Category: Startups

Sales

The Role of Early Sales in Bringing A Product…

When I joined Loom as the company’s first sales hire in January of 2020, friends and colleagues asked me questions like “What will you be selling?” and “What’s your quota?”

My answers were less straightforward than I might have liked.

“I’ll be focusing on selling Loom’s upmarket offering to enterprise customers, and I’ll work with my leadership team and board to establish goals and quotas based on our alpha and beta findings.”

 

This reply mostly drew blank stares, crinkled brows, and wary nods. It’s not a common answer from a sales leader to these questions, so I wasn’t surprised at the tepid response.

However, the past several months have only bolstered my belief in the impact that a sales team can have on an early-stage product. Hiring salespeople before you have a product that’s ready to go-to-market might be a high-leverage way to test your product-market fit, pricing and packaging, and product’s readiness. Here’s why.

Salespeople Uncover Customer Pain Points

Almost every sales methodology emphasizes the importance of deep sales discovery to successful sales teams.

Whether it’s the Sandler Sales methodology’s “uncovering levels of pain” to get to the root cause of a prospect’s buying motivations, or the Challenger Sale’s “powerful requests” method to understand how serious a prospective buyer is, sales professionals use decades worth of research and experience to understand their customer’s buying motivations.

As a result, the types of customer insights your sales team can gather are fundamentally different than those you’ll receive from a customer survey or market research interview.

This isn’t to discredit surveys or market research; both deliver critical insights about your customer sentiments and journey. To best quantify a customer’s willingness to pay — and to drill down into someone’s true motivation for purchasing a new workplace tool — I’d bet on a sales professional’s ability to deliver actionable insights ten times out of ten.

What differentiates a sales-first approach is taking active steps to build a relationship and to leverage these learnings to create and sustain a successful partnership.

There’s More to Sales than Being a “People Person”

There’s a common stereotype that great salespeople can “sell anything to anyone.” This idea might evoke the image of a Glengarry Glen Ross-esque, shark suit-wearing salesperson bragging about their ability to sell “ketchup popsicles to a lady wearing white gloves.”

Sales reps are people first, not opportunists seeking to dupe the unsuspecting.

A salesperson who advertises that their product solves all of your problems without establishing a deep understanding of your goals and obstacles isn’t doing the sales process justice. Being a “people person” and exhibiting unerring confidence in your product will only get you so far in sales.

What this means for sales professionals: we need to take a holistic approach to evaluating the product we represent, the needs of their prospective buyer, and apply this information to the prospect outreach and sales process.

That said, there’s a bell curve in the sales profession. The best salespeople exhibit similar characteristics that separate them from their peers — and they might not be what you think they are.

Curiosity and caring are key.

The best salespeople I’ve met in my decade in the profession embed curiosity about their customers into their sales strategy. Great salespeople get to know their customer’s business, career goals, problems, and what they do on the weekends.

The answer may or may not be relevant to leverage points in the course of a deal, but they usually lead to interesting answers, and are crucial because the best salespeople build partnerships and trust. You cannot be a partner if you don’t care about the other party. You cannot care about someone without being interested in them.

I learned this fundamental truth in 2015 while working with an upmarket customer at a publicly traded company with my early-stage startup. This customer was an early adopter of our technology, and had an impressive vision for what could be accomplished when applied across his mature company’s growth team.

The three-month pilot we engaged in was set to end on Halloween. At the time, closing this deal meant a lot to me as a new hire at my company. At 6 PM on October 31, we connected on a call and this person said, “Pete — I’m all in on what we’re trying to accomplish, but I need more time to sell it to my bosses. I’m taking my kids out trick-or-treating right now. Can we talk tomorrow?”

Our agreement expired that evening, and I walked away empty-handed in the short term. Despite this temporary setback, we shared a human moment which led me to respond by saying, “Go, enjoy your kids. We can pick this up next week.”

While it hurt in the short term to not land that deal, the partnership we’d developed deepened in that moment. In the next month we closed the second-largest deal in my company’s history, and eventually helped this same customer to get a promotion based on the results he’d delivered with this deal. Beyond that, we’ve stayed in close touch over the years and have even worked together at our next companies.

