Lead Generation and Growth Hacking Blog

Startup Struggles With Sales And How To Overcome Them


We get it. You’re a startup CEO and founder and you probably don’t know a thing about sales. (We’re generalizing here, yes, don’t get offended if you’re one of the lucky salesy bosses out there. More power to you!) You just want to work on your solution development, make it as good and useful as possible. You want to have a good team that is satisfied with their scope of work and earnings, as well as their colleagues. Those two goals are hard enough themselves, ask any developer and HR out there. Now you need to figure out sales, too? Come on, can a wo/man live a little?

Don’t think that all the apps and smartphones you’re using just magically found their way to your daily life. Someone had to sell HARD for them to win among a multitude of other solutions. Millions of users came later.

Lacking sales effort and clear sales process is one of the main reasons why startups fail.

We researched some of the most common problems startups face when it comes to sales and we offer the best solutions for them.

Problem 1: Your product is new and customers don’t understand it

This is the problem almost every startup faces - how do you explain to your future customers that your product is the right one for them? They don’t really trust startups and they don’t know or care about your business background, so why would they buy your solution?

Plus, if it’s innovative, as most solutions are, they’re probably shying away from it thinking you are just trying to sell something they don’t really need. 

Solved: Before you start any sales efforts make sure you yourself have the answer „What’s in it for them?“ This is the basis of any sales effort for any product in the world. People buy the benefit, not the product.

Then, if you’re not sure they would understand your explanation - try to explain it so that someone who has absolutely no knowledge about your industry can understand it. 

Your next step is to explain your competitive advantage – why they should buy from you and why your solution is better than their previous one. 

Make the product so that it’s as easy as possible to use and offer a trial version to help your prospects understand exactly what they’re getting into. 

Some compatibility with their existing systems and databases would be nice as well. Remember to mention that in your value propositions, too.

Problem 2: You don’t have any customers that can recommend you

You can come up with a nice story but who will believe you and why should they? You’re just one in a million of startups trying to sell their solution and nobody they know has bought from you.

As a matter of fact, your „newness“ is what puts you into „high-risk purchase“ category, which means that non-traditional decision makers who are higher in the hierarchy and can create and relocate budgets, need to decide on buying your solution. 

Solved: Go for the early adopters. Go for the very decision makers that are known for taking risks and trying out new innovative solutions. 

Focus on the single industry or market and find your niche. Early adopters will try your product and word of mouth will spread. Plus, you will have your first customers as a reference for further sales efforts.

Partnering with a 3rd party or a bigger compatible company can also be a great point of reference. Improve your offer by joining forces with someone who is better known than you are. Not only will you get more credibility, but you will gain a better insight into your market. 

Not to mention that early-majority audience needs more persuasion than the early adopters and you need to provide more value to convince them your product is worthy of their time.


Problem 3: Your product is still changing

It’s no secret that startup solutions are as unstable as a baby giraffe. Startup’s immaturity makes them a less probable choice for big businesses, even when they seem like a better solution than the current one by far. And who can blame those decision makers?

The fact is, no matter how good your startup, you’re still at the beginning of the learning curve and have to deal with growing demand and expanding customer base, as well as different needs of those customers.

Solved: Find salespeople that are not stuck in the old ways, but someone who understands your industry and is up to date with all the changes and difficulties that may arise. This is especially important for IT startups whose products often go to market half finished and need constant improvement.

However, thinking about the problem of your customers at the very beginning, before you even start your solution development will decrease the number of changes you will have to implement later on. Make the prototype as early as you can and test it to see what needs to be changed and what demands the customers may have in the process.

Problem 4: No repeatable and effective sales processes and tools

You really can’t do your sales at every opportunity you get and change the offer every time you take your potential client to lunch. Sales improvisation will get you nowhere.

You need to know exactly what you’re selling and how much you can earn from it in order to optimize the process and see if your solution needs improvement. You need to set goals that should be met because they mean revenue.

