If you’ve ever claimed that your product will sell itself, this article is for you. While it may be true that you have a great product that could in theory sell itself, you will sell a lot more with a sales team - this goes for both B2B and B2C.
Sales teams play a crucial role in the growth and success of any business, regardless of its size, products, or target market. From large contracts to product development, sales teams bring numerous benefits that can help companies achieve their goals.
This article is based on a conversation between Vivino founder Heini Zachariassen and Paul St John has built sales teams on all levels, from startups to big corporations. He was also VP of sales at GitHub. The video is embedded below and the article continues under the video.
If you’re not convinced you need one, let me give you five reasons why you do.
#1: No large contract can be done without people
While we are without a doubt in the age of AI, we still need people and negotiating contracts is a perfect example of this. In business, especially in the B2B sector, large contracts are typically not closed without personal communication. Companies need someone to talk to if things go wrong - and a web form or email just won't cut it. As the contracts get over $10K they get harder and harder to close without a sales team. When you get to over $30k it is almost impossible to close a contract without a sales team. The larger clients need someone to talk to in the good times and the bad times.
On the other hand, smaller enterprise companies that deal with smaller deals and contracts, can likely make do with a SaaS solution handling contracts for them. Regardless, a sales team is necessary to establish a level of contract and service that larger companies require when making big purchases.
#2: Improving Products
The sales team is the front line of communication between the company and its customers. They are the ones who talk to customers the most and gather valuable feedback that can be used to improve your product. The CEO needs to have a pulse on the market and the sales team is the key to this - without them, the CEO won't have the invaluable insight from customers.
“You have to have a consistent way to read the market, learn from and bring it back to the organization” says St. John, adding that the sales team should be working with engineers on a weekly basis to relay what customers are thinking. Product market fit is not a one-time achievement, it is something that needs to be nurtured and the sales team can help make that happen.
Reason #3: Internal Connections
At a startup, the product or service is never really finished, and the sales team plays a crucial role in connecting all departments. The sales team talks to product and engineering, but also to other departments, such as marketing and customer service, to ensure the product is being developed and marketed in the best way possible.
Salespeople are like the oil that makes the machine run, they will do whatever it takes to get the deal and push boundaries to get things done.
Reason #4: Increased Orders and Improved Retention
The sales team can increase an organization's average order size and retention rates. By talking to customers in other organizations, the sales team gains unique learnings and can share how the product is being used, increasing usage and therefore order size.
“Most customers are in their own bubble,” says St. John explaining that they typically don’t talk to competitors and aren’t aware of the latest trends. That’s where a sales team comes in and talks to multiple customers to share trends in the industry that’ll benefit sales. But they don’t just find small pockets to increase usage a bit, they serve as multipliers by using land and expand.
The land and expand model aims to get a foot in the door and grow it from there, until it eventually reaches an enterprise deal - great for getting market share.
The sales team also plays a leading role in retention, as they are the first to know if customers are unhappy and can take action to address the issue before it’s too late. They have their finger on the customer’s pulse at all times, to catch it early if a customer is dissatisfied with a product and correct it.
Reason #5: Reliable Revenue
A sales team generates more reliable revenue compared to relying solely on customers coming back to make purchases. If you don’t have a sales team, you’re really relying on the customer to keep coming back to you. But why would they - you don’t exactly pay them to. On the contrary, the sales team's job is to sell, and they are paid to do so.
St. John puts it simply, “the main job of a sales team is to bring in revenue - it becomes a numbers game.” This is why they get up in the morning, to ensure that the company is generating revenue. With quotas for the sales team, you can break it down and increase the likelihood of hitting your desired revenue.
Your founder and CTO is really the first sales team. But as any succfessful company inevitably grows, they will become too busy to take on this role, so this is relly when you need someone to step in.
Once that time comes, the first three hires you should make are: 1) a “salesy” product manager, 2) a head of presales, a more technical person who can team up with the head of sales and 3) a sales operation person, someone who can work on the numbers and really build out a plan.
So, still think your product sells itself? Or have you been convinced that you do in fact need a sales team. I’m hoping it’s the latter. Sales teams play a crucial role in the growth and success of a business by establishing personal contact for large contracts, improving products, connecting with departments internally, increasing order and retention rates, and generating reliable revenue.