Few people have as much insight into the sales teams of Belgian companies as Bert Lambrecht, founder of AM, which is also this year's partner of Scaleup Flanders. With his "digital exoskeleton," he wants to help founders of scaleups scale even better.
Anyone who wants to grow a business must make sure there are enough customers. It's a dead simple fact, but those at the head of a fledgling scaleup may think otherwise. After all, as an entrepreneur, you are busy with ten different things, and sales is only one aspect of that.
In their search for a solution, founders usually take two wrong paths, says AM's Bert Lambrecht: they start hiring a Sales Manager or Junior Sales profile. 'They are both relevant profiles, but at the beginning of your growth you actually only need ten percent of them. Sales Managers are expensive profiles, who mainly focus on developing strategy. They regard the sale of products and services less as their task, so you often end up with a plan without any concrete inflow of contracts. Younger profiles, in turn, need a strong process, but starting companies usually don't have that yet. Often entrepreneurs sit with false expectations of the sales profiles they hire. That makes sense, because those people sell themselves on a constant basis and are good at job interviews. Founder-led sales almost forces entrepreneurs to choose between the plague and the cholera, but they really shouldn't.'
The entrepreneur's expertise, especially for start-ups, is crucial to convincing prospects. 'Anyone who as a founder does not do the sales themselves has a problem. It's all about consistency, but at the same time, as an entrepreneur, it's hard to consistently make time for that.'
Lambrecht should know, because with his company he has been guiding entrepreneurs to generate more leads for more than a decade. Among them are big players like IBM and Porsche, but also more and more scaleups. 'With enterprises like Miele Professional, we guide customers to the right contracts, but with startups we try to play off the founder's expertise as much as possible and make meetings with prospects as easy as possible. Our technology can help very hard with that.'
The technology Lambrecht is referring to is AM's contract engine, a system capable of automatically delivering prospects and closing contracts. It is based on the best sales processes of about a thousand companies, after AM spent more than a decade working in the industry.
'We used to be a call center under the name Afsprakenmaker that did cold calling. That usually went well, but if you have a sales team that cannot close, you are little with those leads. As Johan Cruijff once said: playing soccer is very simple, but the hardest thing in the world is playing simple soccer. That's why we started developing software that guides the process from the first phone to the signed contract. Just as everyone at McDonald's always manages to make the perfect burger because the process is so meticulously worked out, we do the same for sales.'
Entrepreneurs bring in a list of prospects or tell AM what sector they focus on, then we start cold calling. 'In our dashboard, you can then see how many people were contacted, what the success rate is, who viewed the pricing page, who compared prices there ... Think of it as a Mailchimp for contracts,' Lambrecht says.
When people are interested in the scaleup's product or service, a digital meeting is scheduled with the founder. The latter is shown all relevant information in the contract engine, as well as a number of questions to be answered in the meeting. 'This often involves concrete quantities or issues that were not yet addressed in the initial meetings. Thanks to our software, we can scale the expertise of entrepreneurs. All they have to do is show up in the meeting. After the meeting, the entrepreneur puts the prospect's answers into the contract engine, then AM can create a quote that they can fine-tune with the customer. It's a bit like going to a hotel: everything is taken care of for you.'
For Lambrecht, his solution is a strong addition to the sales strategy of companies, which can certainly give scaleups a strong boost. 'It is the perfect tool that you can deploy when, as an entrepreneur, you can no longer do everything yourself, but you do not yet have fully developed sales processes. Inbound is the way to go, outbound is the way that works. While looking for the holy grail, it's best to put something in motion that marches.'
Find out more about AM at www.afsprakenmaker.be