Lauri Kinkar: "Key Principles for Effective Sales"

At sTARTUp Day 2020, CEO and co-founder of Messente Lauri Kinkar talked about the key principles for effective sales – tips and tricks that definitely come in handy now when most companies are fiercely fighting for customer loyalty.

Here are the 10 key takeaways from Lauri’s talk, however, if you prefer to listen to what he had to say, you can find a video format here.  

The border between sales and marketing is hazing

Startups, especially B2B startups, sales is something easy to overlook. We live in the era of building something exciting, it’s a very product-centric world. We’re talking about customer acquisition, the border between sales and marketing hazing by the day.

There’s a lot of value in sales in the old fashioned way of doing it, especially if you’re a B2B startup or just starting out. We hear things like “good products sell themselves”, “Estonians are not very good at this anyway” and if you talk to investors, you might hear “sales doesn’t scale – it’s hard to scale a sales operation from 0 to world domination”.

Lauri’s opinion on the matter is “Nothing sells itself, Estonians are kind of good at it anyway and if your next milestone is achieving sales revenue of less than 10 million per year, sales scales like hell.”

Sales validates you, it validates your company, your product and your team

The money that comes from your clients is the sweetest form of cash there is. It’s for the value you’ve already created. The money that comes from investors, as necessary as it might be, is in the hope that you’ll create value in the future.

It’s not about asking your customers what would they want you to build next, it’s about what would they pay for and that’s what your roadmap should be based on.  

Create win-win situations

The rookie level of this is “does my product deliver and do what it’s supposed to do”. That’s kind of a win-win situation, right? If you operate with assumptions, you only assume you give value.

“Can I run my client’s business? Do I know enough of what his pains are, what his make or break aspects of his business are?” 

The next level of this is asking yourself, "What are the top things on someone’s mind right now? What are they losing sleep over?" Even if your product doesn’t solve these problems, it pays to know the answers and to put yourself into their shoes. The more granular you go with this, the more relevant you can be. 

Sales isn’t just a game of numbers

This one’s a bit controversial, but don’t automate your sales communication, at least not early on.

There’s an assumption that sales is a game of numbers and the more you put in, the more automated emails sent out based on long lists, the more you get out. It’s a vicious circle that ends up with you being alienated from conversations being had with customers. This leads to lower conversions, which leads to you wanting to put more in, which leads to alienating more and the circle goes on and on.  

Every now and then, if you don’t get the number from sales that you wish for, do less, have more human interactions and fewer funnels. Focus on quality over quantity.

In Messente, they put a cap of 20 parallel conversations one person could have. This number will be different for every company based on the complexity of conversations, but it solves the quality part of sales.  

Ask yourself what’s happening on the other end of the conversation 

So, you had a sales call. What happens in the next 3 minutes after you walk out of the room or hang up the phone? Does the person you met call someone to say these guys were pretty awesome, do you get filed into the back of someone’s head, did they prepare for the meeting or did they just show up – WHY?

Asking these things will get you more of a contextual understanding of what is they’re looking for. If someone you were very hopeful for at one point goes silent at one point, you can ask why did they agree to the first meeting in the first place, not why aren’t they replying now? What were they hoping for that they didn’t get?

Sales is never about fancy closing techniques

The more complex the deals, the bigger the bill size, the less fancy the closing techniques. A full introvert with a solid method beats an extrovert working the room spreading pixie dust and doing fancy closes every day of the week.

Keep your promises religiously and always do your homework

Sales all boils down to keeping your promises. If you promise to get back to someone, do it exactly at that time and never be late. The way you sell and the way a client is buying is an accurate image of what the relationship is going to be like after the sale is closed.

In Messente, salespeople spend at least twice the time of the sales meeting preparing for it. If the salesperson says that they’re that good that they don’t have to prepare – that’s a rookie move.

Sales is a method. It’s much more of a science than an art.  

You know the movie Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardi di Caprio taking a pen and saying, sell me this pen. If you recruit for salespeople, please don’t use this. Sales is complex, it’s about processes – who does what. If you’re ever applying for a sales job and someone says sell me this pen, there’s only one right reaction – sell him this pen, he’s the boss, do your best, but know that this person’s understanding the sales process comes form watching this movie one too many times.

Hire entrepreneurs

I’ve been asked a lot of times “Who should I hire? I want to hire a sales team, who should I go for, what are the qualities?” I’ve looked at this very differently and the thing and the thing it boils down to is “hire the entrepreneur”. The entrepreneurial mindset pretty accurately matches the mindset of the profile of a really good B2B salesman. They spot opportunities, they understand that when there’s a problem, it should be fixed not complained about. They are aware that it’s a grind and a grind it is.

If you’re ever between two equal skillset salespeople, my advice is to hire the better writer. I profoundly believe that clear writing is a sign of a clear and structured mind and vice versa. If you hire salespeople, read what they’ve written in the past, read what they write for you instead of asking them to sell you this pen.

Motivate your sales team

Commission has to be part of the equation, the sales team has to be after the money. The other factors should be getting enough support and patience – and patience is hard to come by as a quality in sales managers. Patience, in the long run, pays off in terms of loyalty and in later results.

sTARTUp Day is the biggest business festival in the Baltics, bringing together over 4400 participants in the smart city of Tartu. Boasting over 15 tracks, the program is designed so that everyone would gain from the festival. See why you should attend here
Articles you might also like:

Kalev Kaarna keynote at sTARTUp Day 2024: “Practical magic of growing sales in a falling market”

Kalev Kaarna's keynote at sTARTUp Day provided an insightful guide for businesses striving to grow their sales despite a declining market. Drawing...
Read more