What’s the best way to do sales?

David Skok (General Partner at Matrix Partners)
Why Churn is SO critical to success in SaaS | For Entrepreneurs

Getting to negative churn requires that you can do one or more of the following three things: 1) Expand revenue from your current product. This is best done by having a pricing model that increases the pricing according to some usage metric that will grow over time. 2) Up-sell customers to a more highly featured version of your product. 3) Cross-sell customers to purchase additional products or services.

What’s the best way to find product market fit?

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Hypergrowth

Fast growth comes from overwhelming the smallest possible audience with a product or service that so delights that they insist that their friends and colleagues use it.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Default Alive or Default Dead?

Here’s a common way startups die. They make something moderately appealing and have decent initial growth. They raise their first round fairly easily because the founders seem smart and the idea sounds plausible. But because the product is only moderately appealing, growth is ok but not great. The founders convince themselves that hiring a bunch of people is the way to boost growth. Their investors agree. But (because the product is only moderate… (read more)

David Skok (General Partner at Matrix Partners)
Managing Customer Success to Reduce Churn | For Entrepreneurs

Customers bought your product to get a clear business benefit. To make them happy, I believe that you need to make sure they are getting the business benefits they hoped for.

Eric Ries (Author, The Lean Startup)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

Marc Andreessen, the legendary entrepreneur and investor and one of the fathers of the World Wide Web, coined the term product/market fit to describe the moment when a startup finally finds a widespread set of customers that resonate with its product (p.219)

Raju Rishi (General Partner @ RRE Ventures)
When Revenue Isn’t The Answer

Product/ market fit is ultimately about repeatability. If you understand who your customers are, what causes them to buy your product, and how to make your solution their number one priority, then you’ve found product/ market fit. But if you haven’t, you need to make some hard choices and keep searching.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Grind vs The Pivot – AVC

Everyone knows what a pivot is. You launch something, it fails to get product market fit, so you change direction and launch something different. But there is another approach to finding product market fit and I call it the “Grind.” The Grind is when you launch something, it fails to get product market fit, and you grind on it, week after week, month after month, year after year, until it does. Usually the entrepreneur who chooses The Grind is ob… (read more)

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Revenue Traction Doesn’t Mean Product Market Fit – AVC

Not only does the organization need to learn how customers will acquire and use the product, it is also true that the product itself may not be exactly what the market wants. In other words, launching a product is not the same thing as acheiving product market fit. The organization may need another six months, a year, or even longer to get to product market fit.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Revenue Traction Doesn’t Mean Product Market Fit – AVC

I am thinking of a company, which will remain nameless, that ended up selling itself in a fire sale. The company had strong revenue traction early on, and with that traction raised a big round of financing, which then led to a big increase in headcount, for both sales force and product/engineering, and then faced a lot of churn in its customer base. That led to a very difficult period where the company worked hard to iterate on the product while … (read more)

Eric Ries (Author, The Lean Startup)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

The value hypothesis tests whether a product or service really delivers value to customers once they are using it.

Eric Ries (Author, The Lean Startup)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

“…the growth hypothesis…tests how new customers will discover a product or service…from initial early adopters to mass adoption…A likely way this program could expand is through viral growth. If that is true, the most important thing to measure is behavior: would the early participants actively spread the word …?”

Eric Ries (Author, The Lean Startup)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

Pivots come in [10] different flavors. The word pivot sometimes is used incorrectly as a synonym for change. A pivot is a special kind of change designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, business model, and engine of growth. (i) Zoom-in Pivot, (ii) Zoom-out Pivot, (iii) Customer Segment Pivot, (iv) Customer Need Pivot, (v) Platform Pivot, (vi) Business Architecture Pivot, (vii) Value Capture Pivot, (viii) Engine of Growth P… (read more)

Sachin Rekhi (Group Product Manager at LinkedIn)
Video: The Hunt for Product/Market Fit | Sachin Rekhi

Your value proposition and this is not your feature list. This is not your product roadmap. This is simply the value promise that you’re giving to your customers. This again [is] really important to distinguish from your [idea or] solution. The question becomes “Is the problem you are solving important?”

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Startup Curve – AVC

It turns out, like most success stories, the answer was simplifying the service. Taking features out. Reducing the value proposition to a clear and simple use case. This was not done in a vacuum. This was done by releasing a less than perfect product to the market, finding a few customers who wanted a less than perfect product, and then listening carefully to those customers to get to the ideal product.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The only startup goal worth your undivided attention | A Founder’s Notebook

Most startup founders know that success comes from figuring out a repeatable, scalable business model. And yet… so many of us get distracted by other issues along the way. An exercise: “What’s our repeatable, scalable business model? Which parts aren’t yet working well enough and therefore still need figuring out?”

