During the early development stages of a business, building a long-term growth model often takes a back seat to the pressing operational issues of running a new and often growing company. While early financial wins are great for sustaining short-term momentum, the key to building a lasting business is thinking with the end in mind and architecting revenue streams can naturally grow and develop.
In building my first software startup, my team developed a model that allowed us to get some traction early on – which was good, but it certainly could have been better. We set our price points high, and while doing so helped in the early years, it made the business harder to accelerate than it would have been had we grown it to scale.
With my current startup, we are focused on making sure that our customers will get an ever-improving value proposition in a way that develops naturally. To that aim, we have focused on implementing four specific strategies for long-term growth — most of which revolve around our sales team.
1. Create a sales-driven culture
Hire the right sales people for the right positions and set performance expectations early. Having a well-developed sales culture from the get-go is essential in setting the stage for incoming talent, and it will keep the existing representatives inspired for the long haul.
It is much easier to maintain a good culture than fix a bad one. If your once-thriving sales culture becomes stagnant, consider adding fresh talent. Bringing in new, hungry individuals to any team can ignite productivity among existing members.
2. Add more sales representatives
Even while we were in the very early stages of conceptualizing, building and testing a minimal viable product, our sales team dramatically outnumbered all other departments. Their contribution was essential in gathering the information and feedback we needed to start building our product.
Simply put, the sales department is the single most driving force that encourages growth in all areas of the company, especially early on. Don’t make the mistake of holding back your company’s progress by neglecting to recognize chances to expand your sales team — hire smart and hire often.
Increase productivity per representative
Always design an incentive model that is relevant, easy to understand, and that can accurately measure the return for each of your sales representatives
Things tend to change rapidly for SMBs and failing to keep a finger on the pulse of the sales team can kill productivity. Goals that are not specific or lose their challenge can quickly create dissonance and bring productivity to a halt.
Based on how quickly your company is growing, take time periodically – every other week or every month – to dig deep into the sales numbers, talk to your representatives, and realign goals and incentives accordingly. The sales team will appreciate the clarity and in return, will be free to go out and perform.
Have a pricing model that naturally accepts growth
When designing pricing models, it is important to think many years down the road. While having a large and productive sales team is vital for driving growth proactively, it’s also important to architect your revenue streams in a way that will multiply your efforts naturally over time.
We did this by implementing a two-tiered subscription-style model. On one side, we offer a cost-free option that provides real value to customers and fosters organic growth, and on the other, our paid subscription with added customer value creates a sustainable and reliable source of revenue for our company.
Couple with our sales efforts – like expanding into new geographic areas and new market segments – the table is set for natural and lasting growth.
So, take a critical look at your current organization’s current model for growth and ask yourself: Are current revenue streams giving my company the best opportunity for natural growth? Is the sales team revving at full RPM’s with full efficiency?
If not, make some adjustments now — you’ll be glad you did.
Matt Ehrlichman is co-founder and CEO of Porch, an online home improvement marketplace that allows homeowners to see what types of projects their neighbors have completed, see how much certain projects would cost and recommend service professionals to friends and neighbors. He is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an organization comprised of promising young entrepreneurs.