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Start Up, Sales, Marketing, Business Development

TSE 310: Why Startups Need To Focus On Sales Before Marketing

Start Up, Sales, Marketing, Business Development Today’s episode is explosive since our guest today, Patrick Helmers, is a double-edged sword who brings a lot of value on the table. He is not only a master on the tech side but he also has mastered the sales process.

Patrick used to be an engineer with a computer science background until he slowly gravitated towards the front end working with clients and customers and moved into sales realizing there’s a whole lot more to a customer buying your product or service – it’s the whole sales process that he’s fascinated about.

Today, Patrick talks about why sales comes first before marketing and he walks us through re-engineering the process of bringing a product out into the market which is totally genius.

Here are the highlights of my conversation with Patrick:

Why startups need to focus on sales over marketing campaigns:

  • Sales is where you should begin
  • Once you understand who your clients are and take that information, then you can do marketing.
  • Marketing is more of an automation for sales.

Why people are more apprehensive to sales than marketing:

  • People are afraid of sales.
  • People are afraid of talking to people and meeting people.
  • People are afraid to call them up on the phone or shake hands.
  • People want the McDonald’s experience.

Strategies to start finding success with sales:

  • Think of the fundamental value proposition.
  1. Define what your product or service is.
  2. Identify your target market.
  3. Do competitive analysis.
  4. Find and refine your niche.
  • Don’t just focus on the things you built, but think about what the customer wants.
  • Identify the problems, desires, issues that you’re solving for the client.

Why people are scared of selling:

  • People love their product and they don’t want to hear bad news.
  • Thinking that “everyone should have your product” or that “everyone would love your product” but you don’t know how to exactly frame it in a language they can understand

Re-engineering your process:

  1. Understand who your customers are first.
  2. Understand their problem.
  3. Build your product.

*Most business owners build the product first before getting the customers, which is something they’re struggling with.

Actionable steps when looking at creating a new product/service:

  1. Make a list of prospective clients.

Who makes sense for the product or service you’re thinking of building?

  1. Call them up and ask them for their advice.

Send an email or call and ask for their advice. Set an appointment as to the best time that you can speak with them. You’re not selling or pushing anything. You’re just asking for advice and people like to be helpful and like to share what they know. They love to have other people listen to them.

  1. Cold calling is still something you can do.

It’s a great way of qualifying to see if they’re a prospective buyer or you can be referred to the right prospects.

  1. Ask the “challenge questions.”
  • What is your business’ goals and challenges? What are you concerned about in the next two months? (The trick to get them to start talking.)
  • What is your biggest challenge out of all the stuff you talked about? (Look and try to figure out if you’re in their space. If not, it’s unlikely they’re going to buy your product. Get ideas first in the market before getting deep into it.)
  • What would it take to overcome those challenges? (They will bring up things that are supposed to line up with the solution or product you’re providing)
  • What would it mean for you to overcome those challenges?
  1. Everything that they say, write down their quotes.

Write down their exact language because this is the text you’re going to be using in your marketing content. Sales comes before marketing!

Patrick’s Major Takeaway:

Don’t be afraid of the phone. Pick it up and make calls.

Episode Resources:

Learn more about Patrick on The Sales Babble Podcast

Eric Ries’ book, The Lean Startup

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The Sales Evangelist, Donald Kelly, Donald C. Kelly

John Burks MSI Lighting, Corporate Sales, Start Up Sales Training TSE

TSE 095: What Corporate and Startup Selling Has Taught Me About Sales

John Burks MSI Lighting, Corporate Sales, Start Up Sales Training TSE With the ever evolving technology we have today, there is no reason why you can’t capitalize on what the world is offering you to do today. No, it’s not just a matter of knowing what you’re selling and bringing it out to the market. Knowing who you’re up against is equally crucial. In this episode, John Burke talks about these points which are necessary to help keep you ahead in the game.

John Burke is the President of MSi, a LED-lighting company involved in the design and manufacture of their own LED light bulbs and specialized in commercial applications. Although a company president, John still remains a salesman at heart.

Having an extensive background in sales, working with huge corporations like Colgate and Reebok’s Avia International, John has taken the discipline and structure he has learned from Corporate America and incorporated them into developing his own business and gaining the success that he has today.

Here are the highlights of my conversation with John:


His career timeline:

  • Worked with Colgate-Palmolive for almost 19 years (5 years overseas).
  • Found himself burned out by his middle 30’s.
  • Worked for Avia (A Reebok subsidiary).
  • Learned about buying and selling companies with Avia.
  • Starting his own company.

The major challenges affecting sales professionals on the corporate side:

  • Rules have changed in the 70’s vs. today.
  • A completely different business model.
  • Sophistication in data gathering (how many units are sold per store, etc.).
  • The buy-in game has changed.
  • Stores are now more particular about the brands introduced.
  • Products are now more global.

The game is more challenging and only the best at understanding what’s going on in the game will be successful.

What sales professionals are struggling with in these “new rules” in the game:

  • Sales people only know half of the game.
  • They don’t care about any of their competitors.
  • Getting caught in the digital reporting.

What you need to do to up your game:

  • Know who your competitors are.
  • Know what their products do and don’t do.
  • Know how your product is better.

The biggest challenge today: To provide thebuyer with what they need to have to make the sale.

  • Why should they add your product to their portfolio?
  • What does your product do that nobody else does?
  • What is your product’s unique positioning?
  • Are you fulfilling their needs and meeting their profit margin requirements?

What John does to motivate his team about knowing their products:

  • Ongoing communications with people to teach and show them what to do.
  • Take advantage of technology and tools we have today (Video demonstrations, email blasts, etc.).
  • Capitalizing on what the world is offering for you to do today.

The power of knowing your competitor and their products:

  • Helps you assess where you are and fashion your sales presentation.
  • Helps you accentuate the “positive” about your products.
  • Helps you become prepared for what might come your way from a buyer about your competitor to help your buyer make the right decision.

The biggest way to sell:  Relationship Selling

Focusing on the details of the prospects you’re working with:

  • Write things down.
  • Call people back.

Finding the ideal customers:

  • Start with your product.
  • Find who your target audience is.

Current projects John is working on:

  • Going for fewer watts and continually trying to improve product performance while pulling cost down.

For more information on John Burke’s company, visit or connect with John by sending him an email at

Connect with John on Twitter: @MSiLighting @DonaldCKelly

John’s Major Takeaways:


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