30 West 3rd

Very Early Stage Technology Investing

Great Sales Advice

leave a comment »

A friend sent me this post from the NY Times BITS blog last week.  It contains some solid advice on software sales execution from Sohaid Abbassi of Informatica.  Informatica was blessed in its early years with some great sales leadership, including Clive Harrison (most recently at Exeros) and Mark Burton (ran MySQL prior to the Sun acquisition).  The company had a great pre-bubble run of growth under founding CEO Gaurav Dhillon.  Back then they won consistently on sales execution, and seem to be doing that again, more than 10 years later.  And of all the BI/DW companies of that vintage, they appear to be the only significant stand-alone survivor.

Now, to the advice.  During the downturn the company focused on near-term deals first, and tracked account progress weekly.  They focused on where purchase approval paths were clear and understood.  This was done in response to the current economic contraction, but the advice and approach would be a good daily operating model for market-entry software companies.  Most early stage companies struggle with sales and lack the experienced leadership or discipline required to define a clear sales process.  Qualification discipline is typically lacking, and is almost non-existent if the market path is indirect.

Good sales process metrics should be defined first using an analogous example from an existing company.  Hire at least one successful and qualified sales professional to work prospects as early as possible.  New products are first sold on the personal relationships and will of the founder(s).  That is great, but it will not scale.  At some point the product must be sold by sales people or distribution partners who can articulate a value proposition, qualify opportunities, and close deals without hand-holding.  Recognize also that early buyers are typically more vested in the product than later ones.  There is often a mutual feeling of creation and excitement around new products among the first 3-5 customers.  Normal purchasing behavior is ignored, competitors kept out, and everyone is working towards a successful first transaction.  Not so with later customers.  To succeed in scaling revenue the early stage company should focus on process discipline, hiring proven sales talent, and listening to the market feedback they provide.

Written by Mike Venerable

September 14, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: