How to Succeed on the Inside Sales Team of a Budding Tech Startup

Grant Polachek is the Head of Branding at Inc 500 company, the worlds #1 naming platform, with 25,000+ customers from early-stage startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation.
  • February 28, 2020

For rising tech startups, perhaps the only thing more difficult than building a new product is selling it to a public that hasn’t heard of you.

While getting those initial sales is crucial to the health of your business, it can be incredibly difficult to cut through the static and convince audiences to part with their time and money.

This presents a unique challenge for sales reps in tech startups. Because the tech market is constantly in flux, even the most seasoned sales reps can find themselves unable to close those early deals.

The following guide will help you navigate this unique sales environment and close those critical early customers, transforming them into advocates for your rising brand.

Stay closely connected with your dev team

Products and services change more often in design, features, and functionality in tech than in any other industry. The dev team is constantly tweaking their work, adding or removing features so quickly that it can be difficult to keep track of.

If you’re not constantly being updated on the status of the product, it can be impossible to demonstrate your knowledge of the product and sell it to customers. As you know, it can be incredibly hard to try and sell a product when you don’t even know its current state.

To avoid giving customers false or outdated information, make sure that you establish open communication between yourself and the dev team. This way, you can drum up excitement with customers by telling them about upcoming features or reassuring them with news of improvements and bug fixes.

You also avoid accidentally delivering misinformation or false promises to customers. The bad press that could result from either of these scenarios could completely cripple a brand in its early stages.

Staying in touch with the dev team will also make sure that you’re always aligned with the overarching vision of the project, which will more easily allow you to sell customers on the lofty ambitions of your business.

Openly communicating with the dev team is essential in optimizing your ability to sell customers on the current and future state of your project.

Learn more about your product than anyone else

Because the tech product (and company brand) you’re offering is so new and unproven, customers will have an inherent level of distrust.

Their total lack of familiarity with your brand can make them skeptical about many traditional sales tactics. Additionally, modern customers are more informed and empowered than ever before. This causes them to both wait longer to initiate a sale and require more information before they’re willing to move forward.

For tech startup sales teams, a nice way to work around this is to utilize the Challenger sales approach. The Challenger sales approach emphasizes challenging established customer thinking and replacing it with your own insights.

Being able to successfully convince customers to abandon their previous insights in favor of your own perspective is no small task.

To accomplish this, you must become an industry expert, confident in your ability to communicate all of the inner and outer workings of your business and the industry it’s a part of.

Research your business and its competitors as much as possible. See which trends and features customers seem to be most interested in, and be prepared to discuss them in detail during your sale.

If the customer suspects that you don’t know what you’re talking about (or even worse, that you’re trying to mislead them) at any point in the sales process, it can be very difficult to recover.

You should be able to project yourself as a foremost expert in your industry, establishing trust and comfort within your customers and motivating them to accept your offers.

Rising brands present more freedom

While establishing your tech brand from the ground up presents many challenges for initiating sales, the silver lining is that you have a blank canvas to try different messaging until you find what really works.

It’s much better to experiment while the brand is still young than when the brand’s messaging is fully developed. This is a period where you can really feel out the tastes of your target audiences, gathering information on their values and habits to use when you eventually decide on a more concrete direction for your brand.

You have much more freedom in this stage to adjust your messaging on the fly to suit the tastes of individual customers. Since these individual early sales are so crucial, you’re justified in customizing the messaging of your sales pitches in order to close.

Working with a tech startup in its early stages also provides opportunities for you to take ownership and steer the direction of the brand.

The tech industry moves so fast that failed experiments can be quickly tossed aside and bounced back from, providing valuable insight into which marketing decisions work and which don’t. Act as your own manager and take initiative when you believe you have valuable branding or messaging direction that may help you close more business.

In the early stages of tech startups, the potential risks of failed messaging are minimized because of the fast-moving and endlessly fluctuating nature of the industry, rewarding bold thinking.

Confidently know your customers

While today’s customers use digital tools to become more informed than ever, sales teams can use their own digital tools to build customer profiles, allowing them to factor in their prospects’ habits and tastes during the sales process.

For example, customer messaging platform Intercom can search for a prospect’s social media profiles, giving you access to their buying and branding habits and allowing you to anticipate potential comments or questions. The detailed social profiles built using these digital tools will help you predict how your customers will progress through their sales journey.

Though modern sales journeys are becoming increasingly complex, these digital tools will help even the playing field and standardize what is otherwise very complicated behavior.

Because of these digital tools, modern customer research and social profile building takes less time and fewer resources than ever before.

There is no reason not to use these tools to take the time to thoroughly research prospective customers. Given the wide variety of tools at your disposal, like LinkedIn, Quora, and Intercom, there’s hardly a wrong way to approach researching your prospects. The only truly wrong way to approach a sale would be to go into a call completely blind.

Establishing sales in a digital world

While sales in the tech startup space can be intimidating, it also presents opportunities for open communication, feature demonstration, experimentation, and profile creation.

Early stage branding is the perfect time to explore different sales techniques in order to appeal to the increasingly niche and complex demands of your customers.

By gathering detailed information on the state of your product, the industry it exists in, and the tastes and demographics of your customers, you can fully prepare yourself to deal with any concerns or preconceived notions your customers might have going into the sales journey.

In the digital age, customers suffer from information overload, getting bombarded at every turn with propositions. Make sure to utilize newer sales techniques (like the Challenger method) and digital sales tools in order to break through the noise and engage with customers.

Grant Polachek is the Head of Branding at Inc 500 company, the worlds #1 naming platform, with 25,000+ customers from early-stage startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation.

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