✔Sales Talk 101, What your start-up needs to know Ep12


Versatile business development representative with ten years of experience managing books of businesswithin different industries and verticals selling B2B services to enterprises of all sizes.

Shawn Flynn 0:16

Welcome to Silicon Valley successes. I'm your host, Sean Flynn. I've worked with incubators, accelerators, angels, VCs over the years and I've been excited about helping the startup ecosystem and doing this this TV show here and on today we have an amazing guest we have wit Hallett who is a sales consultant that works with companies at all stages and we're going to find out a lot of tips and tricks and knowledge that will help startups at home for sales and marketing so with that let's start the show

Unknown 1:07

so welcome

Shawn Flynn 1:07

back to Silicon Valley success is now with Can you please give an introduction a little bit about yourself?

Whit Howland 1:13

Sure. Of course my name is what Howland I have been selling in the greater bay area for about three and a half years and in sales for the bulk of my career. And I've recently joined up with an accelerator selling accelerators, French tech hub, okay, out of out of the dog batch witches and city selling for different startups that are primarily French by origins trying to enter the US marketplace. So they could be a startup, it could be anything from data analytics platform to cyber security, to act to, you know,

some type of IoT device so the the products that I'm selling or representing can range and the nature of them but they're all the companies are looking for

quote unquote, US market share. So they're all trying to gain a foothold somehow in the US marketplace. And that's what I assist them in doing.

Shawn Flynn 2:08

So you help these French companies, these early stage startups that want to enter the US market, you help them with their sales here, make introductions, that right

Whit Howland 2:18

in a way, yeah, so I am a sales consultant. So I maybe make introductions is, I would say, I wouldn't necessarily say make introductions, as much as I would say, try to gain the market share. So it could be the end customer that I sell the product to,

it could also be some type of partnership or co distributor ship deal that would in in essence, distribute the product, but it wouldn't necessarily be the end user that would be buying from me. So it's whatever strategic decisions strategic sales decisions are made from the owners and in Paris or in France and how they're entering the US. It should be noted that I'm not only a sales console, I'm a sales consultant for

French tech hub. But I also do sales on my own. So I represent companies outside of French companies trying to sell in the US.

Shawn Flynn 3:09

Great, so I guess let's start with French tech hub, or just companies from France coming to the US and then talked about Kennedy's here. So how do you talk to them about sales strategy? And what's their initial idea of entering the market? And how do you kind of work with them to give them more of a realistic idea of how to go about things in the pipeline, and the sales channels, all that stuff,

Whit Howland 3:34

the first thing I try to keep in mind always is time, I need them to be realistic. quite frequently, I'll say I create sales leads the objective of sales factory is to get sales leads, right?

Quite often, I think I have them in my front pockets. Okay, I don't, I'll tell you the first one to admit I do not, if if you show up tomorrow, and ask them ask me for those leads, I don't know exactly where I'm going to get them, I'm going to try to source them different ways. But I don't just because you showed up, it doesn't mean I know where to go. So that's the first thing I would say is time, you got to be very realistic with what is appropriate, and what's inappropriate in terms of that. And, and the second thing I would say is be concise, Be as specific as you possibly can for what it is that you're going for. If you want

any business, in any market, in any industry, that's going to be a lot more difficult if I have my first statement is time is your is the first thing you understand. And you want any business at all, it's going to take a lot more time to get any business at all. But if you can specifically say, I need a certain market segment out of I need five of these 100 companies, or I want these top 25 companies, these are the guys that I'm going for, then it becomes much, much easier for me to isolate and figure out who I need to contact at those companies, how I can network into those companies, how I can cold call those companies, for example. So those would be the two things I would say Initially, I run into time and then being as concise as you possibly can.

Shawn Flynn 5:09

Well, tell me about time, I guess, what are the steps that might take time? And how long would they take.

