Who would have thought that technology sales and a show like HBO's Silicon Valley could go hand in hand? For the uninitiated, Silicon Valley centers on Pied Piper, a startup that can’t get its act together amidst a series of dramatic highs and lows. The show is meant to be watched with some suspension of disbelief—you have to laugh at Silicon’s satirized depictions of VCs, a hacker hostel, a Google-esque tech goliath, and the stereotypical startup employees themselves.
But now that Pied Piper is funded and talking growth, we’re really intrigued. As a technology sales consulting firm that specializes in helping post-funded startups, we know the most exciting plot points happen right after tech ventures receive that big check. This is the time when founders should be scrambling to seize momentum, and really build out their businesses.
Unfortunately for Richards Hendricks and his data compression company, Pied Piper’s sales plan is kind of a disaster. Suddenly he’s employing a full, in-house sales force, but they don’t know who they’re selling to… or even what the product is.
So let’s imagine Pied Piper did things in the right order after getting funded. If we assume Pied Piper can allocate 20 percent of its funding to sales, here’s how we think they should have used it—how we think your tech startup should use it—with the help of an experienced technology sales consultant, of course:
1. Revise your GTM strategy.
“What is this company?” Silicon Valley fans will remember all too well the cringe-worthy scene in which Peter Gregory wants to know what his investment is going toward. He demands an airtight business plan, a GTM strategy, and a three-year summary P&L before handing over any seed money. Pied Piper eventually delivers, but their work isn’t done.
As the seasons progress, Pied Piper makes a number of “pivots.” (Example: the absurdity of this pivot scene isn’t entirely far-fetched for anyone familiar with the typical startup lifecycle.) The more Richard and team come to learn about their competitors and their product’s marketability, the more adjustments they need to make; each adjustment alters the strategies articulated in the original go-to-market plan.
This is a pretty common challenge. After signing some initial reference customers and receiving valuable feedback, you may need to tweak certain product features, or else begin to target an entirely different kind of buyer. Sales consulting services help you QA the components of your original business plan and GTM strategy. Consulting partners can test how the market responds to your pricing model, test your distribution strategy, and help you define clear competitive advantages. Within your revised business plan, consultants will also assist in mapping your actual sales process. More on that later…
2. Pinpoint a unique value proposition, and refine messaging.
To call Pied Piper’s early branding/marketing efforts “scattered” is an understatement. First, there was that graffiti artist they hired to design a logo—a reference we won’t even attempt to cite with an episode clip. Then, there were the billboards that no one quite understood… Oh, and the SWAG. Pied Piper invested $30 thousand in foam fingers and lanyards, but couldn’t afford dedicated office space for its growing team.
One point that Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley definitely gets right is reminding us that technical geniuses aren’t often natural communicators. Many in fact, like Richard, struggle to develop a concise elevator pitch. (Here’s Richard trying to explain what Pied Piper does. It’s painful. )
For some founders, having a nuanced understanding of a product’s backend doesn’t translate into compelling messaging for sales and marketing teams. Technology sales consultants are more than worth the investment in helping to explain:
- Why does your company exist?
- Why should people buy this product from you?
- What’s the value they receive?
Good consultants then outline buyer personas and use cases to support the creation of sales collateral (sell sheets, webinars, guidelines for countering objections), website content, and all other marketing material.
3. Establish your sales methodology.
Remember how End Frame landed that major service contract with Intersite? Show creators gave the appearance that End Frame was winning the race to market with a robust sales team, busily chatting up prospects. In real life, effective selling isn’t quite so simple…
Sales teams need a data-based game plan. They need to know where to spend their time. They need to know the parameters of their pipeline, buyer process, and sales team responsibilities. They need to know how many sales calls, on average, are needed to secure a qualified lead. They need to know what percentage of qualified leads can be reliably ushered into signed contracts. They need to know how long the average prospect will linger in a given sales stage, or what makes some leads more viable than others.
As you can imagine, this information doesn’t fall from the sky. A substantial amount of legwork—testing, analysis, and revision—is required.
Sales execution happens in two stages. It starts with all that initial legwork (building a pipeline, winning reference customers, refining the game plan), and eventually culminates in a set of defined, repeatable activities.
In addition to the revenue momentum, stage-one execution gives you information about why people will buy your products, what the competition is doing, and how your proclaimed ROI translates in the real world. It’s the time when sales consulting is often the most viable strategy, so you’re company isn’t wasting valuable time and budget on hiring team members before you know exactly what you need.
Technology sales consultants are valuable partners during both phases of execution. They can help you collect and analyze sales data from your outsourced sales force. They can draw from their experience, in recommending appropriate methods, tools, metrics. The can help you identify/recruit the appropriate partners—whether that includes direct sales hires, channel sales, business development executives, or some combination of the above. Then ultimately, they can compile all these pieces into an actionable sales playbook, which becomes the basis for long-term execution and a repeatable, scalable sales process. (Not to mention a healthy company.)
Admittedly, whatever happens next with Pied Piper, we’ll probably continue to watch. (I mean… FlutterBeam’s “top secret” app for digital mustaches proves the hilarity hasn’t fizzled out.) Meanwhile, we’ve got fingers crossed that a coherent sales plan is on the horizon.
Are you still watching? Do you identify with any of Pied Piper’s early struggles? We’d love to hear your thoughts.