Successful partnerships are built with care. Working in sales shouldn’t change this.

How does hiring curious and caring salespeople help me bring my product to market?

Sales is not the only profession that’s curious or caring around their customers by a longshot. Your customer support team shows their care every day based on the number of tickets they resolve. Your marketing team takes painstaking efforts to author and distribute impactful surveys to better understand customer needs. Sales doesn’t have a monopoly on customer curiosity or care, so why invest in them early?

The answer is that working in sales grants people the ability to ask different types of questions to understand the true drivers behind customer decisions.

  • “Why is that feature so important to your company?”
  • “What do you stand to gain if this project is successful? What do we risk if it isn’t?”
  • “If you didn’t have this feature, is there any impact my product could have on your business?”
  • “It sounds like this tool is more expensive than you think it’s worth. How are you thinking about ROI and what would make this product worth that price point?”

These are all questions sales professionals are trained to ask, and can deliver back to your business from its earliest days. Understanding what features lead to tangible impacts, what objections are hurdles versus roadblocks, and understanding how your target customers perceive the value of your offering is crucial to your long-term success.

An investment in sales prior to the launch of your product provides you with valuable input around your current product-market fit, and helps you outline the gaps in selling to your target customers.

This information is just as valuable to your business six months before you launch a project as it is six months later, if not more so. Early investment in sales can help you avoid the hidden icebergs of non-impactful product investments and better understand your customer’s buying process as well.

Tailor Your Sales Investment to Your Business

Context matters for your early sales investment. If you’re a primarily outbound B2B enterprise play your strategy will differ dramatically from a product-led growth company that benefits from strong organic interest.

Does your product offer a free trial? Is there a freemium version? Is your ideal customer profile well-defined, or is there broad application for your target?

The answers to each of these questions will alter your approach to early sales investments, but you also need to consider this question across the board: “Will sales help me better understand my customer’s problems and willingness to pay for my solution?”

The answer is usually, “Yes, and earlier is better.”

That said, it’s important to consider setting guidelines to make early sales an additive group to your company. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

1. Avoid feature-specific and deal-specific feedback.

Some of the criticism of early sales teams centers around the short-sightedness of, “build this feature for this client so that we can win this deal.” Establishing systems to collect detailed feedback, review common customer problems, and defining the risk or reward of different roadmap investments will help to sort signals from the noise.

Tools like Productboard can capture customer feedback and establish a common language for teams to interpret and weigh customer feedback in roadmap discussions.

2. Anecdotal feedback matters.

Sales teams should look for customer stories that highlight the power of their solution or the impact of a missing feature to that business. These stories help to humanize your customers, and contextualize how your product is used in the real world. Share these anecdotes broadly with your company early and often, as I’m a firm believer that this fosters a customer-centric company — especially in the early stages.

3. Walk before running when setting early sales quotas.

It’s important to understand the psychology of salespeople before you invest in that team, and the intrinsic connection between goal-setting and prioritization. Chances are early on sales quotas will involve a decent amount of guesswork.

If you set quotas too high, you risk de-motivating your early team as a result of subpar attainment. If you set quotas too low, you risk paying salespeople out in an untenable way that puts your business at risk.

For your initial sales hires, consider offering a greater-than-standard equity package and an attainable-yet-upside limited MBO-based quota. This way you can be sure to incentivize business-positive behaviors while learning critical information about your early customers.

4. Integrate sales at every level of the company.

Sales teams that are siloed from cross-functional communication with marketing, product, engineering, design, and other teams are set up to fail. For sales teams to be successful they must be considered a conduit to other teams, and be empowered to freely and regularly surface their customer’s feedback across the company.

Similarly, sales shouldn’t be a solo act at a company; this will lead to short-term planning and stunted innovation. Be intentional about integrating early sales teams into your company and building cross-functional empathy; this will set the foundation for long-term success.

Notes from the Field

Six months after joining Loom, I’m thankful for the opportunity to build a sales team from such an early stage. Early learnings from customer conversations helped me to prioritize feature requests based on impact or risk to that organization, helped us focus our work in determining ideal customer profiles, and helped us surface different elements of our customer’s voice as we bring our upmarket offering to general availability.

