November 8, 2022

Growing Fast - Less Spend


Bob Berry

In a startup, getting your first 50 customers creates the foundation of the company and the traction the company needs to build a business. The momentum generated by getting those first customers means everything to the company. But what’s the fastest way to get those customers, and with the minimum use of capital?  

Many Founders presume that building up a sales team starts with a senior-level Sales VP right from the beginning.  Unfortunately, there are too many occasions when it doesn’t work well.   A sales VP who is good at building and recruiting the sales team doesn’t always have the skills to  figure out the early messaging and value proposition to gain the attention of early adaptive customers.  The reality is, there are more execution-focused VP’s of Sales who are great at leading their teams, but far too few with the creative skills to figure out what will get a prospective customer’s attention. Typically, these big guns have had the benefit of working with different levels of marketing help in their previous lives.

Recently we were doing a search for a VP of Sales Enablement, and as I started talking to candidates, I noticed that many had excellent sales backgrounds before they began focusing on sales enablement.  In our work helping startups build out the sales organization, we’ve noted that as a startup grew to mid-stage (i.e., Series B or C), requests for Sales Enablement candidates were more the norm.  As we interviewed the Enablement people, some of them started their careers in Sales and had excellent knowledge of positioning value to prospective customers. Management noticed their value-creation skills and they were the first to be asked to train the new people entering the company. Typically they became team leaders, and became adept at teaching their value-selling skills to the other new team members.

So when these people went on further in their careers,  some discovered they really enjoyed Sales Enablement.   So the thought occurred to me, in a Seed stage or Series A startup with zero or a few customers, why not challenge conventional  thinking  and look at sales enablement people (if they have good field domain) to work with a small sales crew to win those crucial first customers?   Why navigate your first battles at sea with an Admiral when it might be more efficient to use a Captain ?