It wasn't our stated goal to sell to visionaries. It just turned out that we were early.
We went through a few sales guys.
Sales were lumpy, and every deal was a hard fought win.
What got the company over the hump was Early Sales Manager (ESM).
Early Sales Manager approached customer opportunities as a negotiation between Sales and Engineering.
Do what it takes to win deals.
Visionaries want this custom feature or that; so give it to them.
It was the right answer for the moment, and it worked.
The Engine of Growth had started.
A Fork in the Road
As the company grew, the tactics that ESM used to win deals, and the maverick mindset that it took to make those moves in the first place, hit a point of dissonance.
The company was finding product-market fit, and so it became more important to think about product lifecycle, sales model and selling organization.
Exit Early Sales Manager. Enter Growth Sales Manager.
Growth Sales Manager (GSM) brought a philosophy, a discipline and an organizational approach to growth.
GSM view of growth anchored the company's products as a combination of recurring revenue and one time lump sums.
It presented a richer view of how to exercise financial management THROUGH sales management.
GSM's view was that this drove a specific selling methodology, strict quotas and strong reporting.
Most critically, GSM embraced the view that the organization was a more than the sum of the parts exercise.
And the company was better for it.
Within two years, the organization grew into a vibrant business, first partnering with the Number Two player in the space, and then selling outright to the Number One player.
Flash Forward: The Next Company
Once again, the company that was early.
The founders felt certain that GSM could do for their growth what he'd done for the last company.
But GSM failed to find the same magic.
In the end, he flailed so bad that he needed to be put out of his misery.
In retrospect, what had happened was that whereas Early Sales Manager excelled at the Early Stage type of deal, Growth Sales Manager excellent at cultivating and harvesting.
Whereas ESM struggled once order and consistency were the name of the game, GSM struggled when the ability to tap dance, and use gum and tape to cobble deals together was required.
The moral of the story is this.
Know what stage of the business you are building, and know what type of selling method and sales management you need for that stage.