Tag: value

Going From Enterprise Sales Manager To Startup VP of Sales? Velocity And Focus Are Your New Normal

Going From Enterprise Sales Manager To Startup VP of Sales? Velocity And Focus Are Your New Normal

The next in our series “Skinned knees—what an MBA didn’t teach you for rebel sales in a software startup” where we discuss your promotion from individual contributor to leading a team. Is it for the faint of heart?

Navigating the move from enterprise executive to startup VP of Sales or Chief Revenue Officer is not for the faint of heart. However, for successful managers, the disruptive nature of startups can be cathartic.

You are probably a lot like me. You went from an individual contributor or a front-line sales manager for a big company with lots of resources to a team lead at a small company with limited resources. A sales manager at a major corporation and an executive at a startup may seem like they have more differences than similarities, but experience in the former helps inform the latter.

For executives considering doing this move (or if you have already made the jump), this move is wide open with opportunity. Here’s how to take advantage of it.

Know Your ‘Why’

The grass is not always greener. Startups are not a reprieve from corporate life; they live on the razor’s edge of “scale or die.” Time and mediocrity are enemies. Startups typically move fast to create solutions that can scale across industries and sectors.

In this environment, it’s important to have a “why.” The “why” is different for every executive — and truthfully, it can be quite personal. Some questions executives may want to ask themselves while considering the move include:

  • Do I want to build solutions to problems I’ve encountered throughout my career?
  • Do I want to get back to creating?

For example, our customers get the benefit of Kubernetes. According to Gartner, containers and using Kubernetes to orchestrate containers is the de facto choice for the next generation of software infrastructure. When I saw the reference architecture for Agile Stacks, I knew we had a game-changer that enterprise buyers need because every company on the digital transformation journey must build software better and faster. And the velocity, matched with a rigorous focus, is what I need at this stage of my career.

Find Your ‘Who’

I was introduced to my current startup by one of their Board members that I have known for years. When I met the CEO, I found that we shared similar industry observations, and I found myself excited about his market vision, company, and approach.

If you are joining an existing founder, you have a lot of research that you must do and it won’t be as easy as joining a big company with a lot of documentation. Research the company beyond financials, business model, product, and technology. Understand the startup’s culture; invest time and effort into exploring whether the executive-partner relationship can build a foundation for mutual success.

Assess Your Industry Expertise

Soon after talking to the company, I realized my new company had built actual solutions for some of the problems I had on the enterprise side. I could leverage my industry expertise to help the company execute its product vision, accelerate time to market and deliver quality solutions. When I considered leaving a global enterprise for a startup, it had to be the right one.

Startups should meet or beat milestones, and the industry expertise of their leaders can be a driving force to provide rigor. Executives must self-assess how deep and how broad their industry knowledge is. Do you fully understand the ecosystem and how you can help a startup impact, and potentially lead, that industry? Can you bring market vision, build strategic partnerships, drive maturation in existing products, expand the book of business, develop talent, deepen customer relationships, or create operational efficiencies to enable faster growth?

Fight Through Ambiguity

There is no room in a startup for executives who are unwilling or unable to be operational and visionary. It is not possible to understate the level of foresight, flexibility, and agility required in this environment.

You must continuously recalibrate your approach to operational efficiency, as working with limited resources forces me to ensure I am creating value at every turn.

Create Value

Within many large companies, the Silicon Valley mantra of “move fast and break things” doesn’t necessarily translate. Large companies have the resources, money and institutional support unavailable to start-ups, but they rarely have the focus to solve industry-sized problems. And they must measure and manage risk daily.

Further, while startups are relatively flat, large corporations are highly matrixed. In order to be a successful sales executive, it’s imperative to build relationships across departments. People need to trust that moving forward will benefit them.

Any executive joining a startup should focus on the value they create as an individual. What do you bring, above and beyond the job for which you were hired? Ask yourself if you have the emotional quotient (EQ), for example, to serve as a translator to the enterprise on how to evaluate product fit while coaching a startup team on how best to work within enterprise processes for implementation. That’s creating value for both sides.

Get Accustomed To The New Normal

Velocity and focus are my new normal. You must create more with less, fast and with laser-focus on impact. Startups can accomplish more in weeks than a large company could do in years, if at all. However, that rapid advancement can easily cause the company to go into disarray. It is simply not enough to have velocity, you need to have velocity towards your goals as a company.

This post originally appeared on my blog series on my company website “Skinned knees—what an MBA didn’t teach you for rebel sales in a software startup.”

What Is Your Personal Benefit To Your Prospect?

What Is Your Personal Benefit To Your Prospect?

There are three components to the benefits to every sales transaction. Those component benefits are the product that you sell, the company that you represent in that sale, and yourself. It is easy to understand the benefits of the first two, the latter can be more difficult.

Invariably, we all see ourselves through rose-colored glasses. It would be very difficult to do our job if we did not have a positive impression of ourselves but we cannot let that impression get in the way of our sale.

Create a standard Ben Franklin “T” chart on your Benefits and Detriments. On the left side, record all of the Benefits that you bring to your customer. On the right, put your Detriments. Make sure that each statement is in benefit format NOT feature format. You should be able to say each statement verbatim to a prospect and they will not respond with a “So….”

