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How Can a Problem Unify Organizations in Search of a Solution?

Knowing that major obstacles for growing startups are identifying, utilizing and scaling up sales channels, four organizations from Serbia & Bosnia-Herzegovina teamed up to provide a solution – the Sales ScaleUp program.

Three organizations from Serbia (Innovation Fund Serbia, ICT Hub Venture, and Preduzimanje) and one from Bosnia and Herzegovina (Start), with support of Swiss EP, organized a regional program to help scaling startups improve their sales process.

Sales are one of the biggest challenges for startups in Serbia (and the region). Our collective experience taught us that the inability to find the appropriate sales channel is the obstacle that prevents further growth and development of a startup.

Innovation Fund Serbia Program Manager Vladimir Vojvodić sees issues related to sales as a part of a larger problem—general lack of go-to-market strategy:

The greatest deficiency that startups applying for IF financing exhibit is a lack of proper go-to-market strategy. It heavily impacts their ability to formulate and execute an effective sales strategy. Startups' approach to sales is often rather hectic, and this translates into poor focusing and proportionally high costs compared to the value of an acquired customer.

Vladimir Vojvodić, innovation Fund Serbia

Knowing that sales are an issue not only for startups but for entrepreneur support organizations, the Swiss EP Serbia team suggested a tailor-made niche program to address the lead generation process: the Sales ScaleUp program. A few organizations realized that such a program is much needed, and they immediately accepted the suggestion. Utilizing a joint network of startups and a Swiss EP pool of experts created a synergy and generated huge interest in tackling this challenge.

Without sales, there is no business, only a good product without any value. Sales is the fuel for any company. It needs to be treated as the essential part of the business because it provides resources required for expansion, growth, and adds new value layers to the market.

Miloš Matić, ICT Hub Venture

The best person for the job was Patrick Collins (UK), an entrepreneur, sales consultant for scaling startups, and long-term Swiss EP expert. He promptly created curricula of five extensive workshops addressing all significant hurdles for sales teams—from setting up CRM tools, searching leads, cold mailing and cold calling, to creating an entire sales playbook. In addition to this, Patrick invited Fil Guijarro (USA) and Katrin Kiviselg (Estonia) to add specific value as guest lecturers.

The Sales ScaleUp program started on May 11, 2021, with 27 teams attending. All five workshops were conducted entirely online, giving participants the opportunity and flexibility to attend them from their offices and hometowns. Even if some teams were not present at a live workshop, they could follow the program because all workshops and additional resources were recorded and shared with the participating teams.

Each recorded workshop had 40 views and 9 downloads, on average. This demonstrates that teams consumed and disseminated knowledge among their colleagues, applying what they learned. With live programs on the ground, this additional benefit of sharing after the fact is not available.

The number of participants and their commitment to every workshop, fantastic feedback, positive statistics, and an incredible Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 100 show that startups valued the support they received very highly. On top of that, teams also expressed interest in other niche topics related to sales, such as preparing and pitching a demo, the negotiation process, strategic partnerships, and pricing strategies. These are all very narrow topics, just as lead generation is, and we believe that they could be addressed in the same way, with tailor-made hands-on programs in the future.

As we could see from the Sales ScaleUp program example, scaling startups need assistance, and programs created to address very specific issues are a good solution. However, these kinds of programs are very demanding for a Partner Organization (PO) to host—they are costly, require particular expertise in the given area, and a PO must have a sufficient number of scaling startups interested in the topic. A single organization might not have an interest in putting on such an activity but if a few organizations pool their resources with Swiss EP as a facilitator, then the entire ecosystem can benefit.

This experiment helped 20 teams improve their lead generation process. Let’s hope more similar experiments are to come!