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Sales Leader Interview – The Sales Strategist

The Power of a Good Business Model

The Sales Strategist is a consultancy founded by two technology sales experts in the Netherlands: Rutger van der Pol and Thomas Brouwer. They help startups and small technology companies meet their potential through refining their business models and sales processes.

We spoke to Rutger and Thomas to learn more about sales in Europe, why some startups struggle, and the future of sales.

What are some of the common reasons why start-ups struggle with sales?

Thomas: We fundamentally believe that good sales starts with a good business model. You need to be clear on what problem you’re solving, how you are solving it, and for whom you are solving it. These are three very important questions that seem very basic, but most entrepreneurs don’t answer them. Often, they’re more difficult to answer than you think, especially when you’re a founder with an idea that you believe in.

Rutger: Even when a company is growing, it’s already usually pretty difficult to understand why it’s growing and what’s working well and really double down on those areas. But if a company is not growing, when it’s not really acquiring enough new customers, the situation can be much more difficult to understand. Is it that people say the solution is nice to have, but they don’t have the budget? If so, for the people working hard every day in the company, constantly struggling, it’s very difficult to take a step back and see: what is the disconnect between what we are doing and what we’re trying to achieve with this product?

What advice do you have for early-stage founders and salespeople at startups?

Thomas: My first advice is be very careful on what you spend your money, your time, and your energy. We see many startups spend their money and energy on the wrong things for the phase that they’re actually in. You likely have relatively little money and resources in the early phases, so my advice would be to focus mainly on validating and evolving your business model. For example, don’t start burning money on online advertising before you know what message actually works. First validate what you’re doing.

Rutger: Start tracking everything from the first moment. Just start tracking. You can start small, start slow, just do it in a qualitative way, but get some data. You don’t want to be that founder or leader who just blindly hires more sales reps and tells them to make more calls. Just more people, more calls, more people, more calls.

I think that inside the best companies with solid early growth, there’s a founder who made a connection between what their solution is and what people are experiencing in their day-to-day lives. What is the problem that they encounter? How do we solve it? How do we explain it to them?

What are your predictions for the future of sales?

Rutger: The pandemic really messed with cold calling into companies in Europe. People are sitting at home and reps usually don’t have any direct phone connections like there would be in an office. Many companies were still very heavily dependent upon phone contact with both their existing clients and new prospects. And at some point, they were just incapable of reaching anyone, and that was a big problem for them. I think it sped up the need for good content, social presence, and digital outreach.

Thomas: I think product-led sales models will continue to grow. These are when you have completely self-service buyer and client journeys. I think now these models are mainly in ecommerce and some SaaS, but they will also move into bigger and bigger deals. Since much more is going digital, work is going digital. And of course, there’s much more data that can be analyzed if you capture and organize it well.

We’re basically moving more towards what you already see in marketing, which is a much more data-driven function. Marketing was one of the early departments that began collecting a lot of data. Now that sales is going more and more online as well, we see a similar trend.

Thanks, Rutger and Thomas, for the great advice to startups and your predictions for the future. Stay tuned for another post in the BuyerSight Sales Leader Interview Series, and check out the rest of the BuyerSight Blog for additional interviews on sales, technology, and more!

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