1712 – How to Bridge the Gap for Startup Success with Kristie Jones

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the Founder & Principal of Sales Acceleration Group, Kristie Jones.

Kristie shared some common misconceptions and challenges she has observed in organizations that may not have a background in sales.

The first is mis-hiring, where organizations don't understand the difference between different types of sales professionals (hunters, farmers, gatherers) and end up hiring the wrong fit.

The second challenge is what Kristie calls “pimp the demo,” where sales reps focus on showing and telling about their product without going through the necessary discovery process.

She emphasized the importance of understanding the customer's needs and focusing on them before talking about the product.

Kristie believes the relationship between sales and marketing is not as tight as it should be. She sees marketing as the warm-up act for sales, creating brand awareness and setting the stage for the sales team to close the deal.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Challenges faced by tech founders in sales and marketing
  • Importance of having a defined sales strategy
  • Current environment for attracting sales talent
  • Best practices for hiring sales reps
  • Misconceptions and challenges in hiring sales professionals
  • Importance of understanding customer needs before showcasing the product
  • Relationship between sales and marketing
  • Trends and mistakes in sales and marketing collaboration
  • Importance of marketing as a warm-up act for sales

About Kristie Jones:

Kristie Jones is a renowned expert in sales and customer success, offering invaluable guidance to companies aiming to enhance their revenue streams and expand their operations.

In 2016, she founded Sales Acceleration Group, becoming a pivotal figure for owners and founders seeking to boost their profits, reduce churn, and facilitate rapid scalability.

With over 20 years of experience as a SaaS startup sales leader and consultant, Kristie brings a wealth of knowledge to her clients, assisting them in areas ranging from sales strategies and processes to the recruitment and training of sales and customer success representatives.

Over the past seven years, she has exclusively collaborated with more than 50 VC-backed and bootstrapped founders, helping them refine their sales processes, recruit top sales talent, and serve as a fractional or interim sales leader.

Kristie's expertise has led her to present at various prestigious events and appear on numerous podcasts, solidifying her reputation as a respected authority in the field of sales and customer success.

About Sales Acceleration Group:

Sales Acceleration Group stands as a beacon for companies looking for transformative sales solutions. They specialize in providing expert sales guidance, strategic insights, and streamlined processes, the group empowers businesses to boost their sales efforts effectively.

One of their key focuses is instilling discipline within sales processes, addressing common hurdles like lack of documentation and adherence. By establishing formal prospecting, negotiation, pipeline management, and hiring practices, they cultivate a culture of accountability within organizations, facilitating remarkable turnarounds.

With a direct and honest communication style, Sales Acceleration Group ensures compatibility with their clients. They emphasize the importance of internal readiness, offering a candid assessment of a company's preparedness for their services.

This approach underscores their commitment to delivering tailored, impactful sales solutions while enabling company leadership to concentrate on essential aspects such as product development, financial decisions, and client retention.

Tweetable Moments:

11:18 – “It has to be all about them before it can be all about you before it can be all about us.”

19:25 – “We believe that every person has a message that can positively impact the world.”

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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Sales Acceleration Group at

Check out Kristie Jones on LinkedIn at

Check out Kristie Jones  on Twitter at

Check out Kristie Jones on Instagram at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach, or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us. Right now it's the founder and principal of Sales Acceleration Group, Kristie Jones. Kristie, your website is Sales Acceleration Group. Kristie, it's great to have you.

Kristie (00:01:09) - Josh, thanks so much for having me on.

Josh (00:01:10) - Yeah.

Josh (00:01:11) - Share with us a quick overview of what you do, the impact you have in the world and who you work with.

Kristie (00:01:16) - Sure. I exclusively my swim lane, as I call it, is startup founders, normally 0 to 5 million in revenue. Majority of those are probably VC backed, although I do some bootstrapping as well. So the majority of those that have just gotten some series A funding or in desperate need of formalisation documentation and training around all sales processes, as well as probably starting to add their first sales reps and create a sales team. So I spend a lot of time with my founders doing those two things.