I think back to those early conversations where I was asked, “You’re joining a company six months before they release the product you’ll be selling?”

Now I think I’d reply more confidently with, “Yes, that’s when investing in sales made the most impact on our business and its customers.” Because it did, and it might for you, too.

Sales

The Ultimate List of Business Name Ideas to Inspire…

A lot of strategy and planning goes into building a business from the ground up. Before your startup is ready to launch, you need to think carefully about your brand and the image you’ll present to consumers.

So, how can you stand out from your competitors?

Create a unique business name. With a catchy, creative, and descriptive name, your business and brand will be memorable. Consumers will recognize it online, in advertisements, or in stores which helps separate your product from the competition.

But, what makes a good business name?

What’s In a Company Name?

Naming your business may seem daunting if you don’t know where to start. Here are some of the attributes that make up great company names: 

1. It describes what you do. 

Your business name is opportune real estate for a mini elevator pitch before you even speak to a prospect. Consider stating what you do and how in a few words.

Example: Measured Results Marketing

If you don’t measure your marketing and sales efforts, do they even matter? System integrator and technology partner Measured Results Marketing leads with a descriptive company name. They help sales and marketing teams establish effective metrics and reporting systems while evolving operational infrastructure to drive revenue and help you meet goals. Their name reflects what they do and gives prospects confidence there will be no gray or unmeasured area in their client work.

2. It reflects your mission or values. 

Your brand is so much more than a logo. Your company name can broadcast not only what you do but why you do it or why it matters.

Example: IMPACT

What’s one thing every sales and marketing professional wants? To have an impact on their business and their customers. IMPACT is an award-winning agency helping marketers and salespeople achieve their goals “and look like a rockstar in the process.” Their business name reflects that mission and clearly states they exist to make you look good at work.

3. It takes into account what your prospects are searching for. 

Your business name can make your business relevant for non-branded search queries. This could give you an edge when attempting to rank on search engines for your highest value keyword.

Example: Flawless Inbound

If you’re Googling agencies to help you implement an inbound sales and marketing strategy, you’ll likely search with keywords like, “top inbound agencies” or “great inbound.” When a company called “Flawless Inbound” populates in your search page, it’s likely going to stand out. Working keywords your user might be searching for into your title is a smart way to be surfaced and stand out. 

4. It is simple. 

You want prospects to remember and recognize your brand. To help in this effort, your business name should be simple and easy to spell, pronounce, and recall. This will ensure that no one gets frustrated typing your name or saying it aloud to devices like Alexa. 

Example: Drip

You may have heard email automation being referred to as “drip sequences” or “drip campaigns” due to the automated emails being dripped out one at a time. The company Drip took this word associated with their product — one that’s only one syllable and only four letters — and made it their identity.

5. It is fun or clever. 

One way to make sure your business gets remembered is by being witty. Jokes, puns, and plays on words  are all ways to make your prospects chuckle at your business name and get it stuck in their heads.

Example: Spinfluence

Influence always requires a bit of spin, right? This clever play on words sets this inbound marketing agency apart. It’s catchy, witty, and memorable — all important elements of a strong business name.

6. It demonstrates the value you provide customers. 

One marketing tip is to position your business as a problem solver rather than a product seller. You can start that positioning with your business name.

Example: Search & Be Found

Every company in the digital age wants one thing: to be found when their customer or prospect searches for them.They’ve stated the benefit of using their agency in the title of their business. Work with Search & Be Found and … be found by more customers.

7. It is unique. 

The last think you want to do is decide on a business name and run into trouble securing its domain and other branding assets because they’re already taken. Or, worse, run into legal trouble for trademark infringement. 

Plus, you don’t want to cause confusion when prospects land on your website but are looking for the other company (or vice versa). 

Example: Zoom LiveTrak vs. Zoom.us

I was once in a podcasting group where someone was asking questions about “recording on Zoom.” I though the individual was referring to Zoom.us, the video conferencing platform, but he was actually talking about Zoom LiveTrak, the audio mixer. 