Whit Howland 5:16

So what's going to take the most amount of time is understanding what your value proposition is, to the US market, what who it is you're going to sell the product to and where you're going to sell it. So what market or what industry what sector

quite frequently, sales in Europe is different than sales in the United States, elsewhere in the world, that many people quite often want to know everything that the company does, and they want to know A to Z, right, they want to fully vet the startup, or they want to fully vet the technology before they do anything at all here in the US, it's a different sales cycle. If I come to you, as a salesman, I am very quickly trying to identify what your need is, and that's what I'm going to sell to, right, this is my product, and it's going to solve this need that you have. And therefore we have a what I would call attention and we have a buying motive

that I think is one thing that's a big difference sales in the US versus sales elsewhere in the world. And so coming here, you do need to understand that mentality. But you also more than anything, need to understand the mentality that, you know, there will be a market capability and there will be

the need to know that you are going to enter the market in the appropriate way. So you need to enter you. So going after the the the appropriate customers,

Shawn Flynn 6:39

okay, so a startup came to you and said, this is our product, we want to get connections to these companies. And you looked at it and said, realistically, no, you should go to these companies? Or how would you talk to them to actually give more of a realistic or more guidance from years experience here that they might not have?

Whit Howland 7:00

Sure. So I would say a lot of it has to do with strategy and and coming up with before you go out contacting potential customers before you go selling to those customers coming up with a strategy for who's the right market who's the right customer fit. So quite frequently, that and that does happen, they'll often say, I'm ready to go into sales. And I go, and you go back through the list, and they have no sales support documentation, or they have no ability to deliver the sale if you were to make the sale, right? If I were to pass you a lead, and then the worst thing a salesman can get if I pass you the lead is, oh, well, I can't deliver that sale for another three months.

Do you know what kind of work just went in for me to get that lead for you how much how much effort that is, that's a lot of time and blood, sweat and tears. And nonetheless, My blood, sweat and tears. And so not having the sale that not having the support to deliver the sales. Something else that I look for, I looked very closely at it, will the company be able to deliver the product and service that they say that they have. And it's quite oftentimes it's not by no fault of their own. These are startups. So what you're looking for when you sell for a startup is maybe a little bit more mature of a company maybe a Series B or series C, as opposed to a seed round and a company that's the seed or series a what if a seed company or an A round company comes to you and says, Listen, our MVP is now ready. We want to go to market what's your advice there?

Can I see the MVP?

First step is what information you say you say I'm ready to go to market. So So what makes you think you're ready to go to market and walk me through that step through that sales process? One of the great thing is one of the one idea that I have is quite often to do a role play with me. So if I were going to buy that product and I were to sit in that sales meeting, how would you sell it to me? How would you position the product and just just be me like you and me talking right now sell it to me as you would anybody else and see how well the sales pitches and whether or not you maybe have some of the appropriate documentation in that role play what I'll ask for I'll ask for maybe a use case or I'll ask for white papers which is sometimes maybe not lacking but sometimes it could be better so to speak.

Shawn Flynn 9:24

So the documentation would you recommend the founder do it on his own or would you recommend them finding professionals, copywriters or that to work with or how would you recommend them creating these documents the sales sheets

Whit Howland 9:38

I think acculturation what they call is acculturation. So what one word means in France doesn't in French doesn't necessarily mean the same and direct translation to English.

Or there's a certain way of interpreting a phrase or a common saying over in France, as opposed to how it would be said here. I don't necessarily know that copyright is now necessary all the way you don't necessarily need to go get a lawyer who can be pretty expensive to copyright something, but certainly taking the advice from somebody who is a native speaker of the language I would recommend

saying if I said to a Frenchman a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush they would say what or if I said hey close only accounts with horseshoes and hand grenades. I said if I just nonchalantly today, horseshoes, and hand grenades and you know what I meant. Right, because closing accounts they would have no clue was in that language in that culture that those means those are there's a different way to say that right. So that's that's acculturation I think there's a big difference between translation and making sure you get it culturally correct.

Shawn Flynn 10:38

Okay, now, let's go for a start up here in the US that you're working with, short low from Silicon Valley we're trying to work with they come to you they don't have any sales material yet, how would you go about coaching them on getting that

Whit Howland 10:50

that that's almost where there would be a

tougher a breaking point is where I wouldn't necessarily sell for them right away. As much as I would say, this is the type of insurance that I would like to see before I sell that would be kind of a red flag for me, if you don't have white papers, if you don't have if you don't want

Shawn Flynn 11:08

my markers wondered, for people out there,

Whit Howland 11:10

a white paper is a something that you might pick up at a trade show just a one page PDF, right up on whatever the product or services that you can easily hand and if I were to read through it, it would give me a good I would have a good understanding of what the product is or services that you're attempting. So

Shawn Flynn 11:29

tell me about sales cycles.

