The 7 Deadly Sales Sins Committed By Startups

Editor’s note: Steli is the Co-Founder / Chief Hustler of ElasticSales and an advisor to several startups and entrepreneurs. You can follow Steli on Twitter here.

At ElasticSales, we’ve had the honor to create and run sales campaigns for some of the hottest Silicon Valley startups today. We’ve also consulted with dozens more each week to learn the challenges their sales team face. We realize we can’t work with every startup just yet, but we have seen the same, avoidable mistakes made by many young companies as they conduct their sales campaigns.

Below are “7 Deadly Sales Sins” committed by many startups today. Some of these may sound familiar to you, but by identifying and address these mistakes, you will help your company succeed.

1. Not Understanding Your Customer: Many startups make generalizations as to what their customers want. There may be a specific market for your product or service, but each customer’s challenges are going to be different. I’ve seen founders conduct poor research into their prospective customer before pitching them, and then fail to ask those customers specific questions in regards to their unique needs and pain-points. Instead, they’ll talk on and on about how great their product is and its 10 unique features. Founders need passion for their idea, but not at the expense of taking the time to understand your customers and asking the right questions.

2. Not Selling: Most startups explain all the bells and whistles of their product, but fail to sell the core solution to their customer’s problem. To do that, you need to ask the customer questions to understand what they really need. A prospective customer needs to be sold on the 2-3 benefits your product provides to them, rather than the 100 features you’re planning to build into the product in the future.

3. Not Showing Up: Most founders don’t go out into the market to pitch real people and close actual customers. As a result, they miss out on two key experiences crucial to a young company. First, the founders miss the opportunity to connect directly with their earliest customers and develop long-term relationships. Second, they miss direct customer feedback, which often provides the best recommendations to improve a young company’s product or service.

4. Not Following Up: Most startups pitch once and never follow up again. Maybe they follow up once or twice, but not relentlessly. Startup founders are not shameless enough. They worry too much about intruding on the prospect’s time or being too persistent out of fear of losing the sale. If you lose a prospective customer because you followed up too much, then they weren’t going to close anyways. I’m not advocating calling someone every few minutes, until they rip their phone line out of the wall; but giving up on a prospect won’t lead to a new customer. Keep up with them until they come to a decision, either a “yes” or a “no.” Everything else doesn’t count.

5. No Process in Place: Startups love to optimize their UI/UX but not their sales funnel. Most don’t even have a sales funnel to optimize. Startups today have access to a vast amount of data but often fail to track some basic metrics for their sales funnel; calls/emails, connections to decision makers, qualified leads, closed deals/deal value and time to close.

6. Not the Right Price: Founders often think the cheaper their service the better. While a low price tag does lower the barrier to entry for your customers, it can also dilute the value of your product. If your email or website plugin provides massive value for your customers, why is it the same monthly subscription price as Netflix? When you have a viral product that gets massive traction online, you can have a low price. When you need sales people to sell your product or enterprise customers, you need to consider if your product is priced appropriately to sustain your business. Ultimately, startups need to charge their customers what their product is worth and sell them on its value, not its price tag.

7.  Not Asking for the Sale: Sometimes simply asking for the sale makes the process move forward in the direction that you want. After all of the phone calls, demos, and follow up, some founders are still afraid to ask for a customer’s business out of fear of losing the sale. If you spent so long cultivating your relationship with the customer, wouldn’t it be easy to close your new best friend?

Some entrepreneurs start their business out of love for art or fashion, some for science and technology. At the end of the day, every entrepreneur needs to be a successful salesperson to pitch their product or service to make their vision a reality. The great thing about the mistakes above is that they are all addressable. Once they’ve been identified in your startup, sales won’t be a barrier to your company’s success.