This is a simple mix-up that didn’t result in any harm to either company. A more severe issue, however, is possible with more egregious naming errors than the one in this scenario.

This can be avoided by ensuring the business name is not trademarked or taken.

1. Understand your business.

Before deciding on a name, you should have a clear idea of your business’ mission, goals, target audience, and value proposition. If you’ve already created your business plan, this will be a great resource for you to review. You should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What does your business stand for?
  • What product/service are you selling?
  • Who is your target audience?

2. Think of descriptive keywords.

Once you know the core focus of your business, take some time to brainstorm keywords that describe your business. With a few descriptors of your business and brand, you’ll be able to identify the ones that reflect the image you’d like to create.

For example, if you’re starting a photography business, words like “camera”, “snap”, “shoot”, “capture”, “lens”, etc. are all good starting points for your business name.

3. Consider SEO in the naming process. 

Part of a good name is the ability to get found by potential prospects. For this reason, consider how well your name can position you on search engines. Consider the following things as you make this evaluation: 

Search Volume

One strategy is to name a business based on a highly searched keyword to make the business relevant for that keyword. For example, 24 Hour Fitness may appear for someone looking for their brand or for someone looking for any gym that’s open around the clock. 

Authority

However, you don’t want to choose a name in which the SERPs (search engine results pages) are too heavy with competition. For example, let’s say you chose “Five Star Restaurant” as a name for your new establishment but notice the SERP for this keyword is dominated by review sites like Yelp and local newspaper columns. In this case, you may not get enough authority to compete, resulting in you not being found even when prospects are actively searching for you. 

Intent

Google serves up content to users based on what it thinks they’re intending to find. When thinking through your business name, make sure it matches search intent. For example, naming a tax business “Maximize Your Refund, Inc.” may not be a good idea because searchers looking for “maximize my refund” aren’t searching for a business but rather strategies.

You can evaluate your names based on these three considerations using a combination of manual Google searching and SEO tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush.

4. Choose a name style.

How do you plan to create a unique name? You can use the keywords in your business name Here are a few other naming options to consider:

  • Include the names of the company founders.
  • Use a single word.
  • Change, add, or remove letters from keywords.
  • Combine two or more words.
  • Use a metaphor.
  • Create an acronym.

5. Tell a story.

What does your business name tell consumer? After you’ve settled on an idea, think about the thoughts and emotions you want the name to evoke. If it doesn’t align with the mission and value proposition of your business, it might be a good idea to go back to the drawing board and find a name that’s better suited for your company and products.

6. Ensure the business name is not trademarked. 

If another organization has trademarked a name, you risk legal action against your business if you violate that trademark. If you’re in the U.S., you can search the United States Patent and Trademark Office database for your potential business name to ensure that there isn’t an existing trademark for it.

7. Ensure the business name is not otherwise taken. 

If there’s no trademark, a business name is fair game. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no other businesses operating under the name you want. The best business names are unique so that you can avoid confusion. You may want to check your state’s Secretary of State entity filings and DBAs for other businesses operating under the name. Each state will have a different process for this.

It’s also good practice to run a Google search for your desired name to see what’s out there. This can also alert you to existing organizations that have similar names.

8. Verify that the .com domain name and social media handles are available. 

You can verify domain name availability by doing a search on a domain registrar such as GoDaddy or Namecheap.

If a .com domain name is not available, or if it is too expensive, weigh your options between choosing a different name or going with a less desirable TLD. While other TLDs are fine, .com remains the most widely used and is the easiest to remember. 

In addition, it would be a pain to settle on a name only to find out that your social media handles are taken. Having variation between social media handles could cause confusion for prospects, so it’s best to avoid this where possible. 

One easy way to verify the availability of social media handles is by using a tool such as Namechk, which checks multiple platforms with a single search. 

9. Register your business name.

Once you’ve researched and decided on your name, you’re ready to register your business name. Depending on the type of company you’re registering, the registration process will vary. You may also need a DBA if you’re a sole proprietor. This resource from the U.S. Small Business Association will help you determine which registration process is right for you and your business.

Creative Business Name Generators

If you’re having trouble thinking outside the box, these business name generators are a good starting point to help you get the naming process started.