Josh (00:01:49) - Yeah. So this is what you're talking about here can be quite challenging for someone. Like, let's say that they're just, you know, they have a background in tech. And so they came up with a great idea for a SaaS platform. They're, you know, they've built it out, they've worked with developers and they're thinking about, okay, what's our go to market? Well, I'm more of a tech person. I'm not a professional sales person. That's and if you don't get that right, you could lose.

Josh (00:02:15) - I mean they won't just won't go to market. You won't get what you truly want. And that's the impact in the world that you're going to have to have a really defined sales strategy in order to make that happen.

Kristie (00:02:28) - Correct? Yeah. And in your spot on. Right. So, you know, I my favorite founder story is, you know, they were working for the man and they needed something that they couldn't find out in the market or what they found out in the market. They didn't like I thought it was an inferior product. And so they thought to themselves, well, if I have this problem, other people have this problem. And because I have a tech background or I'm a developer myself, surely I can fix this. And so they go off into the world and yes, they do, they, they build a better mousetrap or they build the first mousetrap. But to your point, there's a lot of the sales and marketing side that they just haven't had experience with. And so, you know, one of the things I love most about my job, Josh, is that people are so grateful for my help.

Kristie (00:03:08) - Right? Because they don't know sometimes what they don't know. And there is a formula for this. And because I spend most of my time in the SaaS world, you know, we have we have a defined we have defined processes and things that that we know are best practices that can help take that product to market and find the right, find the right customers for them.

Josh (00:03:28) - You know, and I think as well, I my, my hope is that, you know, SMB founders, you know, or, you know, again, someone that's looking at launching something, we can acknowledge that we need sales help as much as we might need. Well, we have to write something in Python. Well, I don't know Python. Well, should you learn it and try to do all of that coding yourself, or would it make more sense to hire somebody to do that work? Well, clearly, I think most of us, unless we're competent programmers, would say, I'm not going to. That's going to take me six months to a year, and that's not going to help me get to market.

Josh (00:04:06) - Same thing in sales. Sales is a skill. And it's it might be one of those things that from the outside in we might think, oh, well, anyone can sell. But and that's true, I believe that that's true to an extent. But there are also the levels of proficiency that then translate to success. I'm sure you have some elements of agreement with that statement.

Kristie (00:04:31) - Yes. I think that's why I said I think the majority of my founders, because a lot of my founders are VC backed. They know they do know what they don't know and or starting to figure out what they don't know. And the VC is encouraging. Right. So I have a lot of great relationships with VCs across the country who put me in touch with founders that they've just invested in because they need it done, like you said, like they're used to these these founders. Right. And sometimes even serial founders, right. This is not their first rodeo as a startup founder in general. But they know a lot of these things.

Kristie (00:05:01) - But they also know that there's a speed. Right. So as you said, like I can take a year and learn Python, I can take a year and learn sales, but VCs don't have that kind of patience.

Kristie (00:05:12) - And so and so I affectionately say I'm an extra set of expertise hands because maybe, you know, these guys are all the women, men, men and women that I work with are the smartest, right? They're they're the smartest in their area. I love this is one of the things I love about the job and the working with these type of people. They're super smart, but it's just going to, I mean, so they'll figure it out. But do they have time to figure it out, or do they want to spend 12 months figuring it out? And they really probably shouldn't.

Josh (00:05:36) - Yeah. So in terms of like how you work with your clients, you know, obviously looks like you do some training coaching, but you also can help with attracting or hiring help.

Josh (00:05:51) - Can we talk about kind of the current environment like let's say that I know that I need to attract in some sales talent. We're recording this. You know, we're in September. We're recording this September 2023. What is this supply and demand or what is the environment like for attracting sales talent right now?

