by Eric Hinson
Startups are awesome. Small (but super close) teams, late nights working hard to make your vision a reality…the works. Each win makes you feel like a Fortune 500 company and convinces you that your brand is one step closer to “making it.”
While this is a (slightly) romanticized picture of how you may have started, there’s no doubt that starting a business is a one-of-a-kind experience.
But for you, maybe that phase has come and gone. You’ve gotten your business off the ground; now it’s time to scale.
Scalability: a characteristic of a system, model or function that describes its capability to cope and perform under an increased or expanding workload. (Source: Investopedia)
In human terms—in order for your business to grow, everything has to grow, including sales and marketing. And the very first step to reaching a higher level of performance is to scale sales and marketing for getting your message to grow beyond yourself.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds, right? After all, when you first started, you were the one approving the site copy, the one pitching to investors, the one landing deals. You were the voice of your company.
Which means, as a founder, it’s not so much that you’re a bottleneck for your messaging—it’s actually more like you’re a tightly sealed bottle waiting to explode.
So if you want the responsibilities of sales and marketing off of your plate, you need to take all of these things inside of you and transfer them to your team:
- Driving passion to help your customers
- A deep understanding of your industry
- Master-level knowledge of your products
- Love for your brand—and an intimate knowledge of your story (why you’re unique)
Sure, you know and have all of these things, but the story has to be packaged and presented in ways that have a larger reach.
If your company hopes to handle an increasing and expanding load, scaling your sales and marketing will be critical. The future of your business hangs in the balance.
Before you get discouraged—don’t. This post will give you three steps to help equip the people who hold the key to your scalability. So, if you’re ready to pop the cork and share your entrepreneurial expertise with the rest of your team, read on.
Step 1: Don’t Rush, do create processes
Your ultimate goal should be getting all the day-to-day sales and marketing processes into the hands of your (highly-qualified) team. It can be tempting to move forward quickly so you can phase out of doing demos and closing deals, but don’t rush it.
Without giving careful thought to your sales process, premature delegation will create team members that are always guessing, shooting from the hip, or too scared to do anything.
Key stat: Businesses that have “dynamic, adaptable sales and marketing processes” see an average of 10 percent more sales people meet their quota than other companies (CSO Insights).
The good news? You already have most of what you need to start building a scalable sales process in your own noggin. And the more effort you spend setting up a dependable and repeatable sales process for your team, the less time you’ll spend in the trenches.
Here’s how, in three (very initial) steps:
1. Recall: Think about your last several deals. What are the techniques you use that always work, the pain points that really resonate with leads, the content that helps decision makers, your best prospecting tips, and any other insights into the sales process and what works?
2. Document: Once you’ve started to see the patterns that guide your most successful conversations with leads and buyers, it’s time to put them to paper (so to speak). This can be in the form of customer avatars and buyer personas, sample call flows or templates, and valuable content to share with leads.
3. Spread: Developing this documented sales process will take time, but once you have a basic structure of how you want your team to prospect, nurture, and close leads (at scale)—it’s time to ship it. Keep in mind that you should constantly develop (and track) your funnel to increase conversions and make segmentation more effective.
Documenting and implementing a sales process is hard, ongoing work, and the above suggestions are only the beginning, but there’s no end to the stats that show all of the good things that come from a well-structured process. Sadly, almost 70 percent of B2B companies haven’t set up a nurturing sales process. If you’re one of them, it’s holding back your growth.
Step 2: Make sure it sticks
One of the most common causes of a leaky pipeline is a sales and marketing strategy that your team doesn’t commit to. That's why it's important to scale marketing and scale sales separately. Maybe marketing and sales aren’t documenting things properly, which means leads aren’t being qualified properly. Or, perhaps the team didn’t buy into the new process in the first place. Either way, if you want to truly have a scalable organization, the whole team has to believe it will work.
