Have these five characteristics in place, so you can scale your sales and marketing team and build your B2B startup faster.
Startup founders must lay the foundation for a scalable sales and marketing team if they want to grow their business.
Without this foundation, a B2B startup will always have limited growth potential.
The three biggest obstacles to building a scalable sales team are:
▪ A founder’s unwillingness to ‘let go’ and delegate responsibility
▪ An unclear organizational structure, without defined roles, functions, and authority
▪ Missing skills and competences
These barriers lead to chaos and poor execution and prevent a B2B startup from reaching its full potential.
Learn the five qualities your sales and marketing team must have in place to deliver results and be able to expand with the business.
SCALE YOUR SALES TEAM WITH THESE 5 TRAITS
A scalable sales team has five key qualities.
1. Founder commitment to team evolution
The founder understands that their role must change as their business expands. This enables their team to evolve as well.
2. Well-defined sales and marketing functions
Key functions, from lead generation to content creation, are covered within the team.
Everyone understands their responsibilities and knows how their work will be evaluated.
Check out my blogs on goal setting and performance management for further details.
3. A mix of in-house and out-sourced roles
A scalable sales team has certain functions in-house, but also outsources certain roles to third parties, often on a part-time basis.
4. Effective external sales agent management
External sales agents are trained and there are systems in place to manage and support these partners an on-going basis.
5. International-ready skills and experience
A scalable sales team can operate on a global stage and attract and keep international customers.
Let’s look at each of these qualities in more detail.
1. FOUNDER COMMITMENT TO EVOLVE
Early-stage B2B founders do ‘everything,’ including managing sales and marketing operations.
Every key decision sits with them or their co-founders.
While this makes managing sales and marketing simple, this structure is not scalable.
The founder’s role must evolve, from being a one-man band to becoming the conductor of an orchestra.
They must hire new employees, external service providers, and eventually, a manager who oversees the B2B startup’s sales and marketing efforts.
The 4 stages of sales team development
A sales and marketing organization goes through four stages of development.
Each level adds a layer of complexity and effectiveness and enables the creation of a scalable organization.
It’s unlikely that you can skip any of these levels but, instead, need to push through them one by one.
Level 1: Founder-led selling
You are the ‘jack of all trades’ and cover almost every sales and marketing function.
You can hear your customers’ challenges firsthand and integrate their feedback into your product/service offering.
Don’t make the mistake of outsourcing these functions too early.
Otherwise, you risk losing valuable insights you can use in developing your product or service.
Level 2: Founder plus
You add one or two sales and marketing team members who support you as a founder on a functional level.
These numbers may increase as your organization grows, but the responsibility for reaching sales targets remains with you.
Level 3: External sales function
You introduce external sales agents and distributors to leverage your sales capabilities.
This makes your sales activities more complex because it requires arm’s length management of people not under your direct control.
Level 4: Sales and marketing leadership
You hire a full-time leader who takes responsibility for managing sales and marketing and reaching revenue targets.
This doesn’t mean you as a founder ‘disappear’ from the sales process.
It means you aren’t responsible for managing sales and marketing activities and only get involved in certain situations.
2. CLEARLY DEFINED SALES & MARKETING FUNCTIONS
A scalable sales and marketing team has several distinct functions.
The number of people who carry out these functions depends on the startup’s maturity level and resources.
The earlier stage the startup, the more likely that these functions are covered by only one or two people.
These responsibilities ‘split’ into several, more narrow functions as the company matures.
Key sales team functions
A well-structured sales team has five functions.
This function identifies prospects through outbound sales and determines whether the prospect is a good fit for the product or service.
In B2B tech startups, this function is often covered by one or more sales development representatives or SDRs.
Learn how to identify your ideal customer using my three-step process.
Manages ongoing communication with qualified leads, presenting the offer and negotiating terms and conditions.
This function is often handled by an account executive or sales manager.
Read my blog about my 7-step outbound sales process to help you close more deals.
Partnership Sales & Management
Oversees all external sales agents and sales-driven partnerships, also known as ‘channel sales.’
This role includes contacting qualified partners, negotiating agreements, and managing relationships.
It is usually covered by a partnerships manager or channel sales manager.
Check out my blog on the 3 types of sales partnerships that will drive your growth.
Covers administrative duties, including contracts, billing as well as updating sales materials and the customer relationship management (CRM) system.
This role is often covered by a sales assistant.
After Sales Support
Manages customer contact, addressing problems during onboarding or via the use of the product and service.
This function’s primary purpose is to keep customers happy, so they use the product or service and buy more products or services.
In B2B tech startups, this role is often referred to as a customer success manager.
Key marketing team functions
A scalable marketing team also has five distinct functions.
A content marketer writes copy for social media, emails, and blogs and manages the distribution of these materials via digital platforms.
This function manages paid advertising on social media platforms and Google, usually on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis.
Public Relations & Events
The role promotes the company’s presence on media outlets, like podcasts and articles, and organizes opportunities to speak at business conferences and events.
The marketing partnerships role develops promotion-driven cooperations with organizations, in close cooperation with partnership sales and public relations and events.
Marketing services cover a broad range of project-based functions like copywriting, graphic design, photography, or video production.
3. MIX OF IN-HOUSE AND OUT-SOURCED ROLES
It may be surprising to see how many functions a scalable sales and marketing organization needs.
The good news is, you don’t have to hire people responsible for these functions on a full-time or in-house basis.