Kristie (00:06:13) - It's great. Um, I because I do spend a considerable amount of time about 40% of my time, what I do called hiring help. So I'm not a recruiter, I don't source, I don't charge a percentage of base salary, I do charge. We are for profit business. Um, but what I'm finding is I'll drop a job description, you know, and do a paid LinkedIn posting, let's say for an account executive, mid-level or enterprise account executive, I'll get anywhere between 250 and 350 resumes in the first 36 hours. Wow. I normally, I normally have I warned them that we're going to shut it down real fast because and in in fairness to that, I don't even normally get through 350.

Kristie (00:06:49) - Right? I normally get through 150 of the 300 or 350 I get, until I found a nice pool of people that qualify.

Josh (00:06:56) - Yeah. And then Chrissy, obviously, you know, going through like let's say that somebody is like they're already doing this themselves. They haven't been working with you. It's fine. What would be some best practices that you would recommend? Let's say that they are staring at a stack of 200 resumes. What what do they do?

Kristie (00:07:15) - Well, Josh, it's not going to be a surprise to you to hear that. I have a formal process for hiring as well. So they need a process, right? I mean, first off, legally you need a process. You need a consistent process that you're doing every time just to cover yourself legally. And I think, again, a lot of early stage startups don't always think about the legal side of hiring, but that's important for me and for my clients. So, you know, do you ask the same question, what are we looking for in the resume? Have we put the right job description together first and foremost? And then I, you know, I ask three questions during my phone screen.

Kristie (00:07:45) - So I do a 30 minute phone screen with all candidates that I deem on paper to be worthy. But I ask the same three questions every time. Sure, there may be some different follow up questions to that. Then what happens? Then? I take them and put them into a first behavioral based face to face, as I call it a virtual face to face interview. So you have to have a formal process. So I do that interview with someone from the company. I do the phone screen with my team. We do that. But then someone with the company needs to join me for the face to face behavioral based interview from that, if we like them, depending on how how many levels we want to go through, we may run them through an assessment. So I always say, you know, I've been I've been hired, I've hired hundreds of sales reps over 20 plus years, but I still like an objective measurement, right again that I can compare people to. I'm looking for certain things.

Kristie (00:08:31) - These are not failure assessments, but these are I use these assessments to help bridge the relationship between the hiring manager who they're going to be reporting to, and the person. So if there are nine on independence and a two on manageability, we need to know that now. And we need to talk about that now. Right. There's no reason I start I believe in a culture of accountability and that starts during the interview process. And so we start setting expectations and start figuring those things out in the interview process. And if during the interview process, we find out it's not going to work out, which is totally fine, right? Not a fit for one party or the other. We're not going to spend time, energy and money, although we have maybe gotten some VC funding. We don't get millions and millions of dollars right off the bat. Right? So we have limited financial resources, limited human resources, and so, you know, have a formal process, have set interview questions that you're going to ask.

Kristie (00:09:21) - I actually hand a list of 20 competencies to my clients and say, pick eight. You can assume I'm going to pick sales as a competency, but pick eight other competencies that you think are important to your culture or the business. And we're going to ask behavioral based interview questions around those competencies. So you got to really get nitty gritty I call it when I'm teaching sales training I call it question on a question, right. We ask a question, they give an answer or we ask a follow up question to the answer. We just heard. We're going to do the same thing in the interview process. We're going to use it as a discovery call.

Josh (00:09:51) - Yeah. And Kristie, you know, when you're working with organizations and they may have and not necessarily the sales professionals should be pretty proficient best practices today. But do you see any misconceptions maybe about organizations where they don't have like they're they're doing sales out of because, well, they just have to but maybe that's not their professional background. Do you see any either misconceptions or.

Josh (00:10:17) - Oh yeah, guys, that doesn't really work really well. Instead, why don't you start doing a little bit more of this? Any maybe broad observations that you see in when you're working with clients?