Whit Howland 11:32

Sure, sales cycles are one of the critical parts of a sales process. It's understanding how long it's going to take you from day one conversation, one to finishing the sale to completing the delivery of the product.

sales cycles are maybe one of the things that are very well and misunderstood in the world of sales. quite frequently, somebody will say, I have a three week sales cycle and react, they just really wish they had a

reality. They've got a six month sales, I think that's what you have. So that's essentially by definition, what a sales cycle is. And then they are critical to the process.

Shawn Flynn 12:12

Okay, could you break down a sale cycle.

Whit Howland 12:16

So a sale cycle is going to essentially be a start to finish aware what it takes to initiate a conversation, and to close a sale. So if I were selling a product that require me to meet somebody face to face, my sales cycle, maybe, let's call it two months. So I would make my initial phone call, I would set up an appointment within the first two weeks of MONTH one, I would try to get some type of buying at the first meeting of why they wanted the product or what their motivating factor may be to buy the product and other words, What's the need that they're going to meet.

And from there, there would be a quote process. So you've probably by the end of month one, maybe send a quote, welcome back and give you some feedback on the quote towards the middle of month to you should be ready to send a final quote, or send a final proposal. And in a two month sales cycle, maybe through the course of three or four meetings and two quotes, you have a standard sale, that's basically what a sales cycle is.

Shawn Flynn 13:20

Okay? And then what's kind of your view. So there's two startup founders from maybe a team of three engineers, they're creating a product now they have to actually start making revenue, one of them goes, Okay, I'll start doing sales for the team. What would your advice be, if that group came to you? And they had no experience in sales before, no experience of sales, but they all have masters and PhDs. Oh,

Whit Howland 13:43

even better friends, family and LinkedIn profiles. The first place I start, who do you see? What you want to look for? Is know like, and trust. That's the answer you're trying to. That's what you're trying to get to. Who do I who knows me? Who likes me? who trusts me? Okay, start there. You can start with who knows like and trust the people they might not buy your product, but at least the listen to your sales pitch. Because they know they like and they trust you. If you have no experience in sales, and you're a bunch of PhDs and engineers you're going to butcher you're gonna you're gonna butcher the sales pitch quite frequently early on. So you really want to do it with people that won't call you out on it that won't force you to get to the end of the sale quickly will actually listen to the sales pitch.

Shawn Flynn 14:26

Great. So earlier on Silicon Valley successes I think was episode four we had doors Pickering with Silicon Valley speaks that gave a lot of tips on honing your your sales pitch. So if you want to watch that episode, please visit Silicon Valley successes.com. Once again, that's Silicon Valley successes. com for more information. And also visit our Facebook and check us out on LinkedIn. Now, let's get back to whit, whit please tell us a little bit more about maybe a founder, they have a team they've raised some funding, they want to hire a sales person, what attributes or qualities should they look for in hiring that person? What should they expect from him or her

Unknown 15:08

dog in a specific industry that this will say

Shawn Flynn 15:13

it's an IoT IoT company, IoT device of some sort, okay,

Whit Howland 15:19

so the attributes of somebody that you're looking for in sales,

it can vary if there are technical expert, if there is there's a need for that technical expertise of some type within the IoT world, you might be looking for somebody with a little bit more experience, and maybe not as not as much cold calling. For example, if you're looking to hire one person, I would say almost 100% of the time, if I'm going to hire a sales person, I'm looking for the person itself, who was going out and representing the product sales is one of those things that I can't, you know, if I'm your boss, I'm not going to show up in your bed and wake you up in the morning. You got to get up and you got to do it yourself. And it's it is unforgiving. I know many people think sales is an easy thing, or, oh, salesmen aren't that bright or they're not. You know, they're only there only reiterating a regurgitating whatever it is. The company told them to say, and I die I'm a sales I disagree, of course, but might be right. But what I do think is that because they have that mentality, because they have that genre about that reputation. Quite often people think, well, you can just get any salesmen out there that are a dime a dozen. So I would go for somebody with a little bit if I'm a startup of three selling in an IoT world

probably somebody that has a little bit of experience in sales but for the most part has the tenacity to go out there and actually build a book of business actually build a group of clients that will buy this product because that knitting nitty gritty Enos that you know, you call it the stick to witness that common the phrase and sales is very, very difficult to find it is a tough commodity, fine.

