Whom do you send to pitch new customers or build your brand at conferences? A spirited salesperson? The passionate CEO? It’s a difficult but important decision.
Employees who are chosen to travel vary by the type of startup and the stage, in my experience. Early on, CEOs and founders wear many hats — including the salesperson hat — and hit the road to attract new customers, partners, and investors.
As the startup grows, leaders bring out top employees to shadow them at meetings. The experience they gain hearing leaders sell and pitch the company far outweighs the cost of an extra ticket and time out of the office. After all, they’ll be the ones — ideally, a dream team of salespeople, techies, and leaders — representing the company’s vision in the field.
Three types of business development team members
Once your company is able, there are three types of employees to send on sales or networking opportunities. When questions arise, no matter how detailed, tactical, or strategic, this group will have them covered:
1. The salesperson
A salesperson is good at getting your company’s foot in the door. He’ll secure an initial meeting to sell the idea of your product. He’ll do his homework on where the prospect grew up and went to school to form a personal connection. Those connections go a long way — just look at the nuclear deal with Iran, which sprung from an MIT connection and baby clothes.
2. The techie
Salespeople often know the “what” of your business and product — but not the “how.” A salesperson might be asked operational questions he can’t answer. Having a developer, engineer, or product manager to answer questions in depth is infinitely more powerful than the vague “I’ll get back to you on that” or the reassuring but not necessarily true “Of course we can do that.”
3. The decision maker
A salesperson provides the introduction, and a technical expert answers tough tactical questions. But it’s the CEOs and founders who close deals. They need to be there.
Keep in mind that this list is just a general guide for a business development team. Which people to send to a client meeting always depends on with whom you’re meeting. Every member of your organization can be useful in different settings. Don’t send engineers to talk marketing, and don’t send sales reps to do a deep dive with IT. If you’re meeting with an agency or design firm, make sure to bring a marketing or design person.
Keeping your biz dev team effective
If you’re sending a team on the road, help offset costs with a loyalty program, such as Business Extra, or manage your travel expenses with a travel management program, such as Uber for Business. As the CEO or co-founder, you can reward your hardworking business travelers with perks on the road, such as lounge access, cabin upgrades, or a car service to the airport. It’s a great thank-you for a job well done and the perfect incentive to close the next big sale.
One more thing: Whether you’re headed to a meeting or a conference, team size is a crucial balancing act. Send too many people, and your startup looks desperate. Send the wrong people, and the company looks unprepared.
It makes sense that CEOs and founders are the ones on the road getting in front of investors and customers at first. And it almost never hurts to have them around. After a growth spurt, though, it’s time to introduce a dream team to prospects. Start with the core three. Then, build out your team based on your audience, and prepare to close the deal.