Sean Ellis (CEO at GrowthHackers)
Figuring Out Your Way to Startup Success

With each new startup, I immediately started working to uncover the “must have” experience before I formed preconceptions about how and why a product would be useful. This involved a rigorous process for identifying the most passionate users and then getting their unstructured feedback about how they were getting value.

Eric Ries (Author, The Lean Startup)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

The solution to this dilemma is a commitment to iteration. You have to commit to a locked-in agreement—ahead of time—that no matter what comes of testing the MVP, you will not give up hope. Successful entrepreneurs do not give up at the first sign of trouble, nor do they persevere the plane right into the ground. Instead, they possess a unique combination of perseverance and flexibility. The MVP is just the first step on a journey of learning. (p… (read more)

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Is your product a “must-have” according to this definition? | A Founder’s Notebook

A must-have product enables you to (i) get a job done which you otherwise couldn’t get done at all, or (ii) get significantly more of the job done, or (iii) get the job done in a significantly less painful way.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup advice, briefly – Sam Altman

Listen to what your users tell you, improve your product, and then listen again. Keep doing this until you’ve made something some users love (one of the many brilliant Paul Buchheit observations is that it’s better to build something a small number of users love than something a lot of users like).

Austen Allred (Growth at LendUp, Cofounder Glasswire)
The 4 characteristics of the most addictive products | A Founder’s Notebook

As I tried to drill down into why so many people, including myself, love and use certain sites/apps/services, I’ve found common threads that tie addictive Internet products together: Rapid Cadence. Signs of User Activity. One-Click Interaction. Notification of Interactions.

Eric Ries (Author, The Lean Startup)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to … – Eric Ries – Google Books

A startup’s job is to (1) rigorously measure where it is right now, confronting the hard truths that assessment reveals, and then (2) devise experiments to learn how to move the real numbers closer to the ideal reflected in the business plan. (p.114)

Alex Turnbull (CEO of Groove)
How We Got 2,000+ Customers by Doing Things That Didn’t Scale

[in an email Groove says…] My goal is to have a conversation – via Skype or phone – with every Groove customer. All 2,000+ of you.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Truth About Gamification – AVC

Gamification can amplify things people already like to do. But it cannot get someone to do something they aren’t inclined to do in the first place.

Sachin Rekhi (Group Product Manager at LinkedIn)
Video: The Hunt for Product/Market Fit | Sachin Rekhi

You want to try and achieve synthesis across your user interviews. This means looking for commonalities across the conversations. You don’t have statistically signficant information yet. A good way to help find this synthesis is to create a common set of questions

Sachin Rekhi (Group Product Manager at LinkedIn)
Video: The Hunt for Product/Market Fit | Sachin Rekhi

Use a mix of aided (open ended) and aided questions to get feedback. “What’s your biggest issue” vs “rank these issues”. If your issue isn’t on their ranking or open-ended … you probably have a nice to have product.

Alex Turnbull (CEO of Groove)
How We Got 2,000+ Customers by Doing Things That Didn’t Scale

[In their welcome email Groove would send] “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love it if you answered one quick question: Why did you sign up for Groove? I’m asking because knowing what made you sign up is really helpful for us in making sure that we’re delivering on what our users want. Just hit “reply” and let me know. “

Slava Akhmechet (Founder at RethinkDB)
57 startup lessons

Be relentless about working the game of numbers while the product is between the two extremes [product love or product hate]. Even if you don’t sell anything, you’ll learn invaluable lessons.

Sachin Rekhi (Group Product Manager at LinkedIn)
A Lean Alternative to a Business Plan: Documenting Your Product/Market Fit Hypotheses | Sachin Rekhi

The most efficient way to operate during the earliest phases of a startup lies in between a formal business plan and unstructured iteration. 1. Target Audience. Who is the target audience is for your product or service? Be as specific as possible. 2. Problem You’re Solving. What specific problem or pain point does your solution solve for? 3. Value Propositions. Value propositions shouldn’t be the features that you are building, but the “promise … (read more)

Bill Gurley (General Partner at Benchmark Capital)
All Markets Are Not Created Equal: 10 Factors To Consider When Evaluating Digital Marketplaces | Above the Crowd | By Bill Gurley

A true marketplace needs natural pull on both the consumer and supplier side of the market. Aggregating suppliers is a necessary, but insufficient step on its own. You must also organically aggregate demand. With each step, it should get easier to acquire the incremental consumer AS WELL AS the incremental supplier.

What’s the best way to do sales?