Solved: Stick to the script. You can experiment with your sales at the very beginning before you find out what works. Some pricing plans sell better, some don’t sell at all. Some channels work miracles, some are a clear waste of time. 

Measure your first sales efforts to get results and then make the sales strategy that you or your employees should follow. Establish tools that must be used in the process (simple CRM or ABS tools) in order to always track and tweak your campaigns.

The fewer mistakes you make – the less time is wasted.


Problem 5: Poor or no lead generation

We’ve mentioned this in our blog post about mistakes startups make when doing lead generation, but you really can’t sell your product to just anyone. Your best buddy working his ass off in that Fortune 500 company may really not need your solution, no matter how good it is. 

You can always look for a quick fix in a form of a cheap web scraped lead list, but, as all quick fixes, that can make more damage than good.

Bad or no lead generation will only result in tons of time wasted.

Solution: Create your Ideal Customer Profile and know exactly who you’re targeting. Be 100% sure those companies could use your solution. Then do the lead generation yourself or hire a specialized agency to find the right leads for you. This is the only way for you to know you have the right email address and that you’re contacting the right person.

Remember that nowadays there are multiple buyers with a different level of influence scattered all over different departments that all need to agree that your solution is the best choice. Also, remember that 75% of all decisions are made before the first interaction with a brand, so be sure to create lots of useful content. Speaking of which...

Problem 6: No alignment between marketing and sales

In the olden days, marketing and sales worked separately, to put it nicely. In a reality, it was decades of waging war bloodier than anything you’ve seen on Game Of Thrones and equally scheming.

Nowadays not aligning your sales and marketing only means you’re a foolish company willing to waste their time, money and resources. That’s not really lean of you, is it?

Solved: Blur the line between marketing and sales. Let marketing create content to attract new leads (Inbound method) and let sales advise marketing on content that the target accounts need in order to be won (Account Based Approach). This will result in minimum time and money wasted and maximum clients won.

Problem 7: Sales Cycle that is too long

Many B2B sales cycles can be very long, we’re talking from 90 days to an entire year, depending on the price and type of your product as well as buying cycles in the companies you’re targeting.

This is where CEOs get nervous and think everything is moving too slow and they are losing money instead of gaining it. 

Solved: Try to shorten your cycle. If your solution is too big or too expensive, try to simplify it by dividing it into pricing packages that are more easy to afford. Let them try your solution with the cheapest package and if they’re satisfied you can talk them into getting the pricey one with more benefits and options. You will get monthly revenue to work with and a bigger pool of customers. 

This will not only make it easier for your customer to make a decision, but it will be easier for your sales and marketing department as well.

If you discover your solution simply cannot be divided into smaller parts, try to find cash by selling something else. For example, your consulting services for other startups or bigger companies. Basically, do your freelancing in order to earn for your own business. 

Unless you find someone to invest in your startup or get a bank loan that you will have to pay off until you’re dead and buried.

Problem 8: Saving money where you shouldn’t

Having a startup finally means you can quit your boring day job, get yourself the paycheck you always wanted, fancy car and office that will flip a middle finger to your enemies. But do you really need all that?

Many CEOs think marketing and sales are a luxury they shouldn’t invest in, not before they’ve earned their first million at least. But the reality is the exact opposite. Marketing and sales are the ones that will help you get that first million. Heck, the first billion.

Solved: Save on the infrastructure and full-time staff when you can and invest into development of your skills, solution and sales. At the beginning, freelancers are the ones to give you value for money. Log into the Upwork to find the people that can do the job you can’t and once you gain enough to hire employees – go for it. Just make sure you are ready for hiring since employees mean bigger budget, training and, in case of firing, a lot of problems.

The growth of your team should coincide with the growth of your sales. So the best way to make your new employees count is to get them in the sales and marketing department where they can work on growing the revenue right away.

Problems solved?

We hope we helped you solve at least one of your sales problems. 

If you have any more sales questions that we didn’t write about – let us know.

We’ve been helping startups such as Twilio and Wiredrive grow their sales and we know a thing or two how to make the most out of your efforts.


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