Sunday, April 21, 2013

Think Big: Drive Startup Growth with the Right Business Tools

As part of our jobs in Sales, we get to work with really incredible startups and witness their development at every stage. Some of those starts are trying to scale as they grow and others are just trying to find the shortest path to being successful.  That said, almost every startup struggles with growth on some level, and it can be a painful journey without the right business tools.

We’ve identified three areas - and created an infographic - that most successful startups should master: operational visibility, scalability, and an effective sales and service process.

Click on the image to see the full infographic
Operational Visibility 
Whether it’s forecasting or reporting, startup growth is a numbers game and every leader will be challenged to provide data-driven insights. Prospective investors need forward-looking reports, and sometimes startups need enough information to make a decision, quickly.

Unlike enterprises, startups and small businesses do not have an army of dedicated staff that can target every attractive market. With a heavier reliance on short-term cash flow, agile startups must identify and focus on activities that drive results.

A good reporting tool will point to which products and regions to focus on, which selling activities are producing, and when to start hiring. When you don’t have many resources, you need to use what you have effectively.

It comes down to being organized and having the ability to operate effectively. To do that you need data and you usually need it quickly. When it comes to fundraising the game isn’t much different - Startups are 2.5 times more likely to raise money when they’re using a CRM.

70% of startups struggle with scalability, so equipping your business with a scalable platform is crucial to the growth of a startup. Whether you’re investing in a web platform or front-office application suite, the risk associated with system breakage is huge and the costs of switching can be very high.

Factors to consider in the decision-making include: a history of stability, mobile support, and ease of management.

We’ve witnessed small business startups that have had to accommodate millions of new users on Heroku and Sales teams that need to accommodate an expansion from one founder to hundreds of sales reps.

Moreover, as functional teams are added, individual applications suited for those functions need to be added as well. Getting these apps to talk becomes a necessity, but few startups have the time or money to build custom integrations.

A central hub for sales, service, marketing, and operations allows you to build a single customer profile. Salesforce customers like Spotify and Groupon started small with this in mind.
Startups with amazing products can find themselves exasperated with the pressures of developing processes from scratch. Resources are limited and early-stage companies need to focus on what they do best – developing a world-class product.

Building a sales and support operation is one of the most difficult problems any business startup has to deal with in their growth stage.  We often see teams that are small businesses relying on a combination of spreadsheets, sticky notes, and simple databases to track their customer engagements. “Duct tape and Bubble Gum” is what we call it. This piecemeal approach results in leads falling through the cracks, poor customer on-boarding and sales deals being mismanaged. It’s money out the window.

Platforms like Salesforce were engineered to help you sell more and service better. Sales reps have a proven process to follow, leading to shorter sales cycles, losing fewer deals, and increasing the amount of larger opportunities, while Customer Service Agents have a complete view of the customer, ensuring nothing gets lost in translation.

Moreover, closing the feedback loop keeps product development engaged with your market. You can customize the application to suit your unique processes, building on the best practices that millions of Salesforce users love.

Is your startup "ready" to grow?
Once a startup itself, Salesforce recognizes the importance of supporting the startup community. We are founder-led with we are still managing over 30% yearly growth, so while the scale has changed we still deal with much the same things day to day as many of you.

We have partnered with programs like Y-Combinator and events like NY Tech Day because of this and have developed an emerging business segment to identify with the unique challenges that growing startups face.

You've invested heavily into building a world class product and getting it in to customer’s hands. We hope these insights help to prepare you for your startup growth; to make smart, longer-term decisions so that you have right tools for growth as you are become more successful.

If we can help in any way, or are interested in digging in on what this means for your startup - please comment below or reach out to us – your feedback is always appreciated. Want to learn more how startups, like Viocorp, use Salesforce?  Feel free to watch this video