A Lesson for all Startups: Sales Before R&D

Sales Before R&D

There have been many papers and articles written about the importance of R&D, continued product development and the role of constant innovation within a company; however, without top-line sales, all those R&D efforts are in vain.

We have seen and been involved in a number of startups that built a product. Rather than pushing hard to sell and market the product they have chosen instead to put sales and marketing efforts on the back burner while they continue to put the majority of focus and limited cash flow into further developing or in some cases “perfecting” the product. The latter rarely ever happens because even the best products continue to get better over time. One analogy to live by is that if you are not slightly embarrassed by your first product, you have not sold it soon enough.

Revenue Generation

The number of companies that have spent time burning their start-up investment, whether self-funded, angel or VC, on R&D and then with six months of cash left decide they need to start generating revenue is very, very long – don’t be one of these firms. Revenue generation should be more than just a thought, it should be integrated into the entire lifecycle of your R&D efforts – you should always be selling.

Look for Opportunities

In some cases, this may mean searching for pilot project opportunities or networking to seed the market or simply doing some work on social media to create a buzz. Then assume over the initial 12 to 18 months sales revenues will be limited, so give yourself enough time to get ramped up. No matter which way you cut and slice it, and even if you are really lucky, it will take 12 to 18 months to see the results of a sustained sales and marketing efforts, particularly around B2B products.

Buying Cycles

Buying cycles are long; decision makers leave, corporate priorities change and in the midst of this, you still need to keep pounding away with the game plan of building a big enough sales funnel that you don’t care who closes, someone will due to sheer numbers. We are huge believers that sales is a process and a science much more than it is an art.

Ultimately, your success will hinge on you generating revenue, so don’t get stuck in the R&D rut, get your product to a point that it works and can be sold and then start doing just that – selling it! Once you get some traction and clients, work to continue to better it.

If you read this and the situation sounds familiar and you need some sales and marketing horsepower to help, contact us. We would love the opportunity to discuss how we may be able to help.

A Lesson for all Startups: Sales Before R&D