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Bringing Sales 2.0 to VCs and the Start-Ups They Fund

23 February 2010

Bruce Cleveland, a partner at the venture capital firm InterWest, gets it — Sales 2.0, that is. Last week, Bruce invited me to deliver a Sales 2.0 workshop for management team members of the portfolio companies he and his colleague, Doug Pepper, have funded.  Bruce and Doug are representative of forward-thinking VCs who understand that companies focused on improving sales effectiveness and optimization with Sales 2.0 will grow revenues faster at a lower cost, making their investments more valuable.

The workshop participants were CEOs, VPs of sales and VPs of marketing of young companies, some of whom attended the event live and others who participated via phone and Web conference (using Sales 2.0 for a Sales 2.0 event!) The executives’ businesses are varied, but their challenges revolve around common key issues:

  • Generating and nurturing sales leads and increasing the pipeline of qualified opportunities
  • Identifying which prospects are the most likely to buy
  • Expanding the customer base
  • Introducing new sales techniques to traditional businesses and their buyers
  • Determining best practices for selling through partner channels
  • Upselling customers of free or low-cost products

My workshop content included an introduction to the key concepts of Sales 2.0 and illustrated how large and small companies are generating improved, measurable results with Sales 2.0 best practices and technology. My objective was to present proven new sales approaches, tested by our client companies and the best-performing companies we follow, and to give the management-team attendees at least one new idea that could accelerate results or create new opportunities at their companies. To provide multiple perspectives from key thinkers in the Sales 2.0 community, I invited Barry Trailer, co-founder of CSO Insights, and Bill Binch, VP of sales and service for Marketo (an Interwest-funded company), to be co-presenters.

Barry, who describes CSO Insights as “a 2.0 analyst firm,” presented a wealth of data from his recently released survey report on sales effectiveness, gathered from 2,800 companies on 100 metrics across industries.  Among other key metrics, he reported that only 56.3% of sales forces in companies of all sizes are meeting quota, but within the start-up community, the average percentage drops to 50.2%. Clearly there is room for improvement.

Bill offered his expert views on the core Sales 2.0 concepts of sales and marketing alignment and collaboration. Bill asked workshop participants to re-think traditional expectations of sales reps.  For example, he challenged executives who require their sales forces to generate a certain percentage of their own leads, asking, “Who cares who creates sales leads, as long as they turn into revenue?” He  suggested sales and marketing leaders should not be frustrated by sales reps who do not follow up on leads, stressing sales reps should only follow up on qualified leads. Bill also gave participants this excellent tip: To get a good read on how customers experience your company compared to your competitors, go to their website and fill out a form. Then, see what happens next:

  • Is an automatically generated e-mail sent?
  • If there is an offer, is it fulfilled?
  • Do you get a phone-call follow-up within 24 or fewer hours?
  • Do you get added to an automated lead-nurturing program?

Then, Bill said, “Once you understand your competitors’ responsiveness, try the same process for your own company, and see how you compare.”

If you work for a start-up company, do your VCs “get” Sales 2.0? Does your management team?