Sales organizations tend to differ strongly by the stage a company is in. There are three main influence factors for this fact:
- The number of customers served influences how scalable a sales organization has to be.
- The maturity of the product in the sense of product-market fit determines how repeatable and standardized a sales process can be.
- Other emerging factors such as pricing, geographical footprint of the company and brand presence in the marketplace change over time how a company has to sell.
According to Giese and Hilpert, there are four stages a sales organization will go through. This is most clear-cut in B2B sales, but also applies similarly to B2C sales organizations.
- Explore: The startup is just starting to generate revenue is and very much still discovering who the ideal customers are and what value proposition and messaging they will react to.
- Learn: The company starts to ramp up revenue (in SaaS 100k-1M EUR in ARR) and is quickly learning how to push the product into the market. Pricing is a major dimension to figure out at this stage.
- Standardize: The company understands well what customers want to buy and at what price point. It now needs to scale up its sales efforts in a repeatable way, bringing in additional sales talent.
- Optimize: The company has a well-tested sales playbook, but keeps optimizing its approach as it is expanding into new markets and potentially launching new products.
Keeping feedback loops very tight is crucial at this stage. Founders should very frequently talk to customers in order to get all the nuances of customer needs, objections and buying patterns.
In the second two stages, the responsibility for sales is typically transferred to a professional sales leader, such as a VP of Sales. They will be tasked with ramping up the sales organization, building the necessary process to manage all sales activities and providing market feedback to the rest of the organization in a structured way.
The Standardize and Optimize phases go on indefinitely in continued iteration loops since any sales organization has to adapt to changing market circumstances.
Fast Forward: Accelerating B2B Sales for Startups
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