Startup Office Hours

Founders and team leaders, we’re here for you.

All of our former senior operators - who have been through multiple downturns - will host virtual office hours to answer your startup questions on how to respond to emerging challenges. After every session, we will summarize each question and answer below. Have an additional question? Email [email protected] with the subject line "Virtual Office Hours" and we’ll answer as soon as we can.

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What were your key takeaways from the 2008 recession as VP of Sales?
  • Business will continue, the only question for sellers is whether the future will be a “V” or “U”, 2008 was an “L”
  • Great opportunity to take a leadership position within your company, sales team, and customers -- people will remember how you act, react and stay proactive.
  • Use this as an opportunity to reassess what is working and not working in the business. If you have to cut - cut deeper than you think and faster. This will make it easier to come back when the economy normalizes.

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What are general themes that you’re seeing in this contraction?
  • Large enterprises are not equipped to manage contracts remotely so need to do more work around assessing how quickly they’ll be able to move contracts. SMBs are better at this right now.
  • Executives are expecting budget reductions so they actually might be accelerating some purchases to get products pushed through.
  • Not all businesses are being negatively impacted. Don’t overreact. Take a look at your sales team and pipeline and make sense of the data you have to make a game plan.

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How do you address Q1 pushed deals due to COVID-19 and frozen budgets?
  • Make sure slips don’t become losses
  • Keep customers engaged and satisfied
  • Be a good partner all the way through crisis

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How do you close 6-7 figure ACV deals remotely?
  • Be human. Ask them how they’re doing.
  • Be focused on what is important to them. Ask them how they’re running their business and how you can be helpful.
  • Be easy to work with- relax any requirements on contracts, minimize red lines, shorter turnaround time
  • Focus on the four C’s of closing: compelling event, having a champion, having commercials which is pricing negotiated, and having contracts redlined

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How are sales leaders developing action plans?
  • Board members want to look at data. While you might not have all the data yet, expect them to ask for a plan.
  • Be calm. Be proactive. Create a plan with the data you have and any actions you’re taking in response to what you’re seeing. Continuously update this plan. Start with a one pager and include all aspects of your business.
  • People just want to know what leadership is doing to take action.

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How do you keep your team motivated?
  • People want direction and transparency so over communicate--both up to your manager and down to your team.
  • Be human. Ask how they’re doing. Make sure they have all the tools they need to be successful in a work from home environment

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What metrics would you examine to understand the impact of COVID-19 on sales on a day-to-day week-to-week basis especially for the board and investors beyond anecdotal data?
  • You can expect top of funnel to naturally go down at this time, optimize for targeted accounts
  • Measure MQLs and SQLs in the last two to three weeks as everyone shifted to working remotely. Focus on qualifying deals more than ever so you’re spending time wisely.
  • Renewals- focus on your existing customers, how are they using the product, how will this affect renewals
  • Close dates

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What are creative ways to get cash into the business to help stay alive?
  • Easiest revenue is renewals. Can you offer up early renewals with additional benefits or flexible payment terms?
  • Be creative with your existing customer base to give more product now that they don’t pay for yet. This will hopefully help with their adoption and eventually expand in six months (and pay for it then).
  • Offering temporary free managed service. If your product requires someone to manage and run it, consider an option where your SEs (they might not be as busy right now) run it as a service for customers. This is a great option for small companies.
  • Help companies validate your product today. If you’ve been pitching a POC or proof of value, see if you can do a risk assessment. Anything to help accelerate their conviction around the value your product brings.

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What is the best response/attitude to customers that are coming back asking to reduce their contracts/commitments for 2020?
  • Are they asking for discounts and you don’t think that it’s valid or necessary? Explain why you don’t think it is valid and double down on the value you’re giving. Provide concrete evidence.
  • Err on the side of customer satisfaction right now. If you need to tell them no, give them an alternative answer / something else they can benefit from.
  • Work with your finance team. Understand where you can be a little more flexible to help the company in the short term and what will be beneficial or not incredibly harmful in the long term
  • If you do reduce the price, put a deadline on it-- around six months-- and then reassess later.

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How does a sales person suss out whether a prospect is liquid?
  • Work with finance to see if there’s any information they can give or investigate to determine if the customer has budget/funding
  • Confirm at the highest level possible. See if you can use this as a reason to talk to someone higher level in the organization.
  • Take a more pessimistic POV and let the customer prove you otherwise. If you have a hunch there is a problem with them being liquid, then flag to finance when booked.

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Any tools to get through legal faster when your software is urgent?
  • Minimize red lines
  • Shorten your turnaround time (less than 24 hours, start deal desk)
  • Use digital tools to make it easy (DocuSign). Assume no printer or scanner
  • Be super flexible on legal terms other than the 2-3 things that really matter to your company like Indemnity, Limitation of Liability, IP ownership, etc

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How to best be of service to clients/prospects during a pandemic?
  • Do personal check-ins. Be proactive, human and transparent.
  • If virtual meeting, make sure you’re still dressed professionally.
  • Offer up resources other than your product. Work with your customer success team. Do they need help with onboarding the solution?
  • Cultivate your customer council community. Set up virtual meetup since many of them going through similar challenges right now
  • Try to make it business as usual. Some people want to get back into routine to stay sane.

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Tips and tricks for cold emails and warm introductions? How to stand out in a mostly digital crowd right now?
  • Always prefer warm intros so spend more time than normal on LinkedIn and other tools to find someone who can intro. Don’t ask for a sale, don’t ask to push a product. The ask should be to help you navigate to the right person to speak to and have a conversation about the problem you’re solving.
  • Do your homework before the call. Understand their business and priorities.
  • Be super sensitive on how you’re marketing off COVID-19. Don’t prospect to the healthcare industry right now (unless offering free support/licenses).
  • Consider offering products that are easier to evaluate (ex: rather than POCs try a risk assessment)
  • Personal and human outreach. Donation card where they choose a local food bank or charity. Food delivery for lunch meetings. Sendoso to send care packages.

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How to best manage a new team virtually?
  • Don’t assume everyone knows how to work remote including people outside of your team that you’re interacting with. Provide the infrastructure (Zoom, monitor, headphones, etc)
  • Do more check ins than normal. First, check in on how they’re doing personally then check in to make sure they understands priorities and action plans
  • Onboarding is key to make them successful; prepare this advance and document a 30-60-90 day plan, company virtual norms (what to expect day to day) and virtual reach outs and check ins with not only people on their team but other people in the company
  • Don’t over rotate talking about COVID19; balance and separate personal and work
  • Now is the best time to invest in tools for sales enablement and sales onboarding. Examples: Zoom, Demandbase, 6sense, Gong/Chorus, Saleshood

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Our Perspectives

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Martina Lauchengco | May 5th 2020

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Amy Cheetham | April 15th 2020

Referencing a VC: Separating Believability from the Bullsh*t in a Remote-First World

How to determine if the VCs you’re talking to might be right for you.

Tony Liu | April 8th 2020

How to build a platform data scientists will love

(Hint: Cross-functional collaboration and iteration speed are critical.)

Michelle McHargue | April 22nd 2020

5 Ways Founders Can Support Their Employees Right Now

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Mark Selcow | March 22nd 2020

How to steer a startup through a major downturn

Here are some actions your leadership team should be taking quickly.

Jim Wilson | April 1st 2020

The Importance of a Buyer’s Perspective for Startups

Why we hired Declan Morris as our newest executive-in-residence

Costanoa Ventures | March 20th 2020

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Costanoa Ventures | February 20th 2020

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