Sales as a marketing channel

Selling as a startup isn’t easy. It can be really challenging to get customers to use and buy your product. To effectively bring sales into your growth model, you need to develop a selling process that works.

What kind of metrics and frameworks can you put into place from the start?

Your sales process needs to be a repeatable model that generates and qualifies leads, guides your prospects through the buying process, and converts them into paying customers.

Usually prospects have already identified their own needs and can easily gather information about you and your competitor’s products.

Design a plan of action to help your prospects meet their problem-solving goals and add value to their decision-making process.

Learn how to sell your product and drive a lot of demand before marketing. Think about developing your sales process in this order:

  1. Motive
  2. Metrics
  3. Message
  4. Method
  5. Marketing

Start exploring your sales model

Get your sales process started by patiently and deliberately reaching out to your early adopters. These are the people that align to your company’s vision and who become champions for you in the market.

Experiment with prospecting activities to find early adopters and lead sources. Use social selling tactics like paid ads, social media and landing pages to generate a pool of prospects.

Guide those prospects to take action by signing up for your email newsletter or booking an appointment.

Kevin Smith outlines the typical sales funnel for a startup in MaRS’ online course, Selling for Entrepreneurs. Here’s a starting point to follow from initial contact to the final sale and implementation:

  • Generate leads
  • Get appointments
  • Qualify needs
  • Establish credibility
  • Present solutions and handle objections
  • Close and ask for the sale
  • Implement the solution
  • Request referrals

Work out your funnel and buyer roadmap for your product. Introduce more steps (or fewer) depending on the prospect’s situation and the problem they need to solve. More steps will give you more touch points and opportunities to build a stronger relationship.

Whether it happens online or in-person, your sales process should be unique to the customer segments within your target industries and verticals.

Goals, plans, challenges, timeline (GPCT): A framework for your qualifying strategy

Once you’ve got a list of prospects, you’ll need to qualify them and make sure your solution can help solve their problem. Use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool or a spreadsheet to record your plan and approach for establishing contact with each prospect.

Spend time individualizing a strategy for each prospect and learn how they buy solutions like yours and who the decision-makers are to make the sale happen. Find out the level of need for your product and if they’re willing to buy it.

Develop a sales strategy that puts you in control, rather than relying on customers to evaluate and buy your product on their own.

Use the GPCT (goals, plans, challenges, timeline) framework to determine if the prospect is worth your time and energy. Keep in mind that it’s all about helping your prospect reach their goals, and in turn, your own startup’s revenue goals.

A key aspect to sales is to anticipate the objections, concerns and obstacles that a prospect might raise. After each touch point, make sure you push the sale forward by establishing action items.

When it’s time, ask for the sale and know the deal does not end with the close. Help the customer get the product up and running and actually use your product.

Develop a customer implementation plan for the first month, quarter and year. And ask your best customers to help you find new customers through referrals and reviews.

Use sales tools to create an efficient model

There’s many sales tools that will help you manage your sales flow and process. Kevin Smith recommends these in our Selling for Entrepreneurs course: