Essential Tips and Sales Strategy Advice for Startups

By Julian Humphreys ● May 20, 2016 14:55

Shawn Rosemarin, Network Connect mentor and CTO of VMWare Canada

Shawn Rosemarin, Network Connect mentor and CTO of VMWare Canada, shared his expertise on sales strategy as part of IDEABOOST Network Connect’s most recent Speaker Series, held on May 18, 2016 at Workhaus in Toronto. Rosemarin has been in technical sales for more than 20 years, first with IBM, then Dell, and now with Palo Alto-based VMWare.

Rosemarin kicked off his presentation with these key points:

  1. Sales is important. 
    You might have the best product or service, the best business model, and the best talent, but without sales you don’t have a business – at least not for long.
  2. There’s really only one thing motivating B2B sales, which is the solving of problems – the kind of problems that increase profit for your customer.
    Ideally, if a customer buys your product for $100, you’ve added $1000 to your customer’s bottom line. In other words, whether you’re increasing your customer’s revenues or decreasing your customer’s costs, you’re aiming at giving them a 10X return on their investment in your product or service.
  3. A potential client is much more likely to buy from you if he hears how awesome you are – not from you, but from one of your existing customers.
    For this reason, you want to get people excited about the value they’ve received from you.

He then cautioned the audience on two common mistakes people make when it comes to sales:

  1. Talking about all the features of your product instead of the problems it’s designed to solve. 
    You may be proud of all the cool bells and whistles you’ve built into your product, but the client really just wants to know one thing: Will this product solve my problem? So your job is to understand the customer’s problem as best you can. Your customer doesn’t want to have to figure out how your product solves their problem – they want to be told by you how your product solves their problem.
  2. Not figuring out whom to sell to.
    A typical organization has CxOs, VPs, Directors and Managers, each dealing with different kinds of problem. Who you sell to depends on the problem(s) your product is designed to solve. There’s no point meeting with the CEO if your product addresses problems that managers have. It may boost your ego to meet with the CEO, but it’s not going to boost your bottom line (and not every problem in the organization is the CEO’s problem.)

Rosemarin then outlined the ideal sales process:

  1. Opportunity Identification
    The most powerful sales pitch is not a pitch at all – it’s an impactful moment of recognition on the part of the customer that they need your product. As anyone who saw Martin Scorcese’s Wolf of Wall Street knows, if you’re selling a pen, don’t say how great the pen is. Simply ask your customer to sign their name, and they’ll soon realize they don’t have a pen and they need one. Without pain, there’s no opportunity, so you have to remind your customer why they need what you’re selling.
  2. Opportunity Qualification 
    Once you’ve identified the opportunity, you need to qualify it. What’s the timeframe and what’s the budget? Are you even talking to the right person – the person who can actually make the purchasing decision? You don’t want to waste time pursuing opportunities that are unlikely to end in a sale, so take the time to qualify an opportunity before pursuing it.
  3. Validate Opportunity 
    Once you know a sale is possible, you need to prove that your solution meets your customer’s needs, and does so better than the competition. That may require some additional work on testing and development, which costs money. Rosemarin warned about the fabled customer rep Seymour, who’s always wanting to “See More.” There’s a danger of getting pulled into the customer’s world too much here, endlessly trying to satisfy the customer’s every whim in order to get the sale – all at your own expense. This part of the process needs to be managed carefully if you want to avoid losing time and money.
  4. Proposal 
    Once the opportunity is validated and you’ve proved your product meets the customer’s needs, you’re ready to make a proposal. If you’ve been able to quantify the value your product provides to the client in the previous steps then you can use value-based pricing – a percentage of the total value the customer will realize as a result of using your product – which in some instances can be much higher than a price based on cost plus margin.
  5. Closing 
    Once the proposal is accepted, it’s time to close the deal. If customers make additional requests when closing, be sure to ask for a quid pro quo, i.e. what can they give you in return? It could be a testimonial, referrals – whatever – but don’t get drawn in to providing additional value for nothing.
  6. Implementation 
    The optimal sales process doesn’t end in a close. It ends with implementation, when the customer actually realizes the value of what you’ve sold them. Only then will they start telling people how great you are, when you’ve solved the client’s pain, which is what has driven the sales process throughout.

Following the presentation was a Q&A period where Rosemarin shared his thoughts on how to reach new clients, inbound marketing, CRM tools, and partnerships – his breadth of knowledge and experience exceeded only by his engaged concern for his audience. Many event attendees agreed it was one of the best presentations on sales they had experienced, which was all the more surprising considering it was the first time that Rosemarin delivered this particular presentation.

The mix of substantial expertise and concern for IDEABOOST participants demonstrated by Rosemarin is characteristic of IDEABOOST mentors in general, it seems. As Marylin Ma of NAVI put it, “They [the mentors] really dive deep. Their passion really shows and they really try to understand your business deeply.”

CLICK HERE to download the full presentation.

IDEABOOST is CFC Media Lab’s business accelerator and startup community for companies looking to build the next generation of technology-based media entertainment products, services, and brands. To learn more about IDEABOOST, CLICK HERE