Shawn Flynn 17:03

Okay. Now, how should a startup founder that doesn't really know much about sales kind of measure the progress of their sales person, like, for example, I was eavesdropping in a conversation earlier about one startup that had a sales representative, and then just fired that person. I didn't hear the whole conversation. Yeah, but I think you heard so I was

Whit Howland 17:25

in I was in the conversation. Yeah?

Shawn Flynn 17:26

Could you tell a little bit about that without giving any names without see main from your opinion?

Whit Howland 17:33

Yeah, so the story to catch the viewers up is basically a founder of a company fired a salesperson that they had that was making appointments for them,

I don't have all the details from my perspective they were making, they were scheduling an appointment a day, based off the time and the numbers that I was shown, I broke it down to meaning that they in a one month period, they worked for 14 days, and they scheduled 13 appointments in my if you were going to do that, depending on what you're scheduling an appointment for? I'd say that's pretty good.

And I'd say I would be very happy if I was the founder getting 13 appointments in a one month period. And the other question that I would kind of ask the founders, exactly how many appointments were you hoping to get out of this

appointment setting is and very unforgiving thing to do. You sit at a phone all day, and you sit there and you smile and you dial dialing for dollars, it was another way to put it I and so what I heard in that story is the founder was the apparently the founder said it seemed like they were wasting time it seemed like from the clock and the amount of time that they were on the phone versus not on the phone. There was a lot of 30 minute windows gaps where they were unable to see what the appointment setter was doing.

I've been on that phone before I know what it means to sit that chair.

I would say that's an overreaction by the founder. If you have somebody who's producing sales or producing your leads, and you have no other viable option to get those sales or to get those leads, I think very carefully about letting somebody go, who's actually producing numbers.

Shawn Flynn 19:20

Okay, so that's very interesting that appointments are kind of a key indicator of performance.

Another thing I'd like to talk about the marketing and sales team, how they interact, could you talk about that for early stage companies, because early stage company, the salesperson might also be the marketer might also be biz dev might be all these roles. Right? Right. Right. Right. Right. How do they balance their time, what type of

Whit Howland 19:46

what are you what we what you want to see from marketing, from a sales perspective, our leads that are qualified, that's already by qualified leads, it has to be some lead that makes a difference, somebody that will listen to the sales pitch, or somebody that will take the appointment. And as actually considered the product, there are plenty of marketing arms of company of marketing the arm of a marketing marketing arm of a company. Well, I appreciate that there are plenty of marketing arms that will deliver junk leads. And that's the most frustrating type of lead to go on. If you're a salesman, because you show up and you're expecting to sell a $50,000 data analytics product to a pet food mom and pop pet food store. It's like, where does lead come from? Who gave me this? I just drove an hour for this thing. So that's one of the areas where marketing and sales kind of meetup within a startup, but I would say is qualified leads, we want to make sure that the leads that you're bringing in the door, however it is, you're getting them LinkedIn advertisements, Google advertisements, they qualify,

Shawn Flynn 20:49

okay, what type of feedback? Should the sales team give the marketing team? If there's now two people say that the company's is big

Whit Howland 20:55

enough to have a

Shawn Flynn 20:56

few people? What type of information should they giving communication back and forth to actually help each other do more in their their

Whit Howland 21:04

what they want to talk about is why they're buying or why the say what the sales people believe, is the buying mode of and other words, What's the need for the marketing lead that I sent you, if I sent you a marketing leading their salesmen want you to come back and say, this was not a good lead? Because it didn't have this XYZ need? What is it that you're selling to? What are you selling for? And are you able to meet that within the marketing within the marketing arm? So are you identifying the people who are going to buy for the motives and the reasons that you think that they're going to buy for?

Shawn Flynn 21:37

Okay, how do you first discovered these reasons or mode is for them by and if you haven't sold any products, yet, you're developing your product value

Whit Howland 21:44

proposition to the market of course, what's your company what your product, your service do better? Different, we're not different, are not better than anybody else out there, are you copycatting another company? Or you just simply doing are you lift and you're the second one, which is not a bad company to be Don't get me wrong? But every successful but, you know, are you just the are you the second mover in the market, which is you know, again, it's okay to be but

somehow you have to deliver a need and no matter what as much as you want to say people buy because they really want or like my product that's nine times out of 10 not the case they bought it because they needed it. So what's the need that you're meeting that's that just goes back to the value proposition of the product itself or the service?