Sure, you could force them into it by threatening corrective action, but that would create resentful staff instead of brand ambassadors. Here are a few ways to help get your team on board with the vision of growth, without breaking out your angry voice:
- Make it personal: You sell a story to your customers that makes them the hero, which gets them to buy. It’s equally important to highlight another key character: your employees. Giving individuals their own sense of value within your mission and vision has been shown to increase job satisfaction and overall performance.
- Clarity, simplicity, and brevity: No matter what you’re telling your employees, they’ll respond better if it’s clear, simple, and to the point. This is especially true when conveying your company’s story. Big things come in small packages, and your brand story doesn’t have to be long to be effective --even six seconds will do).
- Iterations: Ensure that everyone involved with sales and marketing is heard when they express issues with the process. If the team knows you will improve the system to make their lives (and quotas) easier, they will buy in quickly. If they think it’s pointless, they’ll never do it and you’ll fail to see the results.
- Important note: Setting up automation and continually checking on the team’s implementation will be the keys to growth in this step. If reps fall short of documenting necessary data or your funnel isn’t sending the right content, for example, you’ll run into serious trouble.
Step 3: Build an arsenal (of content)
Odds are you’re not in the publishing industry, but these days every brand is a publisher. Any business owner who’s been on the internet since the mid-2000s has heard the term content marketing, but companies still aren’t leveraging it at scale.
Creating content is something that most businesses do, but it’s often considered one of the least scalable activities. In fact, some argue that it shouldn’t be done in mass. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, there may be a few ways to preserve your voice while taking a lot off your to-do list.
Key stat: In an effort to scale up marketing, content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates almost 300 percent more leads. (Source: Demand Metric)
Here how to make your content work harder, so you don’t have to:
Break it down
In a recent video from Gary Vaynerchuck, he gave everyone a peek behind the curtain into his content creation and marketing strategy—complete with some impressive results. He starts talking strategy around 6:45 (Warning: language).
There’s a lot of great stuff in the video, but the gist is that you can easily repurpose your pillar content by breaking it down into smaller, easier-to-consume chunks across several mediums. It’s easy to take some of your best content and use it over and over again.
Have a podcast, white papers, videos, or any other long form content? Write blog posts for each section of an e-book, take sound bites and short clips from your webinar for future use, quote client testimonials or case studies and post them with an image on social media. Stretch each larger piece of content as far as it will go. Hint: It can go far.
You ever feel like you’re answering the same email over and over? Whether it’s from a team member or from a client, you can automate answers. Creating an FAQ is awesome, but what about the ability to tag a client’s email to automatically send a tailored response regarding their inquiry?
That’s content at scale—fewer emails for you and a smooth process for whoever needs the information. Implementing this one tip alone into your content marketing strategy can reduce churn, increase revenue, and free up your time.
Pro tip: For an added touch, record a video FAQ to make your brand more personal. Send this in addition to the text version and let the reader decide which they would prefer.
Equip your team
Having a content backlog for your team is incredibly valuable. Reps can refer prospects, leads, and customers to the right type of content based on their interests and needs. Giving them a process and helping them buy into it will go a long way. And if you follow that up with a hefty toolkit full of evergreen resources, they’ll be doing all the selling while you concentrate on the next phase of your growing business. A few of those tools could be:
- Demo videos
- Recorded webinars
- Downloadable worksheets (templates, checklists)
Don’t be a bottleneck
You don’t have to give up control in order to scale—you’ll still be a critical component of driving your business forward. Because if you want your company to grow, it takes the same stuff you’ve had inside of you from day one; it just needs to be replicated and spread across your team.
Just like every business book says, hire people that are better than you. Then, equip them to do great work—and lead them well. That’ll scale.
Now, go get ‘em!
Eric Hinson is the founder and CEO of Explainify, which makes short explainer videos that engage customers, increase brand awareness, and drive sales. He has a free storytelling guide for small business owners called Cut the Crap and Close More Deals.