October 2010

The editorial theme for this issue of the OSBR is Sales Strategy. While "marketing" is everything a company does to build interest in its offers, "sales" consists of converting these offers into cash. By "sales strategy," we refer to all sales planning and process development activities leading up to the actual selling of a product or service.

In his recent blog post at MaRS Discovery District, Mark Zimmerman answered a question he is frequently asked by the founders of startups: "How do we find a good sales person?" In short, his answer is "Don't." This is not meant as a slight to sales professionals, but rather, Zimmerman is advocating that companies should not equate having sales professionals to having a sales strategy.

Sales professionals have a critical role to play in a company's success, but they are being given an impossible task if asked to sell something that has not been validated with customers. Zimmerman explains that sales professionals should be hired only once a company has validated that the value proposition resonates with customers and that the sales model will be effective. This lesson also applies to established companies, where existing sales staff require this same foundation to be effective.

So how does a company determine whether its value proposition resonates with customers? The answer, of course, is to talk to customers. In the OSBR and elsewhere, the need for early customer input is a dominant theme in recent discussions of product development, marketing, and now sales strategy. By talking to customers, listening to how they describe their needs, and interpreting how their needs could be met, a value proposition can tested and refined. It is far more efficient and effective to iteratively refine a value proposition before attempting to sell than to attempt a salvage operation in response to slumping sales. Customer input is also a critical ingredient in developing an effective sales strategy.

In this issue of the OSBR, our authors provide a diversity of perspectives on sales strategy development and implementation, including the role of customer input.

Matthew Aslett, Senior Analyst for The 451 Group, and Stephen Walli, Technical Director for the CodePlex Foundation, demonstrate the pitfalls of attempting to convert open source community members into customers. They show how to separate the concepts of community and customer to enable a business to both develop an engaged community and maximize profits.

Stephen Davies, entrepreneur and lecturer at the Sprott School of Business, describes the steps to create a business-to-business sales process and how these steps are used to build a sales funnel. He also provides tips for effective and consistent execution of that process to get initial sales and improve upon them.

Jason Côté and Julian Egelstaff describe how not selling part of the time complements the sales strategy at Freeform Solutions, where Jason is the President and CEO and Julian is the Technical Architect. By devoting a portion of their time to supporting the open source communities that Freeform Solutions and its clients depend upon, they have created a strong differentiator in the marketplace.

Patrick O'Halloran, Staff Design Engineer with Xilinx Inc., reviews the literature on service-based solutions to show that an effective sales strategy comes from a rounded analysis of both the customers' needs and the opportunity potential for the service provider.

We encourage readers to share articles of interest with their colleagues, and to provide their comments either online or directly to the authors.

The editorial theme for the upcoming November issue of the OSBR is Economic Development and the guest editor will be Saad Bashir from the City of Ottawa. Submissions will be accepted up to October 15th. December's theme is Humanitarian Open Source and submissions are due by November 1st. Please contact me if you are interested in making a submission.

Chris McPhee


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