Discover more from The Business of Food
Sales Role Expectations
Founders have the hardest job, but the toughest might be the sales role. When things go wrong it’s their fault. As a startup you may have run through a few folks that didn’t work out, perhaps because your expectations weren’t met.
I’ll argue traditional sales ecosystems aren’t matching up to founder expectations, and founders want to avoid unhappy teams.
At the most basic level, salespeople are rewarded for making sales. An experienced salesperson comes to a new company confident that they can leverage their existing relationships, hit the ground running and win new accounts quickly. What’s changed are stakeholder expectations. A savvy startup founder wants to be capital efficient and, for a time, keep things small. That means proving market demand in a controlled test in order to get that next round of funding or dip further into debt.
So the message is: sell a little bit, then stop selling.
Huh? Sales people are not wired that way.
How do you incent people to stop selling? By developing compensation around the goals you are seeking in the near term.
New sales KPIs
Saturate a small market area.
Get to X velocity in same-store sales.
Maintain Y gross margins.
Many sales candidates don't do No. 2 and No. 3 simultaneously. They argue for outsized spend (in the form of slotting and heavy discounting) in order to get the sales, insisting all the while that you can back off later. This was the old way—buying revenues—and it’s not in the playbook anymore.
When you limit these traditional sales levers, you’re asking sales to put much more faith in what they can’t control: the brand. A good sales candidate will want to know your brand story, so you better have good answers to:
What is the brand doing to support sales?
How are your e-commerce sales; how are the reviews?
What’s your social media engagement like?
How tied are you to the community; have you found your tribe and how connected are they to your brand?
If you’re not doing your part on the brand side, good candidates won’t be attracted to the job, the KPIs won’t come in and sales will get the blame. But if you have a story to tell, sales will have a shot at being successful.
All my best,