When dealing with prospects and clients in our target market (B2B tech companies thinking big) we see a number of very common ‘sales & marketing’ mistakes.
Having climbed to the base camp of ‘some level of repeatable sales’, usually off the back of the solo efforts of the [often technical] founder, either a fundamental lack of knowledge of sales & marketing as a function, or a haste to hand it off to the ‘professionals’ and get back to more enjoyable technical work, or maybe both, are the likely causes.
Some of the mistakes can be existential if not corrected, some are just a slow drip on company resources. The good news is they can all be readily corrected once identified and accepted.
Let’s start with the #1 killer.
1) Making the first sales hire and expecting an outbound miracle
If you read our very first post on Why Inbound Digital Marketing is More Important than the First Sales Hire for B2B Tech Companies you’ll already understand the talking points. If not, that post also covers the whole spectrum of what works for lead generation in companies like yours and, specifically, why inbound marketing (not outbound) is critical in moving you from base camp and up the growth mountain.
The bullet points of why inbound marketing trumps your first sales hire go something like this:
- you’ve generated some level of repeatable sales already, likely through hustling your network (outbound).
- the time has come to scale and hire that professional sales person. Hopefully the person who can build out the sales team.
- you find someone you like (see mistake #2) but you likely have no formal inbound marketing processes in place but that doesn’t really matter as your new sales hire comes with a rolodex. You may not even appreciate the importance of inbound marketing at this stage.
- your prospective new sales hire doesn’t want to dissuade you from the value of her/his rolodex and probably doesn’t want to push too hard on what you’re doing from a lead generation standpoint, but recognises the mismatch already developing (or the elephant in the room as we called it in our first post). They’re a professional salesperson with DNA to close the deal (get the job offer) and won’t raise too many objections themselves (objections raised are inversely proportional to their need to get the job).
- you make the hire and after a short honeymoon period start wondering why the rolodex is not producing the leads and sales you require.
- the sales hire is wondering where the leads are coming from.
- the elephant in the room is turning into a Mexican stand-off and, unfortunately, the more the salesperson needed the job, the more flannel you’re going to get about why things are not working out and why they will turn around.
This situation can become existential and the best remedy is to build a functioning, scalable lead generation capability before you make that first sales hire. If you’ve already made the hire then build your inbound marketing capability quickly and made a quick stay/go decision on your sales hire.
2) Not getting expert help with the sales hire
Hiring sales people is notoriously difficult, even for professional sales managers. It may even be an order of magnitude more difficult for a technical founder to make the right sales hire compared with someone with a strong sales background.
Also, we all have an inbuilt bias to go with people we like, which means doing business with people we like (and are like us) as well as hiring people we like. Now we have the double difficulty of measuring sales capabilities and avoiding the trap of going with someone simply because we like them.
There’s been a lot written recently about hiring to culture fit but that misses the point. Culture is not the same as core values and the most successful companies hire to core values (Jim Collins proved this empirically in his book Built to Last). Culture can mean ‘beer o’clock’ which leads down the path of hiring people you like and are most like you. Core values are those fundamental and enduring tenets that guide how an organisation behaves and operates.
Being aware of the difference between culture and core values will help you avoid that potential trap. Getting some expert help to ascertain sales capabilities (a friend or mentor?) will also help mitigate the risk of making a bum hire.
We’ll cover common mistakes 3-7 in our next post, all of which will be marketing related rather than sales related. In the meantime, feel free to bounce questions off us via our Get in Touch page or leave us a comment below.