Shawn Flynn 22:28

So question on the value proposition. So say, say you have a general idea of how much you know, it'll solve the solution and how much money you'll save the client versus what's out there. How do you go about pricing your product, or set in terms or gifts, or promos or whatever like that?

Whit Howland 22:48

Yeah, pricing can be arbitrary quite frequently for especially for startups who said, you know, I'll take any business. So there's a really don't want to walk in and say that, but they how do you go about pricing it

you can use any number of methodologies. If I'm in a sales role, if I'm going to

Shawn Flynn 23:09

say, how much leeway should you give your salesperson to determine the price in a meeting?

Whit Howland 23:14

Well, I would give me 100%, but I would be of them I would I would play by ear and how comfortable your salesperson is talking about that. I often talk quite frequently about price and sales meetings, because I don't want it to be a hiccup later on. So quite early in the sales process, I'll try to ask a question of, you know, what's the value of what is the value of a product like this to you? Or one of the questions I'll ask is define success. I want the customer to tell me if they were to buy this product. How do they use it? Right? How does it How does it to define success within your world which are quite often gauge for me, at least in my mind, how much money they may be willing to spend or what's their overall budget?

But yeah, I asked the question very, very early on in the sales process. If somebody is unrealistic about what the purchase price of a product that I'm selling is, I don't want to spend too much time going after that lead

I kind of want to put them on the back burner to be honest

Shawn Flynn 24:14

interested in so to go over a little bit of everything we've talked about so far we've talked about qualified leads vers unqualified leads, we've talked about sales cycles, we've talked about getting information from other countries or companies when they establish their entities or their sales in another country to actually get the white papers, the promo material for that culture. We've talked about expectations and delivering expectations we've talked about if the startup team actually has sales experience for us not having sales experience the communication between the marketing and sales person talked about a bunch of things What else do you wish or knowledge that you think a startup out there should know about sales

and the tenacity of a sales mastery of the stick

Whit Howland 25:05

to his stick to it Ignis Yeah, made up word.

I think that more than anything, what I would be what I would tell advise somebody to start up to

start over i what i would advise a founder to go to, if I was going if they were going to start a sales team in the US

is I would come up with the sales funnel, I would, I would be very, very specific out of the sales funnel that I would want my sales team to have. So what a sales funnel is, essentially is, you know, if it takes so it takes XYZ to get one sale. Right? So then based off that one sale, I need so many I need so many quotes in order to get for if it takes for quotes to get one sale, then how many appointments Do I need in order to get four quotes? Okay, if it takes How many? And then how many phone calls Do I need to make in order to get that many appointments? So say, I need to make 100 phone calls. Yeah, to get

10 appointments, okay to get for quotes. Okay, and that breaks down to one sale. Okay, so then I know five, that's my sales funnel, then I know I go back out to my sales team. I say, Okay, now every week, you need to make 400 phone calls to brand new customers brand new prospects. And you need to start to start a conversation in order to get an appointment. Because of those 400 phone calls you make. You're going to get so many appointments, you're going to get so many quotes. And that's going to be what's required in order for you to get the sales

that would be the thing that I would point to first for a founder to come up with before they hired a whole sales team. Show me what a sales funnel looks like, for your product for your marketplace that you're selling to for you specifically, that could be a sales funnel that requires a six month sales cycle could be a two month sales cycle. I don't know but I would I would first look at the sales from

Shawn Flynn 27:00

okay with that we're almost out of time. But what could you tell the audience how they can reach you and get more information?

Whit Howland 27:07

Absolutely. Yeah, the best way to reach me is LinkedIn with Howland and LinkedIn profile. If you connect with me and shoot me a message I will be more than willing to respond to you and who's your best client to work with?

Shawn Flynn 27:23

Who would you want to reach out to you

Whit Howland 27:25

anybody that's in renewable energies, or the renewable sector that has a

that has a product that's being sold or could be sold to the utility sector.

Shawn Flynn 27:36

Great. Thank you for your time today. And once again, that's Silicon Valley successes. For more information, please visit our website, Silicon Valley sex successes. com or Facebook group, check us out on LinkedIn. And stay tuned as next week. We're going to have some exciting guests. they'll provide you information to help you become the next success.

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