Kristie (00:10:32) - Yeah, a couple of things come to mind right away. One, as kind of playing off the hiring situation is I call it sales reps or professional interviewees. So buyer beware. A lot of my founders, I started the hiring help division of my company because I got tired of walking into organizations where they've mis hired. Right? So not understanding the difference between a hunter, a farmer and a gatherer. So making sure that first off you understand what you want and what you need. And then there are definitely specific interview questions that you can ask around that. So mis hires are a big challenge, I think in this world, specifically in the startup world. The second thing I see is what I call pimp the demo, where they're they're doing that outbound prospecting call, but they're not not looking to go through discovery.

Kristie (00:11:18) - They just want to show and tell, as I call it. So, you know, having an SDR or even yourself going out and trying to pimp the 30 minute demo and like, let me just show you what I got the Christie ism for that is it has to be all about them before it can be all about you, before it can be all about us. And I find there's a lot of us going, not us going on, but me, me, me, me. Let me show you my product. Let me tell you how great we are. Let me tell you why my founder built this. Because the products on the current in the current market suck. So really understanding that we have to look for fit and it should be honestly the product. I say, I think you've really come to the the top of the pyramid as a sales rep. If you can sell it without showing it. There are lots of ways you can prove that your product does what it says it does without the show and tell.

Josh (00:12:04) - Yeah, and I suspect some of that gets to this relationship between sales and marketing and advertising. Right. And any trends that you see there. Always in. Oh, yeah. Do more of this. Or maybe trends that you've seen in terms of like how people are making mistakes in and around that?

Kristie (00:12:24) - Yeah, I still think that the sales and marketing relationship is not as tight as it needs to be, right? I mean, I say this that needs to be interwoven, and I really want marketing from a sales perspective, from, you know, building new top of the funnel. I want marketing to be the, you know, the the opening act, right, the warm up crew, the person that comes out and make sure that the the headliner is, is the audience is ready for the headliner. And so I really want marketing to do that warm up. I want them to do the content campaigns. I want him to do some digital. I want him to do some events. You know, I want them to be their their call to action marketing is call to action and sales is call to action are very different.

Kristie (00:12:58) - So marketing should be about brand, about the industry, about positioning ourselves as thought leaders, whereas sales really is more about fit. Figuring out if what you what the problems you have. We can be solving and you want to spend money to solve them. So I do think the relationship is just still not as tight enough as as it needs to be. And working really like, you know, setting the calendar, right. So what's marketing going to go after today? Which means sales is going to go after it in 4 or 5 weeks after marketing has warmed it up? I just don't think there's enough formalization of that relationship.

Josh (00:13:31) - Yeah. And Christie, in terms of I don't know, maybe and again marketing might be a little bit I don't know how much work you do on that side of it, but any observations about creating new top of the funnel opportunities, or are you seeing maybe some platforms kind of decreasing in value and seeing opportunities? You know, if there's a business leader that says, listen, I feel like we've got good talent, but right now we just don't have enough of the right kind of opportunities.

Josh (00:14:03) - Anything that you've seen.

Kristie (00:14:06) - Events are coming back in a really. In-person events are really coming back in a very strong way. Tradeshows conferences, whether those be local, regional or national, and they're very expensive. Josh, as you know. So I mean, it's not just the cost of the ten by ten or the ten by 20 booth. It's the travel, it's the marketing materials, it's all of that. So I really encourage my clients to take a percentage of that marketing budget and put it towards events, you know, in webinars. I love webinars, so webinars can be done very, very cheaply. But getting in front of people right now seems to be a big connection. People are going back to in-person events. They want to network with others like them. They want to hear from experts. So they are attending events throughout the country. And so I think that a certain percentage of the marketing budget you can get, those are your people. Right? So I always say, you know, when is your a sales rep? If you get an inbound lead, you didn't choose them, right.

Kristie (00:14:56) - You didn't get to choose the people that come to your website and sign up for things. But at an event you can get so specific about your target audience and your ICP that you know that when you if they walk into the, you know, the conference center or they walk into the expo hall, you know, or you're just there to set up meetings and meet people, you know, these are your people.

