Five Roles of Startup: Sales

Salespeople, Marketing, Business Development, Public Relations
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The five roles I'm discussing in this series are general, but intended to identify everyone inside and outside the startup's organization. You must have someone playing all five roles, and in the early days, two or more of these roles are probably going to be played by the same person.

So far we've covered the two roles in startup that focus on turning a great idea into a great product. The Vision people are your leaders, your explainers, your decision-makers, while the Build role defines the team that makes the product.

But even when your startup has built the most awesome product ever, someone has to actually get out there and sell it. And no matter how amazing your offering is, this is not an easy job.

Sales is the role that pushes your product into the hands of paying customers, but this means much more than exchanging money for goods or services. In fact, for most startups, sales is where the grand plans break down, because too few entrepreneurs understand the sales process, and even fewer put a priority on the Sales role.

A common misconception in startup is that once the product is built, the customers will come knocking at your physical and/or digital door, wallets open, ready to purchase. But the famous phrase "Build it and they will come," was never true, regardless of what you've seen in the movies. "Viral sales" is also a myth, in the sense that you have roughly the same odds of creating a viral smash hit as you do of winning the lottery.

Sales must devise a strategy, or a series of strategies really, for reaching your market, educating them, persuading them, negotiating with them, closing the deal, and retaining them. Then all of these events must happen in the shortest possible time frame at a perpetually lower cost, all while figuring out how to get existing customers to buy more product more often.


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