What Do You Need to Do to Improve Sales? Here’s a Start …

I write about sales often both because it’s the lifeblood of any organization and because in my experience it is the area in which more startups are least experienced or inclined. I also write and talk about it frequently because raising capital is a part of sales and this is important for entrepreneurs to understand.

To make it simple and easy to remember – there are three basic rules of sales:

1. Why Buy Anything?
2. Why Buy Me?
3. Why Buy Now?

This post will cover the first.

If you ask any experienced sales leader they’ll tell you there are three things to know about being effective at sales: Qualify, qualify, qualify. This is simply because sales people have limited time and  can’t afford to waste time with anybody who isn’t likely to buy from them in the near term.

But how do you qualify?

Do you have a problem I could solve?

The starting point is to ask yourself whether the person you’re dealing with has a problem that is solved by the solution you offer. If they don’t – you simply won’t sell anything. That’s why many great sales starts with generating inbound marketing leads. If you create content marketing programs and drive traffic to websites where you can measure how long somebody spends reading your materials or downloading your white papers you’ve at least confirmed some level of interest.

If you have a product, knowing who the “typical buyer” by department or title is helps you greatly because you can quickly get to somebody likely to be familiar with the space in which you’re selling. If you know the title you can use tools like SalesLoft to build lists of potential leads.

If you generate outbound email campaigns to groups of potential buyers you can use SalesLoft or tools like Yesware and ToutApp to track whether people opened your emails, clicked on your links, downloaded your documents, etc. This is a part of determining the interest of potential buyers and allowing you to focus your scarce time on the most important leads you have. All of these products are great and if you’re not using anything to track the interest level of your prospects you’re competing with one hand tied behind your back [note: I’m not an investor in any of the companies mentioned in this post.]

The other obvious area in determining interested parties is to find referrals from trusted sources. That’s why companies partner with vendors with complementary service offerings. At Invoca (where I am an investor) we have partnered with people like Salesforce.com and HubSpot on go-to-market campaigns because our products work really well together. Invoca helps you to manage inbound sales calls (efficacy, attribution, duration, etc) and given how many people have historically only tracked click-based campaigns the shift to mobile ads has made Invoca one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies in our portfolio.

What is the single biggest mistake I see inexperienced startup people do in sales? Wasting time with prospects who aren’t …