Great products sell themselves, right?
Well, why does Apple have a world class sales and marketing organisation then? Because there is so much more to the iPhone “experience” than making calls. And the sales and marketing team are there to accompany new (and old) customers on that journey of discovery.
The engineer-centric view of any technology-led product is surely that the features and benefits would be obvious to any customer, but it is surprising how many companies fail because they do not take the time to describe the subtler aspects of the “experience” that ensure that customers become fans.
Building a great product is not enough for the customers to keep coming.
A sales function allows for a deep dive into every conceivable use for a product, and in the B2B sales space it is critical to have people who are able to point out the varying benefits of the tech for all sorts of stakeholders across a customer’s business (and not just for the person who is holding the purse strings). The person with the purse strings can then go to all these people and explain why they should purchase – in their terms. Greater value is unlocked, there is a higher rate of product application and consequently more revenue per customer.
When the number of customers is finite (it always is eventually), a successful sales function helps maximise the potential of every single customer by helping them to meet needs that they didn’t even know that they had.
That is why a first hire for a company entering a new market is often a Sales Director or a General Manager with a sales background.
CEOs typically aren’t great at doing the job themselves. Much as they would like to. Sorry….
This is often the biggest hurdle for any early-stage organisation. CEOs who are willing to hire a big hitter to handle the sales function have to give up a significant amount of the strategic direction – micromanaging a top sales star won’t end well.
It is also important to understand how and when to scale a sales function – the initial Sales Director will have to be relatively hands-on in the early days, so there is no point hiring someone who enjoys agonising over five-year plans or only experienced in managing a team of sales specialists. They need to get out there!
Lastly, the sales function should be integrated with the technical/engineering team as early as possible to enable them to grow together rather than plough their own furrows. The start-up CEO understands that each function is utterly dependant on the other, no matter how superfluous the engineering team thinks the sales guys are.
No product will sell itself to everyone all the time. Good products are useful. Great products are useful to different people in different ways.
A fantastic sales function is able to unlock the value in every possible use.
That is why a start-up needs a sales leader in from day one.
Alan Anwar is the Managing Director at Datasearch Consulting, a leading executive recruitment firm specialising in the Financial Technology & Data sectors.
You can download their FREE comprehensive guide on “The Complete Guide to Hiring Fintech & Data Talent - 5 Proven Steps to Secure the Best Candidates Possible” here. Alternatively you can view the Datasearch Consulting website or contact them directly on email@example.com for a more detailed discussion.
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