  • Namelix: Enter your keywords, and Namelix will generate related business names and logos.
  • Brandroot: Search by keyword and business category. It will provide a name, logo, and tell you if the corresponding domain name is available.
  • Novanym: After searching for your initial keywords, narrow the results down by name style and sector.
  • Shopify Business Name Generator: Once you enter the key term you’d like to include in your name, the Shopify Business Name Generator will create a list of business name ideas that have an available website domain.
  • BrandBucket: With BrandBucket, you can search for business names or browse by industry.

Ready to see these business name generators in action?

If you’re in need of business name inspiration, look no further. Here are some name ideas I created using business name generators — and I’ve included the product or industry the name describes.

Catchy Business Name Ideas

These are business name ideas that are sure to grab the attention of potential customers and clients.

1. SwipeWire

Product/Industry: eCommerce, Technology, App Developer

2. SecureSmarter

Product/Industry: Security, Web Security Services

3. Dwellsmith

Product/Industry: Real Estate

4. SalePush

Product/Industry: Sales Training, Sales Consulting

5. Formonix

Product/Industry: Manufacturing

6. Brandiing

Product/Industry: Design Agency, Marketing Agency

7. Cloudrevel

Product/Industry: Cloud Storage, IT Company

8. Seekingon

Product/Industry: Business Directory, Search Engine, Geolocation App

9. Medicing

Product/Industry: Healthcare, Telemedicine

10. Crowdstage

Product/Industry: Social Media, Crowdfunding

11. Hiphonic

Product/Industry: Music App, Streaming Service, Dance Company

Creative Business Name Ideas

It can be challenging to think of a creative and unique business name. Here are a few examples to inspire you.

1. Rentoor

Product/Industry: Real Estate

2. Kiddily

Product/Industry: Children’s Clothing, Toys

3. Jumpsync

Product/Industry: Mobile Phone, Communication Services

4. Conceptial

Product/Industry: Sales and Marketing Services, Consulting

5. VisionSwipe

Product/Industry: Glasses/Eyewear

6. Tourish

Product/Industry: Travel Agency, Tour Guides

7. Drivemo

Product/Industry: Automotive, Auto Rental

8. Knowza

Product/Industry: Online Learning Website, Training Services, Learning Center

9. Composey

Product/Industry: Music, Writing Tool

10. Excursy

Product/Industry: Travel, Trip Planning Website

11. InvestSpend

Product/Industry: Finance, Investments, Budgeting

12. Deductly

Product/Industry: Tax, Accounting

13. SiteDept

Product/Industry: Web Design, Hosting

14. Metricsilo

Product/Industry: Data & Analytics, Marketing Agency, SAAS

15. Legalbright

Product/Industry: Legal

16. Shipplier

Product/Industry: Shipping, Logistics

17. SecuriToday

Product/Industry: Security, Information Security

18. GameEight

Product/Industry: eGaming, Game Development

19. Nutration

Product/Industry: Health and Wellness, Nutrition

Cool Company Names

Need some more inspiration? Here are some real businesses with unique names to spark your creativity.

1. Brandless

This health and environmentally conscious, eCommerce company created a funny and unique name by branding their business as brandless. The intention of the name was to communicate that “better doesn’t have to cost more” — you don’t need to pay a hefty price for a brand name item in order to get high-quality products.

2. Ollie

Using a human name personalizes this pet food business and makes the brand approachable. They offer fresh meals for dogs that can be delivered straight to your door.

3. Groupon

Groupon is a company with a unique and descriptive name. They combined two words, “group” and “coupon”, to create their business name. It perfectly describes their website — a collection of coupons for consumers to search for and use.

Funny Business Names

Creating the perfect brand name is serious business. But, if you’ve hit a creative roadblock, try to come up with some funny business names, just for fun. Here are a few examples I generated using the Hipster Business Name Generator:

  • Table & Toad
  • Spool & Sherry
  • Ghost & Leather
  • Copper & Tooth
  • Captain & Bells

A unique business name will help you stand out from competitors and build a strong brand. Once that’s down, you’ll want identify your target market, define your positioning, and create a business plan.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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