When NVP considers an investment we assess a range of criteria. For founders, we look closely at market experience, previous startup experience, leadership qualities, and their approach to problem solving. Some VCs might also carefully weigh a founder’s “Sales DNA” which is to say how natural they are at selling a product, as opposed to building it.
As part of NVP’s approach to growth, we typically view this as a learnable skill. Some founders are natural sales people - but others are not - and that doesn’t make their product or solution any less viable. We work closely with our portfolio companies to explore, define and execute on a sales process which might include teaching the founding team to make pitches themselves, and it may extend to hiring the right kinds of sales people as they are able to add talent. Our Director of Growth, Kevin Petry, works with our entrepreneurs on a soup-to-nuts and individualized program to ensure that every team has the support they need to find leads, secure conversations, make pitches and close deals.
Within that sales process lies discoverability - and how a founder or team approaches discoverability is a tell-tale sign of how refined their Sales DNA is. Discoverability is arguably the most important phase of any sales process and where the majority of deals are won or lost. The secret to discoverability is connecting and building trust with leads.
Trust is the most basic building block of any relationship, personal and professional - and that includes your relationship with leads and customers. Learning how to create that from scratch can be challenging, but it can also be the difference between success and failure for a startup.
Startups, in particular, face the challenge of connecting in a meaningful way with a critical mass of potential customers. Most simply do not have enough first conversations, and if they do, they are not asking enough questions. The problem can be volume of projected leads, successful connections, or the depth and breath of questions being asked. Too many teams spend those early conversations talking about themselves or budgets, and not enough about the pain points, day to day operations, and solutions that their prospects have or need. The ability to sell a product is as much about asking the right questions, as it is about getting the deal signed. The right questions will fill the gaps of where the sale should be going, and can create a pathway to long-term relationships with customers.
Led by Kevin, the NVP team helps our startups determine what questions to ask, how get beyond a first call, and how to draw out the information you need to turn a pitch into a deal. He prompts founders to simply have more conversations and often helps them write or assess their sales script, opting for organic language and a casual flow. We help create a list of discovery questions that relate to a specific or group of leads, allowing them to relay how current operations might be improved. That is a moment that can swing open the door to a sale.
Recently, Kevin worked with Kiira Health in this process. With a strong focus on discoverability, founder Crystal Evuleocha has been able to triple her conversations and pipeline. Now, with 5 new contracts in play, Kiira has the market traction it needs to begin fundraising for its Seed round - a key milestone that will propel them to further growth.
Evuleocha said, “Working with Kevin has really helped me connect the mission of Kiira Health with the needs of the schools, students and customers that we want to serve. His mentorship has helped us build a scalable sales process that will grow with our company, and build relationships with clients that are now really rooting for our success. As we move into the next round of fundraising, not only am I more confident in our market traction, but I’m more comfortable reaching out to VCs and investors - because the conversations we’ve had have been instructive on how to build new relationships across the board.”
To learn more about NVP’s Growth Philosophy and Resources, check out our introduction to Kevin Petry, and stay tuned for additional blogs!