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Aug. 25, 2022

5 foundations needed for startup sales

For the go-to-market activities of a B2B startup, there are five foundations that once they are in place, everything else become clearer.

Bring clarity to these foundations across the team and…

  • the prospect is not confused,
  • the sales funnel works better,
  • the sales team is more effective,
  • experimentation is more reliable,
  • execution in the field is more consistent,
  • ultimately, teams are able to close more deals.

Unfortunately, often cybersecurity startups don’t spend the time to agree on these things, codify them and continuously reinforce them with the wider team.

Teams skip past these foundations because they are deemed basic and not sexy. There is often the belief that “we already know these things.”

The reality though is often the team is not aligned and confusion reigns.

Also, they are ignored because:

  • it can force tough conversations about what we know and what we are just guessing,
  • teams don’t know how to run a meeting to discuss them effectively,
  • it can end up being a frustrating exercise in wordsmithing.

However, the go-to-market team can come together by doing an exercise to review these foundations and answer some questions.

Here’s how:


1. Problem we solve

The biggest reason for startup failure is “no need”. Said in another way “no big problem to solve”. This is the single most important thing to nail because without it you will really struggle.

I was at a startup with a HUGE vision and cool technology. The product worked but we struggled then to get momentum (and they still are). The reason was that the problems we solved early on were just not that important to prospects. We often got the response “cool, but not now”.

Questions to ask:

  • What business problems are we solving for our early customers?
  • Why do they want to solve these problems right now?
  • What evidence do we have that lots of people want to spend money NOW to solve it
  • How can we measure the business impact?


2. Clear deal customer profile

Too often in cybersecurity sales we get distracted by new use cases and markets. This is especially true as you hire salespeople. They bring with them their network, their experiences, and their views. The danger is that without a clear ICP the sales team casts their net too wide and ends up wasting cycles.

A clear ICP gives the team the focus they need. It tells them where they are going to have the most success and it makes it clear where you need them to focus.

Questions to ask:

  • What size company do we have the most impact on?
  • Which verticals work best?
  • Which persona in the company buys our stuff?
  • Are there other characteristics we can look for? e.g.,
    • Security maturity of the company
    • How long the CISO has been on the job
    • Adoption of complementary technology
    • The business model of the company

Once you have clarity on these, you are essentially telling your team… “if you concentrate your efforts on this profile, you will be more successful quicker than if you don’t.”


3. Big vision

Every startup should have a big vision. After all, they were given money by VCs to transform an industry and achieve big things. That won’t happen if the goal is to make an existing approach a little bit faster. Or a little bit easier.

In early-stage selling the big vision is not just something to get the team rallied around, it should be something your ideal customers want to be part of.

It should inspire prospects to say “Heck yeah! Where do we start?”

Questions to ask:

  • What was it about the vision that caused early customers to want to work with us?
  • How can we tweak our vision statements so that a salesperson can talk to it, and not just the founder(s).
  • Is our vision all about how our customers will benefit (good!) or is it all about our own success (bad!)

Importantly it needs to be something the cybersecurity sales team can talk about. THEY are the ones that need to be able to take it to prospects and do the inspiring.


4. How we deliver

One of the questions your prospects will be asking themselves is “How do they do that?”

Before you get as far as a demo, the sales team should be able to clearly state in 30-seconds the fundamentals of how your product works.

Questions to ask:

  • Would my family member understand this? (if not, take out the jargon and simplify)
  • How do we explain this without the use of slides or graphics?
  • If it takes more than 30-seconds, what do you cut out to be more concise?


5. Differentiation

With 6,500 companies in the cyber security market being able to differentiate is SO important. This needs to be crisp, compelling, and the truth!

And the answer can’t start with phrases like “it’s a bit technical”, or “it’s hard to explain without a diagram”.

Questions to ask:

  • Why do our early customers think we are different?
  • How do they describe our differentiation?
  • How are we different from each of our 3 common competitors?

Everyone in the go-to-market team should be able to clearly explain this in under 1 minute. Everyone should use the same points. And prospects should be in no doubt why you are different once they’ve heard it.

I’ve found in all my dealings with cyber security go-to-market teams that when there is clarity on these points, everything else is easier.

And conversely, many times when a sales team is struggling to make its mark and get traction, the root cause can be traced back to one of these foundations.

When these foundations are clear for a sales team, they sell more, faster.



You might also like this blog: 1st meeting checklist


Unstoppable’s sales operating system is designed for cybersecurity startups and removes the random guesswork, provides repeatable sales plays, and enables you to grow more consistently, and faster. Schedule a strategy call