Sales teams exist to grow revenue and keep customers happy. They’re also brand builders and the face of the brand to many customers.
They hear what customers want and keep a pulse on the market. When it’s easy for sales to share their observations with product development and marketing, their feedback spurs product improvements, brand definition, and growth. The first step in this process, though, is for sales to provide a clear explanation of the problem their product solves.
Recently we caught up with Pier Barattolo, a sales leader with decades of experience in technology companies, to learn how he makes sure the market understands what he’s selling and why they need it.
Interview with Pier Barattolo, CRO at Density.io
First, can you tell us a bit about your previous roles and your current gig?
My first quota carrying job was in 1996. My current job, Chief Revenue Officer at Density, is my third CRO position. Our sales team is small, handpicked, and focused on building the foundation for high growth and scale. As CRO, I am responsible for partnerships and business development and although I do not directly own marketing, I have a strong voice and influence on all marketing related activities.
When you join a company, you tend to be a founding member of the sales team. Tell us where you start.
Yes, I’m usually one of the first — if not the first — sales person at a company. I work very closely with the founder / CEO to establish product-market fit and put in the processes to scale the business. I start by thinking about the critical messages we need to develop and then what will get prospects to talk to us and, eventually, purchase. I ask myself, “Who should care about us?”
It’s about keeping things really simple. At a previous company, I didn’t take the time to really define our reason for being and this left the sales team to do their own thing and had to figure it out on their own. It did not work out very well for us. Now, I always work to identify and focus on the problem we solve and put it in simple terms so that everyone can articulate and explain it.
Messaging is, obviously, easier when the problem is familiar to people. But it isn’t always. Have you ever worked at a company that was in a new product category?
Category placement is really important. You have to be really clear which category you’re in so others can place you. It’s hard to sell something to a company that doesn’t have any budget allocated to that product/solution. I’ve found that when a category is particularly new, education is really important. This is often a big issue for platform companies.
So how do you create a platform brand?
You can’t depend on the enterprise to understand the power of the platform. It’s the selling company’s job is to educate the enterprise on the platform’s potential, the specific applications and how it solves a specific problem for a specific executive / buyer. Unless widely adopted, companies do not go out and look for platforms.
At my current company, Density, our technology allows enterprises to measure occupancy by counting people passing through a doorway. We position ourselves as an analytics platform, driven by occupancy data. On its own, that doesn’t mean much to most people! We need to define the platform and also give examples of the things the platform can do and the problems it solves.
So how do you do that? How do develop a value proposition for each customer?
You need to get clear on what you do, how you do it, and begin to develop the proof points as quickly as possible. At Density, we have a device we install above a door that measures people going in and out of a space. The problem we solve really depends on the customer. When we talked to our initial customers, we looked for underlying trends and recurring problems. We identified initial applications that were common and valuable to our target audience and focused on those “use cases”: security tailgating, office space wastage, facilities management, and conference room and cafeteria planning. We give executives the necessary data to enable them to make better decisions.
Let’s talk more about brand. You’re in a very early stage. Do you focus at this point on the brand?
Brand recognition and brand awareness help potential buyers understand who you are as a company. You’ve got to invest when you can. When I join a company, I first focus on the problem we are solving and then how we solve it in a way that is differentiated and valuable to customers. That might not be the flashy brand stuff people see but it makes a big impact on the sales cycle. The better you define the problem and the solution, the easier it is to sell and the stronger your brand becomes.
Speaking of sales, what’s your approach to scaling the sales team?
I tend to make sure that I have a strong foundation that can withstand high scale — but at the right time. It doesn’t make sense to scale before you have a clear and repeatable product-market fit and go-to-market strategy. Although our technology is applicable to every Fortune 1000 company we’re targeting companies that align best with the use cases we are focusing on today. Once we see a repeatable process, we will add reps and allow them to apply the recipe many times across many accounts.
How can the sales team impact brand building?
First, arm them with what they need. Content is king. We make sure sales has the content — data sheets, pitch decks, case studies — they need right away. The content doesn’t have to be perfect but they need something. We iterate on and refine this content over time.
Speaking of iterating, our reps are key to our ongoing learning process. They are out there hearing about how customers see our brand, how they use our solutions, and how we can make it better. You have to use every customer interaction to learn. Then you bring that feedback back inside and adjust. And then you go out again.
Any closing thoughts?
I’d just say that when you start to think about how your brand matters to people, it’s overwhelming. I really try to stay focused. If we can do everything, it’s hard to do anything. Take it step by step and get straight on fundamentals first.
Pier makes it sound easy. But finding product-market fit and defining your value isn’t always simple. If you’re struggling to articulate the problem you solve or develop the use cases that communicate your value proposition, we want to hear from you. Emotive Brand understands the connection between positioning and messaging and sales. Let’s talk about how we can help you make your product more relevant to your customers and drive revenue.
Emotive Brand is a B2B brand strategy and design agency.
Originally published at www.emotivebrand.com on October 25, 2018.