Startups Crossing the Chasm…Part 2

Posted by Chloe Pearce on June 24, 2014

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Author: James Piacentino, Managing Director North America Products & Innovation CDP

In Part 1, we discussed the product development side for startups crossing over from a traditional “services” company to becoming a “product” company.

In today’s piece, we will discuss the commercial aspects, risks and pitfalls associated with crossing the chasm from your current sales force to a new approach sales force (note: assuming you are a services firm that created a product and now want to move to be a product company as our prior example in Part I demonstrated).

Building off the story and principles in Part I, we notice that in order to sell a “repeatable” solution and create a product there must be:

  • Multiple customer “demand” – a common customer “need” inherent to all (or most)
  • A $$ Market Opportunity large enough to drive the investment
  • Sales force designed to sell the product…

Notice we say a sales organization designed to sell the PRODUCT, not the SERVICE.


Why? The DNA of a product sales force is typically different from that of a services sales force.

Services sales traits

  • Focus on building the holistic solution and dive deep into the “outliers”.
  • Attempt to drive deeper with the customer, often giving up short-term goals reward.
  • Often can be a process, not an event.

Product sales traits

  • Typically focus on the laser specific area of pain: success is “fixing” the exact pain.
  • Drive directly to the transaction in front of them to maximize success (you solved the problem!).
  • Often can simply be an “event” simply to solve a near term problem.

How does this impact the startup and/or the investor?

Notice the slight variations between the two and some of the style differences. These are the signs that can harm you dearly if not diagnosed early and potentially missed opportunity in your future – pay attention to these signs now; hire for the role (product or services salesperson – there is a difference); and execute swift changes sooner than later if need be – burning cash is the enemy.

So, if you are a traditional application development services company that strives to leverage a repeatable development into a product, think long and hard if you have the sales force to cross over the chasm to make that product sell. You will save yourself a few major headaches by having a deep dive with your management team on what it takes to make this leap. This process is a planned event, not circumstance, that will drive success or failure.

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