There is an entire segment of professionals who prefer to work as part-time freelancers.
So, how do you decide how to cover each of the sales and marketing functions?
First, determine if you need a full-time or a part-time person to fill a particular role.
This will depend on the time needed to complete relevant tasks, as well as your available budget.
Then, decide if you want to have this person in-house (i.e., exclusively part of your team) or if you’re happy to assign the function to an outsourced (external) service provider.
It’s most likely that your ‘full-time’ people will be ‘in-house’ and that your ‘part-time’ people will be ‘outsourced’.
Best practice for assigning sales roles
Keep lead generation, account management, and partnership sales management in-house.
This helps you understand your customer’s needs and stay close to your customers as your business develops.
Both these functions give you access to such valuable information and insights.
If you rely only on external sales agents to generate revenues, you will never have complete control of your “lifeline.”
You also risk losing valuable relationships if the outsourced service provider moves on.
Only consider outsourcing your lead generation after you’ve defined your ideal customer.
Otherwise, you’ll be a service provider to generate poor prospects.
The sales administration and after-sales support functions don’t need full-time commitments.
It’s easier to outsource these roles until the volume of customers requires a greater time commitment.
Best practice for allocation marketing functions
Marketing functions rarely need a full-time commitment.
This gives you the chance to work with many external service providers.
As the volume of marketing activity grows, you can bring two functions in-house.
Depending on the amount of content marketing, you may eventually want to bring this role in-house.
You may also find it useful to hire a full-time marketing executive who coordinates all service providers and freelancers.
Other marketing functions, like digital advertising and marketing services, can be outsourced and paid for on a project basis.
No matter how many people cover these functions, and whether they are in-house/outsourced or full-time/part-time, each team member must be clear on three things:
- Their responsibilities
- Their decision-making authority
- How their work will be evaluated
This ensures the entire sales and marketing organization functions as one, coordinated team and delivers results that are best for the business.
4. MANAGING EXTERNAL SALES AGENTS
Once a B2B startup reaches “Level 3: External Sales Function,” it adds more complexity to the sales and marketing process.
External sales agents can be individuals or companies that target a specific industry (e.g., pharmaceuticals) or a region (e.g., Northern Europe)
Many founders mistakenly believe that their work with external sales agents ends once they’ve been appointed.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Putting the deal together is the first step.
The startup must actively manage these sales agent relationships so that they generate the greatest benefit for all.
Follow these best practices to create strong, mutually beneficial external sales agent relationships.
1. Have an onboarding process in place
Make sure external sales agents understand your product or service and its value proposition and are capable of communicating this to prospects.
2. Give agents sales targets
Salespeople are driven by targets.
Even if sales targets are not included contract, make sure you identify deliverables – like revenues, and number of customers – so external sales agents are clear on your expectations
Targets will also make performance reviews easier to manage as the discussion will focus on objective criteria rather than subjective points of view.
3. Ask for regular written progress reports
Ask external sales agents to prepare a written summary of their activities and results on a monthly basis.
These updates will not only give insights into their work.
They also create ‘soft pressure’ for sales agents to take action, so they don’t present the same report each month.
4. Organize regular face-to-face (virtual) meetings
Besides the written report, organize one-to-one meetings.
These enable you to gather further insights, provide feedback and updates, and get a personal impression of the sales agent’s work.
5. Share updated information and sales materials
External sales agents should have access to the latest sales and marketing materials, including any updates.
This ensures they share up-to-date information about the product and are aware of any changes in strategy, messaging or pricing.
Give external sales agents 3-to-6 months to get up to speed and deliver initial results.
Don’t make any long-term decisions about the business relationship before then.
If you determine that their work is not contributing to the success of the company, don’t be afraid to move on.
If they deliver results, though, take steps to bring them even closer to your business.
Give them even more support, as they can become an even more valuable part of your team.
5. INTERNATIONAL READY TEAM QUALITIES
Founders who want to scale their business globally must ensure that their sales and marketing team has certain qualities.
1. Business English language skills
English is the language of international business.
Every customer-facing member of the team must be able to communicate well in English verbally and in writing.
A working knowledge of other languages – e.g., German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian – is helpful in relevant markets.
Any team member who can’t speak business English, however, will become an obstacle as their impact will be limited while the business grows.
You can ensure that everyone becomes comfortable with business English by making it the de facto language of the company.
In this case, make sure all internal emails and presentations are in English from ‘day one’.
2. Strong presentation skills
Presenting your business in a compelling way will boost your sales and marketing effectiveness in international markets.
It’s the fastest way to break through the language and cultural gaps that you will encounter between markets.
Speaking convincingly about your offer will not only build your credibility with international partners but will set you apart from the competition.
My advice: present as often as you can in English and get professional training if needed. It will be money well spent.
3. Diverse cultural mix
Startups with team members from a mix of countries are more likely to succeed as the company expands globally.
Recruit people from various cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds onto your team as soon as possible.
If possible, hire people with connections to the international markets on your target list for expansion.
Ready to prepare your sales and marketing team to scale quickly?
Apply to work with me and I’ll personally take you through The Launch Code in just 8 weeks.
You’ll learn how to add 3-to-5 enterprise clients to your startup each quarter by focusing your offer and message, building a structured sales model, and executing based on targets.
I’ll tell you about my ‘Online Course‘ and ‘Course + Mentoring‘ options, as well.