David Skok (General Partner at Matrix Partners)
Why Churn is SO critical to success in SaaS | For Entrepreneurs

Getting to negative churn requires that you can do one or more of the following three things: 1) Expand revenue from your current product. This is best done by having a pricing model that increases the pricing according to some usage metric that will grow over time. 2) Up-sell customers to a more highly featured version of your product.
3) Cross-sell customers to purchase additional products or services.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
With freemium, you know you’re solving a customer’s problem | A Founder’s Notebook

This is the beauty of freemium models. You create the customers’ problem by making them hit the paywall, and your conversion data tells you if the problem is serious enough that customers will pay to solve it.

Jon Miller (CEO and Co-founder of Engagio)
How to Turn Marketing Leads into Sales Leads – Marketo

A five-minute lead response means you’re four times more likely to qualify that lead than a 10 minute response, and a staggering 21 times more likely to convert than after 30-minute wait. SDRs [sales development reps] can focus on this fast response time whereas it will never be a quota-carrying reps top priority to jump on an inbound lead.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: The train is coming

Action means change and change means fear, so of course we shouldn’t be surprised that people (and organizations) are often as motivated by the fear of loss as they are by the desire for gain.

Alen Mayer (President, International Association of NLP Sales Professionals)
Avoiding hype in sales | A Founder’s Notebook

You need to prove your credibility using third-party endorsements, certifications and awards your product or company won. Introverts don’t usually get swept away by a sales pitch, but they can be influenced by objective reviews or media coverage.

Jim Keenan (Founder at HeyBubble)
Demos can win sales if you do them like this | A Founder’s Notebook

The key to a successful demo is to make sure every feature, every function you demonstrate is attached to your buyer’s unique problems and challenges. If it’s not, your not giving a good demo. If you’re showing a feature and are saying; “If you… then this feature will…”, or worse, if you are just whipping features around like they are cars on a car showroom floor by saying “And the next thing I want to show you is”, you are doing it wrong.

Neil Murray (Founding Editor at TheNordicWeb)
Selling online products to offline businesses — Business Tips. — Medium

Rather than wasting your breath meticulously explaining every little feature and detail, all you need to focus on is the most tangible measurement of all: revenue. Tell them exactly how much more revenue they will generate using your solution compared to how they are currently operating. In other words, the goal of a demo is to show how this product enables the customer to achieve her goals.

Peter Nixey (Founder at Copyin)
Peter Nixey – Five techniques that measurably improved our…

Customer development is a very different process to sales though. Sales is about helping your customer to understand the product. Customer development is about helping the product to understand your customer. Don’t try and sell during the initial exploration.

Tomasz Tunguz (Partner at Redpoint Ventures)
The Innovator’s Solution for SaaS Startups – The Flywheel SaaS Company

There’s another, novel way of building companies that still isn’t very well understood. In this approach, the enterprise sales team is exclusively inbound. They are explicitly denied the option of seeking business outside the customer base, and must gin up business from only existing customers. The enterprise sales team is an up-sell and cross-sell team. In fact, so is the mid-market sales team. Only the SMB marketing team is permitted to acquire… (read more)

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
What Do You Need to Do to Improve Sales? Here’s a Start … | Bothsides of the Table

Many great sales starts with generating inbound marketing leads. If you create content marketing programs and drive traffic to websites where you can measure how long somebody spends reading your materials or downloading your white papers you’ve at least confirmed some level of interest.

Jon Miller (CEO and Co-founder of Engagio)
How to Turn Marketing Leads into Sales Leads – Marketo

The human touch enhances lead nurturing. Whether or not leads are sales-ready, SDRs [sales development reps] can nurture relationships with each interaction. By talking with more leads, you can offer personalized thought leadership and value around a lead’s individual pain points, and cultivate future demand.

Jason Lemkin (Managing Director at Storm Ventures, SaaStr.com)
Jason Lemkin: The Right Metrics For Your SaaS Startup | InsightSquared

There are two metrics aren’t discussed enough. The first is lead velocity rate. What rate are your qualified leads growing month over month? The second metric will help founders get from initial traction to scale: understanding revenue per lead and how that works across your company. Once you have a repeatable set of leads and lead velocity, you want to drive up the revenue per lead.

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
Little Things – Ben’s Blog

If you are worried about making the quarter, then you should go on a few sales calls and see if you are selling your product in the most effective way possible. Are your sales people properly trained? Do they run a process that puts your product in the very best light and sets appropriate traps for your competitors? Are you selling at the right level in the organization? Is your product truly competitive?

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
When Should You Allow Exclusivity in Deals? | Bothsides of the Table

To craft exclusivity agreements, make them time bound, and name the competitor who you’re not allowed to sell to. If they won’t name the competitor, specify the industry or geographical region as narrowly as you can. In exchange for exclusivity, you want larger contracts, longer-term contracts, more commitments to success, and funding for accelerated development.

David Sacks (CEO at Zenefits)
New Sales Models – David Sacks, Founder and CEO of Yammer – YouTube

Understand that enterprises don’t operate with a single mind. We talk about companies like they are a person, but its actually not the case. It’s actually a lot of different people with a lot of different incentives.

