As a startup founder, you often wear multiple hats – including that of a sales lead. You have a deep understanding of your product and ideal customer profile, and no one is more passionate about selling it than you.
However, navigating the B2B sales terrain is tough. You’re facing fierce competitors, demanding buyers, multiple stakeholders, and long sales cycles. Furthermore, the internet has also made the B2B landscape far more competitive than before. Your customers are professional, well-informed buyers who can likely find solutions and vendors on their own. In order to stand out, you have to demonstrate your expertise, provide unique value, and address your customer’s pain points.
With all these complexities, it takes a sophisticated sales playbook to truly compete in today’s market, and founder-led sales can only take you so far. Eventually, you must transition to professional enterprise sales with repeatable processes and clear buyer personas to bring your business to the next level.
That said, this transition process can be incredibly complex. From searching for a sales lead, and onboarding them, to setting up your sales team, every step requires a carefully thought-out approach to avoid floundering.
To gain insights on how to ace the transition process, we sat down with Frank Bomers and Joeri Gianotten, Partners at AccelerAsia.
Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover in this article:
- When is it time to transition
- What to look for in a sales lead
- How to onboard your sales lead effectively
- Building a scalable process in Asia Pacific
- How AccelerAsia helps your business with the transition
When is it time to transition?
Imagine this: you’re looking at your sales pipelines and spot lots of opportunities that you expect to close in the next two to three weeks. But in reality, that never happens.
Don’t get us wrong – as a founder, you’re likely to have a deep understanding of sales and your product. You’ve made a great start establishing your business while managing sales yourself. However, now that you’re looking to accelerate growth and expand to new markets, you’re simply too stretched and have no time to take the necessary steps. B2B sales processes tend to be extremely time-consuming, whether it’s in-depth research, finding new prospects, qualifying your leads, or nurturing them. For a founder who juggles many roles at once, that’s a lot to handle.
If you’re short on time and looking to delegate some of the smaller, more nitty-gritty tasks, you may need assistance explaining your processes to others. In fact, you may not even realise that you have a process in place, as it all exists within your mind. Your expertise stems from years of experience, making your actions almost instinctive. This is why founders often need help articulating their processes and knowledge to others, sometimes assuming that someone senior they’ve hired for the job should already be aware of it, even if they aren’t.
Knowledge sharing is absolutely key. If someone can distil your finely-honed sales story into a playbook and successfully apply it across a sales structure, it can significantly boost your business growth potential.
Without a standardised sales process, you might see the following:
1. You’re struggling to close more deals
In the early stages, founders often rely on their personal networks and relationships to kick-start their sales momentum. These eventually dry up, and you’ll need to start researching and finding new prospects. The problem is founders often have no time for the details in this process, such as data analysis, reporting, and tracking. When these are not done properly, your sales leads may fall through the cracks.
2. Lack of structure
The solution to having no time for the necessary is to delegate them. However, your team members probably don’t have the same level of understanding or experience in sales as you do, and they will struggle to replicate your success without clear guidance and support. For an organisation that is trying to scale, relying solely on the founder’s efforts will not suffice. What you need is to develop a structured sales process that is documented and shared across your team in order to see a consistent, sustainable sales workflow for your business to grow and thrive.
3. Your investors can’t see movement
B2B sales are long. Due to the lack of a process and structure in your organisation, you might have wasted an entire year chasing a lead when qualifying would have alerted you to the hard truth that things weren’t right. Your investors have put their bets on you and are waiting to see the numbers. Without a standardised sales process in play across your organisation, you’re also unable to provide your investors with visibility and predictability in the pipeline. As a result, they can’t see movement, and they start getting frustrated. This is often the turning point for founders to kick-start an enterprise sales process in their organisations.
What to look for in a sales lead
The first step to transitioning to a professional enterprise sales process is to look for a professional to lead your sales team. When looking for the one to take on this role, founders are often attracted to big brand names on the resume.
Instead, here are the key things to prioritise:
1. The ability to build a team from scratch
Instead of a senior sales director from a global tech firm that indicates the ability to manage a large team in an established enterprise, look for someone who has built a company from nothing to something, as that’s a whole different ball game. You’re looking for a talent prepared to do plenty of heavy lifting on the frontline and knock on many doors.
2. Their understanding of the nitty-gritty
You also want to hire someone who can get their hands dirty and do the work themselves. Those who can do the work would have a good understanding of the different functions of the sales team and each step of the sales process. This is important for someone who is going to build your company’s professional enterprise sales process from scratch.
3. Industry expertise
Expertise in the same industry is a great advantage, especially in the beginning. People with good sector knowledge usually bring a network that immediately opens doors for your company. However, Frank notes that good sales talents can learn industry expertise, and their understanding and ability to sell a product should take precedence.
How to onboard your sales lead effectively
Founders have everything in their heads; getting this knowledge out is critical. Document all your vital information, such as the ideal customer profile, the problem you’re solving, the message you want to convey, and the key stakeholders involved.
That said, many sales processes are unstructured and implicit. To get around that, spend time with your sales lead and communicate this information. Let them organise it and devise a strategy with the data.
Ensure that they know the ins and outs of your product and the industry to demonstrate confidence and expertise to your buyers. Knowledge is key, allowing your sales lead to tailor your offerings to each customer’s unique pain points.
Building a scalable process
After hiring and onboarding, your sales lead’s first task would be to qualify the existing pipeline. Let them evaluate the leads, determine the ones worth pursuing, and identify the gaps that must be filled. This is the first step to creating an efficient, standardised sales process that is sustainable and scalable.
Before hiring your sales development reps (SDRs) and account executives (AEs), have your sales lead sell the product themselves so that they can understand firsthand the challenges involved in the process. During this process, they can learn the right questions to ask to identify customer pain points, and the right questions to identify what stakeholders need to be involved in closing the deal. Doing this can also help them identify areas of improvement to streamline the sales process. From this experience, your sales lead can develop a structured communication and outreach process and align it with the sales team.
Your sales team can then work together to build a data-driven, strategic sales strategy to elevate your business. For instance, you can start by building a contact database with qualified leads, implementing engagement scoring on your leads based on your sales activity, and measuring the impact of your sales strategy on a regular basis.
How AccelerAsia helps your business with the transition
Transitioning from founder-led sales to professional enterprise sales is filled with complexities. To navigate this, AccelerAsia offers Sales-as-a-Service as a growth solution. We come in to not just create your sales playbook, but also execute it and create the sales rigour in your organisation. We’ve worked with over 60 clients to date and honed sophisticated sales processes that deliver leads and sales. Our solution entails dedicated B2B sales specialists who are not just equipped with sales training but also armed with local language skills to help you enter your target markets. On top of that, we provide market assessment and vital services like channel sales, growth and event marketing, customer success, and recruitment.
With this, you can immediately kick-start your operations with confidence instead of spending months looking for a sales lead and waiting another quarter of the year for them to settle in. Your business can also benefit from the continuity and flexibility we offer, deploying and scaling to your target markets with minimal risk.
Interested in working with AccelerAsia to kick-start your business growth across APAC? Chat with our team today.