May Founder Hour with Gwendolyn Whitney

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For our May Founder Hour, we had the pleasure of speaking with Gwendolyn Whitney, a senior commercialization leader in the healthcare ecosystem with a wide range of experience in sales, entrepreneurship, business analytics, and operations. As part of our Founder Hour series, our hope is to deliver diverse perspectives and insight from those outside our immediate community to benefit our founders at each stage of their entrepreneurial endeavors. In this interview, which can be accessed in full here, Gwendolyn discusses her tips for hiring a sales team, building a healthy pipeline of prospective clients, and how to effectively measure growth for start-up to mid-size companies. Here are our key takeaways from this month’s Founder Hour… 

When building a sales structure for an early-stage company, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ensure scale and growth.

However, asking yourself the following questions can help you outline the best path forward: 

  • What are the goals and objectives I want to achieve through the sales structure in the next 12-24 months?
  • Who and what will it take to get there?
  • What structure are other companies in similar industries and stages following to be successful?

Once your company’s specific needs, goals for growth, and KPI’s are outlined, you can develop a comprehensive and effective sales structure approach that is unique to your business.

No matter the size or stage of the company, collect data early and diligently.

This will serve as invaluable information, enabling your company to gain a deep understanding of the sales cycle and its components. Even the smallest details, such as the number of calls made to reach a customer or which messages resonated most with buyers, hold significant insights. By diligently collecting this data, you will have tangible precedents to base future decisions on that will drive your company’s growth and success.

When building a sales pipeline, consider the following DOs and DON’Ts for effective execution.

Firstly, don’t wait to activate the pipeline; instead, proactively plan and strategize upfront for long-term sales success. This can include resourcing an additional employee or setting up an incentive compensation plan for the existing sales position to equally allocate attention to short-term and mid-term growth. Additionally, based on data collection, develop a clear penetration plan that identifies various target locations for market entry. As you explore different methods and approaches, diligently track and measure their effectiveness, replicating successful strategies and eliminating others across your pipeline. Adhering to several of these guidelines, can help you to optimize your future growth, improve efficiency, and accurately forecast sales.

Be patient and diligent when deciding which key performance metrics are valuable to your company.

Because success indicators are unique to each business, it is best practice to begin with a broad list of KPIs, narrowing them down as you progress into a later stage company. It is important to be aware of internal metrics that measure ways to improve your value proposition and external metrics that help to appeal to investors. Within that list, several key drivers to track include cash position (burn rate, run rate, etc.), revenue in terms of growth, traction in terms of growth, customer retention and churn, valuation, market engagement, and ROI. 

Develop an understanding of when your company has achieved market fit for your product or service, and be willing to adjust if not.

In all industries, being adaptable and responsive to market feedback is essential in driving success. Continuously monitor factors such as uptake trends, demand, and customer-feedback, and if necessary, be prepared to pivot or adjust your strategy to better align with customer needs and preferences. 

We are grateful for the valuable information Gwendolyn had to offer, and we hope that it will prove beneficial for both our aspiring and experienced founders as they navigate the various stages of establishing new pipelines and fostering growth within their ventures. Thank you to those who joined us this month, we hope to see you all again at next month’s Founder Hour!

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