Josh (00:15:14) - Yeah. And I guess finally, Christi, in our ongoing culture, you talked about this just a little bit earlier. But if we as leaders, let's say we're talking to a lot of founders and executives at, you know, that are listening right now, and we want to create a great culture and environment where our sales professionals can thrive and they can achieve their goals. Right. And we can kind of co-create great success together. Any tips for founders and higher level executives?

Kristie (00:15:47) - Yeah, I think some of the mistakes that I see made are again, not only that like buyer beware situation where maybe you're doing some mis hiring, but also assuming that you can hire an experienced sales rep and they can come in and just hit it out of the park without those formal processes in place, without the sales stages being correct, without truly understanding who your ICP is or what the persona is.

Kristie (00:16:08) - The other thing I think is trying to boil the ocean. So, you know, I say to them, hey, listen, like there are a lot of people in your ICP, like hundreds of thousands of companies that fit in could benefit from your product, but you have two sales reps, so we can't we can't do that. We can't boil the ocean. So what do we want to do? Right? Do we want to own our backyard? Do we want to own the SMB market? Do we only want to go after, you know, VP of HR? So I say get very we need to get very specific. I kind of stole some some of my strategies from the dev team. So I call them sprints. So I like to really get founders and companies and sales reps focused in on 6 to 8 week sprints in just one particular area. Let's go after health care VP of HR right. Not all VP of HR. Let's go after health care because that messaging can be can be more tailored, more customized.

Kristie (00:16:59) - You'll get to know the lingo. You know, what is the language that they use. So I think that that's one of the things, particularly as you're starting out a business or even as a business that's going into a new, new area, you can't you probably don't have the manpower unless you're a fortune 500 or 1000 company to go boil the ocean. So what is it? Where's the low hanging fruit for you? Where can you get quick wins, as I call them? What? What particular area? Whether that's your region, whether that's a particular person, whether that's a particular industry. Let's go ahead and get a little siloed. And let's become an expert in that little sprint area that we do before we expand into other areas. Plus, going back to the marketing sales relationship that helps marketing to. Right? I mean, you're actually doing marketing to boil the ocean as well, but there's no reason for that. We only have so much manpower. Yes, we need top of the funnel, but we can't, you know, we couldn't handle 2000 leads if they came in tomorrow, right?

Josh (00:17:50) - Yeah, I love it.

Josh (00:17:51) - Christie, your website is sales acceleration Group. Com what? Someone that's been listening to our conversation right now. What would you recommend that they do if they like, really have already gotten value from our conversation right now and they're looking forward to maybe having a conversation, maybe kind of exploring a potential relationship. What would you recommend their next steps?

Kristie (00:18:12) - Be sure. A couple things. Josh one, please connect with me on LinkedIn. Let me know that you listen to the podcast and heard me here. I love hearing from people who have listened to the podcast and get, you know, what was your one takeaway, if you will? And then, Josh, I've set up a special page for your listeners on my website. So sales acceleration front slash thoughtful. And on there I'm going to give you my top interview questions by competency for your listeners. So if you're not sure about the behavioral based interview questions you should be asking based on a particular competency, fear. Fear no more. I have provided that for you and your listeners.

Josh (00:18:47) - Free resource again, that URL correct me if I'm wrong. It was sales acceleration forward slash. Thoughtful.

Kristie (00:18:54) - Yes, sir.

Josh (00:18:55) - Awesome. Kristie Jones again. You're the principal sales acceleration group. In addition to training and coaching and hiring help you also do fractional sales leadership. And again that's all available to look at again at Sales Acceleration Kristie Jones Startup expert Founder thank you so much for joining us.

Kristie (00:19:17) - Thank you, Josh, for having me. Great conversation.

Josh (00:19:25) - Thanks for listening to the Thoughtful Entrepreneur show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up my influence slash guest. If you're a listener, I'd love to shout out your business to our whole audience for free. You can do that by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or join our Listener Facebook group. Just search for the Thoughtful Entrepreneur and Facebook. I'd love, even if you just stopped by to say hi, I'd love to meet you. We believe that every person has a message that can positively impact the world.

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