Whether you are a startup going to market for the first time, or a F1000 company introducing a new product or service, figuring out the right go to market strategy is hard. That challenge is only exacerbated when you conduct all of your analysis and planning purely from the marketing perspective and omit the sales perspective. Open disclaimer: I am a lifelong sales professional and distinctly biased towards sales:-)

Having said that, it never ceases to amaze me how often sales is an afterthought when planning a go to market strategy and tactical execution plan. Our company provides strategic Go To Market Sales & Marketing services to both startups and F1000 companies. Naturally there are many different considerations depending on the size of the company, but at the same time there are some common underpinnings that should be built in to any sound go to market strategy/plan, regardless of your company size.

Think about a go to market strategy that incorporates an aligned sales and marketing perspective. If you’ve developed some intellectual property (IP) that is disruptive and valuable, you can’t simply offer a free download or trial, build a community and then expect that in 12-18 months you will have a sales pipeline that is converting in to paying customers and revenue . There is the whole ‘sales engagement model’ that needs to be baked in to your go to market plan. How are you getting validated contact information from the free downloads so that your sales people can engage? What have you built in to the trial version that motivate the prospect to engage with you? What does the sales engagement model look like from someone visiting your web site for the 1st time to officially signing up as a paying customer? What go/no-go gates are built in to that process for both the prospect and your sales team at each stage in your engagement model?

The metaphor that I like to use for developing and executing an effective go to market strategy is firewalking. Walking barefoot over a bed of 1000 degree Fahrenheit hot stones or coals. If your go to market strategy is only taking marketing in to consideration, then it is akin to saying that at the end of walking over these hot stones we will be generating $X millions in annual revenue to only find out that not only aren’t you anywhere near the sales pipeline or revenue that you expected, but your feet are on fire and you have serious burns and blisters. Continuing along this vein, in the aligned sales & marketing go to market strategy, you think about the ‘engagement model’ carefully to prevent burns and blistering (i.e., missing pipeline and revenue goals). Should we hire sales people that have really long legs and are light so their strides minimize the # of times they have to touch the hot stones/coals? What are the factors that prevent burning that we need to consider? What is the optimal firewalking technique that our sales people need to be proficient in? What can we do in advance, during and after our ‘sales engagement model’ to ensure that we are performing most effectively? Are there any ‘gates’ that we need to know in advance that would determine go/no-go for proceeding with our firewalk?

I’m sure this sounds a bit dramatic but if you think about the failure rates associated with startups and new go to market initiatives, it can be an incredibly treacherous endeavor even with the proper strategy and planning. Best of luck with your firewalking and remember to leverage an aligned sales & marketing approach for your go to market initiative!