A bad example would be “I have been selling this service for the last 8 years.” A more appropriate statement would be “My 8 years of experience with this service allows me to guide a prospect through the decision-making process.” An example of a Detriment may be “I don’t understand the business drivers of my prospect’s industry.”

After you have created the chart, you need to use it. Make sure that all of your Benefits have been communicated to your customers and prospects. If you ask them the benefit that you bring to them, would they say any of the items on the list?

More importantly, look at your Detriments. How are you going to get them fixed? If this was a problem with the product or the company (the other two components) there would be a committee formed and people would be working hard to fix the issues. You need to do the same – sit down with your manager, your peers, and your trusted existing customers. Find their perspective on how you can improve the items on your Detriment list. You may even want to sit down with your significant other and let them guide your thoughts.

Another worthwhile endeavor in this process is to sell against yourself. Argue with yourself as to the true worth of a Benefit. This will make you defend its importance and develop a stronger case. Similarly, by internally berating a Detriment, you may discover how to make it a positive or at least diminish its negative influence.

This exercise only works if you are 100% honest with yourself. This is not your resume. You are only going to share this with 3 people: “Me, Myself, and I.” Use this list to focus on your Benefits and to take corrective action on the Detriments.

Photo by MinaLegend

You are the most important value offering that you sell

You are the most important value offering that you sell

What are the various “value offerings” that you sell or that your prospects buy? If we break it down into broad categories, inevitably it is three high-level value offerings:

  1. Your product that gets the prospect to their goals.
  2. Your company that produces and supports the product.
  3. You.

If you think about all of the sales calls you have made in your career, the questions all fall into these three big value offerings. The prospect wants to know all about the speeds and feeds of your product. They want to know all about the pricing model of the product. They want to know all about the support options and warranty of the product. They want to know how long your company has been producing the product and what the roadmap is for your company. They may even want to meet some executives of your company to be comfortable about the management of the company.

During all of these sales conversations, they are also learning about the value offering that you bring to them. They are learning about you as a person. Are you reliable? Are you knowledgeable? Does the prospect trust the words that come out of your mouth? In short, they are trying to figure out if they should buy from you or, in essence, can they buy you.

Yes, you are for sale if you are in sales. You are a part of the value offering that the prospect considers in the evaluation. At a minimum, do you offer enhance value to the prospect over just buying the product over the Internet?

Here is the rub, you are the most important value offering. Not the product and not your company. They are secondary to the importance of you as a value offering.

Let’s be perfectly blunt, is your product that much better or worse than the competition? When you answer questions about your product, aren’t 90-99% of your responses positively answered regarding the customer’s concern? How many times do you answer a question, “No, we don’t have that feature.” Obviously, you will give that answer at times, but in those cases, you probably are not a good fit for the customer and will lose the deal immediately. If your product doesn’t have that required feature, then you are not talking to a qualified prospect for that product.

Isn’t your competitor’s product in a similar situation? Don’t most of their features match up fairly well to your own product’s features? I am sure that you do a little better at feature A or B. Although your competitor probably does a little better at C. When you add it all up, it is probably pretty close to a dead even tie. Worse yet, your prospect probably can achieve their goals perfectly well without buying the best product on the market (yours) because the second best or third best product will accomplish the goals. They don’t need the best; they simply need the product and company to be good enough to accomplish their goals.

Similarly, how many times do you have to explain to your prospect that your company isn’t very good at supporting the product? Do you ever really lose a deal based on company longevity or commitment to the market? Of course not and neither do your competitors.

As a Sales Trapper, I continuously advise salespeople that features that do not differentiate do not matter. Does the car salesperson spend time explaining the value offering of the accelerator on the floor? Of course not, all modern cars have them. Does the TV salesperson explain that the remote will change the channel and volume? Of course not, all TVs have remotes with a value offering that do that. In both cases, there was a time when those were unique and differentiating features but not in today’s competitive market. The TV and automobile manufacturers have added those features as standard, and the features no longer differentiate the products. Since none of these features add a differential value offering, there is no reason to “sell” these features to the prospect. A salesperson that spends a lot of time talking about the value offering of these benefits is simply wasting valuable time.

So why do you spend so much time talking about your company and your product? Obviously, you need to do the minimum amount to make sure you check off all of the check boxes, but that is all you are doing. All you are doing is showing that your company and your product are good enough to match the competition. As soon as you achieve that parity, you need to sell the one benefit that only you can provide.

You need to sell you. You need to prove to the prospect that you offer more value than your competitor. You demonstrate this value offering by the information that you share with the prospect. You demonstrate this value offering by the benefit that you provide understanding your prospect’s business. By helping your prospect improve his or her personal skills and achieve personal goals, you make yourself irreplaceable.

If your product can help the prospect achieve a goal, then it is likely that your competitor’s product can do the same. If your company can support the product and the customer, then your competitor can do the same. You, personally, are the only truly differentiated benefit to the prospect, and you need to make sure your prospect understands this benefit (and the associated value offering).

You know that you have truly won the deal if the prospect says they would buy either your product or your competitor’s product from you. You were the most valuable part of the sale. Have you ever heard those words from a new customer?

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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