David Sacks (CEO at Zenefits)
New Sales Models – David Sacks, Founder and CEO of Yammer – YouTube

Do you have a buyer? Do they have budget and authority? What’s the value propisition you are selling to that person AND to the company? Is your value proposition aligned to that buyer?

Danielle Morrill (Co-Founder & CEO at Mattermark)
22 Sales Tips From a First Time SaaS CEO

Cold emailing is actually not very effective. But lukewarm emailing works great for staying top of mind.

Danielle Morrill (Co-Founder & CEO at Mattermark)
22 Sales Tips From a First Time SaaS CEO

Make a playlist of songs to get pumped up, stand up while you do calls, speak loud and proud, no one does calls in a conference room.

Danielle Morrill (Co-Founder & CEO at Mattermark)
22 Sales Tips From a First Time SaaS CEO

Ask for the close. “Can I have your business?” “Let’s get your payment info so you can get started today. ”

Danielle Morrill (Co-Founder & CEO at Mattermark)
22 Sales Tips From a First Time SaaS CEO

Don’t assume “no” means no the first time. Try again, be more creative and focus on benefits not features or pricing.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
To raise profitability, control tech costs in sales | A Founder’s Notebook

We permanently assign fixed tech resources to sales (a “pod”), and include those resources as part of the sales budget. Sales is then measured on net contribution (sales minus cost of sales).

Duane Sparks (Chairman of Action Selling)
The 5 questions every customer asks themselves before buying from you | A Founder’s Notebook

Do I want to do business with this person? Do I want to do business with this firm? Do I want and need these products and services? Does the value meet my expectations? Is this the right time to make a decision?

Geoffrey James (a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author of the award-winning blog Sales Source)
10 Things Every Customer Wants | Inc.com

Why does a customer buy from one vendor rather than another? According to research recently conducted by The Rain Group (detailed report here), customers tend to buy from sellers who are superlative at the following tasks: (1) Bring New Perspectives and Ideas (2) Be Willing to Collaborate (3) Have Confidence In Your Ability to Achieve Results (4) Listen, Really Listen, to the Customer (5) Understand ALL the Customer’s Needs (6) Help the Customer … (read more)

Jill Konrath (Jill Konrath is a sales strategist, former Sales at Xerox, Hubspot)
How to Conduct a Premortem to Win More Sales

When I think about all the business I’ve lost over the years, 3 main themes come to mind: 1) I overlooked some critical piece of information. 2) I wasn’t working with the right decision makers. 3) My prospect decided it was easier to stay with the status quo.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
What Do You Need to Do to Improve Sales? Here’s a Start … | Bothsides of the Table

If you have a product, knowing who the “typical buyer” by department or title is helps you greatly because you can quickly get to somebody likely to be familiar with the space in which you’re selling.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
What Do You Need to Do to Improve Sales? Here’s a Start … | Bothsides of the Table

If you can’t identify a problem that a prospect has that you can quantifiably solve you won’t sell anything.

Nick Mehta (CEO at Gainsight)
The Second-Timers: Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight – “Never Stop Hiring Reps” | SaaStr

Success of your customers is hard and critical… Figuring out what your customer means by success, measuring it, helping to drive it and showing the client the results is a constant battle. But it’s a battle you need to win.

Stuart Silverman (‎CEO at SalesRamp)
How to sell your product when it’s vitamin and not a pain-killer

In general, your product falls into one of two categories. Either it is a pain-killer that solves a very critical business pain, need, or crisis for your prospect. Or it is a vitamin that doesn’t really solve any major pain or crisis, but is a nice-to-have and is just a better way of doing something.

Stuart Silverman (‎CEO at SalesRamp)
How to sell your product when it’s vitamin and not a pain-killer

How do we sell a vitamin? 1. Focus on increased revenue 2. Focus on increased budget dollars 3. Show how your product provides a competitive edge 4. Point out that 1-2 of your prospect’s competitors are using your product 5. Tie the sale to your prospect’s boss’s needs 6. Tie the sale to helping your prospect with his/her career 7. Create urgency by using a specific date

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
How exactly to write a cold-call email | A Founder’s Notebook

Flattery. Do you compliment them or stroke their ego a bit? Benefit. How will this benefit them (not just you)? Do you spell it out and is it a real benefit? Credibility. How can YOU be the person the other person would enjoy meeting? Call to action (aka the ask). He didn’t ask for a 60 minute phone call but a digestible request that seemed appropriate. Read it out loud. Read your email out loud with a timer. If it’s a longer than a minute, cut i… (read more)

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup Playbook

Try selling the product yourself first to learn what works. Hacking Sales is a useful book to read.