do.  You identify with this and embrace this story.  People listen to the story, ask questions, engage, encourage…this is fun.

Next comes the MVP that supports your story and delivers a solution to the problems you have identified.  You engage with customers and continue to develop the product.  Intense focus on customers and problems leads to early success.  This is so much fun! I love sales.  Sales is not that hard.

We refer to this as your “research phase”. The focus is on customers and their problems, and researching what needs to go into the product, driven by the market.

Then the product matures enough where you are ready to shift to the “scale up phase”.  (Let’s park the capital raise and focus on the revenue side of this journey - see Revenue is capital you don't have to pay back for more.)

Human nature is a funny thing.  As soon as we are proud of something we built, we want to show it off.  What happens when we have a new partner, a new baby, a new pet, a new house…?  We want to show it off and talk about it all the time.  Who do you try to avoid at a party? The couple who just had a baby, right?

Guess what you are doing with your new, now mature product? It’s your “baby” and you want to demo it to everyone…and I mean everyone.  What happens in your business? You’ve gone from a process where you talk about the problems people have that you can solve (and only to those people that have that problem), to talking about a product that has lots of features and functions to anyone who will listen.

Revenue growth note.  In the early days you naturally qualified customers you spent time with because you spoke about the problem and only spoke to customers with that problem. You spoke about "why".  You understood their problems and earned the right to talk to them about your solution.

Your journey led you to skip this vital first step now you are in scale up mode.  You now fail to understand the customers’ problems and go straight to showing your product, whether they need it or not.  Quick test - is your website all about the product, or the problems you solve?

Revenue growth fix 1: Start qualifying again.  Qualification needs to be more formal than in the early days.  Embrace a qualification methodology (there are plenty out there from BANT to TAS to MEDDIC to Challenger and many more).  Stop wasting time with prospects who will never buy your product – they don’t have the problems you solve; they don’t have budget; they will not take on the risk of changing; they can’t make a decision; it’s not urgent.  Stop doing demos to anyone. Do fewer demos to better qualified prospects.  Stop showing your baby photos to everyone you meet.  Mindset change - prospects need to earn the right to see my product; they must qualify in.

Revenue growth fix 2: Let’s start understanding your prospects’ problems and pains before telling them about your solution (solution, not product). Great salespeople understand there is a basic human nature aspect to this.  You must understand first before you can talk about solutions.  Seek first to understand before trying to be understood.  Learn before you try to earn.  What happens if you try to solve your partner's problem before you've listened to the problem?

At the start of a new opportunity the prospect is not interested in your product.  I repeat, they are NOT interested in your product.  Stop measuring how many demos you do and start measuring how many demos you do to properly qualified prospects (they have the problems you solve, they have budget, it’s urgent, you’re talking to the right person).

At the start of a new opportunity the prospect is focused on their need, their problem, their pain.  Until the prospect understands that you understand that, that you get them, you are wasting time and resources on a demo.  Learn before you earn!

Only when you can explain the prospect’s pain back to them, do they acknowledge inside that you understand them. At this point we have earnt the right to present them with a solution. At this point we have navigated the first, opening phase of your sales cycle, and the prospect's buying cycle.

Revenue growth note.  Think about why you are doing a demo? From the demo’s I’ve seen, it looks to me that the answers are “To show the prospect how much I know about my product” or “To show the prospect what an awesome product we have”.  Stop. Boring.  Same as everyone else doing a demo out there.  You're showing your baby photos again.

Revenue growth fix 3: Why does the prospect want a demo? After spending time understanding their problems, the prospect feels like you understand them.  They are now interested in your solution. You’ve earnt the right to solve their solution. We want to demo to them as it is part of their buying process.  Not because it’s part of our sales process.  They are qualified in for a demo.  This will kick start predictable, sustainable revenue growth.

Keep these points in mind for more success with your demos:

  1. Prepare for the demo.  Make it specific for the prospect and their problems. Do not do a canned/generic demo.
  2. Understand who is attending and what they want from the demo.
  3. Agree on their agenda for the demo and share yours.  Check the alignment between the objectives.
  4. Ensure the agenda meets the objectives. Not a generic agenda.
  5. Show how the product addresses the prospect’s problems. This is your solution to their problems.  Do not show every feature and function.  Some of them are not important to the prospect.  And it’s not about showcasing how much you know about the product.
  6. Confirm what you showed and check the objectives were met.

In summary:

  • Congratulations on your start up.  You have a great product that no one cares about.
  • Understand your prospects problems.  Earn the right to solve their problem and share your solution.
  • These prospects care about how your solution solves their problems.  Show them that.

Contact Sales Director Central to diagnose why your sales have slowed, to explore how to drive revenue growth and why a sales leadership framework is the key to building a high performance sales team that delivers predictable, sustainable results.

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