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Don't Scale Your Sales Team Until You've Done These Four Things

Scaling success is never just the result of an amazing product. An effective prototype and smart marketing might earn a startup a few early wins, but scalable sales require much more than that: a team of skilled salespeople - with a competent, motivating sales leader - who have mastered multiple acquisition channels in an effective external communication strategy.

All this sounds like a tall order, but it’s really just a case of focusing on the right steps in the right sequence. Before you hire an influx of bright-eyed salespeople, make sure to follow these four steps:

Find product-market fit
Many startups attempt to scale up immediately. They assemble a sales team without having established a single customer. But they soon discover that they’ve got a crowd of talented salespeople trying to sell something that just doesn’t speak to the market they’re aiming at.

That’s why it’s vital that before you think about scaling up, you work to establish product-market fit. Acquire a small set of initial customers, about 10 or so, and work to create several months of consistent new customer wins and post-sales success before scaling beyond your initial team.

Prove a direct sales strategy at a small scale
LinkedIn research shows that cold calling garners a meager 1 percent success rate, but it can be done at scale with the right technological support. Contrast this with social selling, the mode based on cumulative relationship-building, which strikes between a 15 and 30 percent success rate but isn't as quick to scale as dialing for dollars. For most companies, learning how to manage multichannel selling is critical to success.

The initial effort of early sales should inspire a scalable model that a sales team can take and make its own. CEOs should be on hand to teach from their experience, but they shouldn't expect that their own hypertargeted approach will work at scale - it's important to test alternative approaches and learn quickly what works best with your target customers.

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