From NASA to B2B startup consulting with Kevin Ramani

From NASA to B2B startup consulting with Kevin Ramani

I’ve worked everywhere, from Silicon Valley to Mars (literally).

My name is Kevin Ramani, and I work with B2B startups that are looking to scale revenue. My goal: help founders build the leadership structure and sales processes they need to scale their business.

Here’s my story, plus the top lessons I’ve learned as a multiple-time entrepreneur and revenue consultant.

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How I went from working with NASA to becoming an entrepreneur to consulting startup founders

Consulting wasn’t my first choice in my career. Right out of college, I went to work as an engineer for NASA.

I worked on the Phoenix Mission and the Curiosity Rover, which is still running around on Mars all these years later.

Kevin Ramani sales consultant
Kevin Ramani with the Curiosity Rover and Sojourner mockups at NASA/JPL in Pasadena (2007)

But inside, I was building an idea for The Big Thing. I had the fire of entrepreneurship lit underneath me, and eventually, I couldn’t resist. (If you’re a founder, you know what I’m talking about.)

So, I gave up everything I had, moved to Silicon Valley, and started my first company.

It was a failure.

I went door to door to over 500 businesses trying to sell my product, and I got rejected by all 500. That was the beginning of my sales training: learning how to handle rejection.

I became a serial entrepreneur, building several businesses that eventually failed. And that’s when I discovered Close (then known as Elastic Sales) and became part of the founding team.

Elastic Sales was instrumental in my understanding of sales, and it had a huge impact on where I am today.

At Elastic Sales, we were sales-as-a-service. During my time there, I helped build the company and get a lot of our early customers. My job was to understand what they needed and help them build out their first sales process and early sales playbook.

Working with hundreds of companies in many different verticals to build unique sales playbooks taught me a basic truth about sales. Fundamentally, sales is simply result-driven communication.

Today, I use the knowledge I gained at Elastic Sales and my time in other ventures to help founders to execute their vision and build something incredible.

My top advice for B2B startup founders who want to scale

If you’re a tech founder looking to build your startup, here are a few of the key lessons I learned from my own experiences and failures:

1. Set up the foundational work first

Speaking with many startup founders, I find there is usually a gap between where you think you are with your startup and where you actually are.

Many founders try to build for repeatability and scalability much sooner than they need to.

In the early stages, you’ll do a lot of things that don’t scale but help you succeed, like calling all new signups to your product or giving free training and consulting to your customers.

For early-stage founders, it’s much more important to set up what may feel like more foundational work today, rather than focusing on repeatability too early on.

Setting up the foundation of sales messaging, product-market fit, and an ideal customer profile can have a tremendous impact on long-term growth.

2. Optimize for repeatability to scale

When founders come to me, the primary reason is that they’ve hit a limit with their abilities in terms of sales.

As startups grow, a time will come with you can no longer scale sales by yourself. You may feel:

  • Sales isn’t moving up as fast as it could
  • You have some early customers, but you’re not seeing that repeatability
  • You’re unsure of the structures and processes necessary to grow your business

When you hit that wall, it’s time to optimize your process for repeatability.

3. Experiment with your sales playbook

As we helped startups grow their early sales processes at Elastic Sales, we would build repeatable sales playbooks for each unique case. Then, our internal sales team would execute on that.

In doing sales for over 200 VC-backed startups, we found that building a sales playbook is very much like running an experiment.

You start with a hypothesis, and you use different methodologies and tools to run experiments, proving or disproving your hypothesis and then moving on to the next one.

Don’t think of your sales playbook as some clear path that can be copied from company to company. Your sales playbook must be developed and built uniquely to fit your company’s needs by testing best practices and sales channels.

If you want the results, don’t just copy a sales playbook you find on the internet. Test and experiment to create your own.

4. Identify and play to your strengths

There are plenty of books out there—sales books, leadership books—with specific frameworks that people are supposed to just follow. And many people make decisions based on these frameworks written up by public heroes.

But a tremendous amount of these encourage negative, fear-based decision-making, leading founders to make all sorts of bad choices.

Here’s the mistake: too many founders are trying to build on other people’s strengths rather than their own. Many times, others’ strengths are their own weaknesses, and this is why these founders fail.

Part of what I do as a startup consultant is help rebuild the structure and process in a way that’s more true to the individual founder.

When you identify your real strengths as a founder, you’ll build on a foundation that’s always been within you.

5. Focus on fulfillment rather than dollars

This may sound controversial.

But for me, the biggest measure of success is fulfillment, not dollars.

When I work with people, my goal is to see them more fulfilled in the work they do.

I believe that, when people are more fulfilled in doing better work, that’s when they can do their best work.

And if a founder is doing their best work, the company can do its best work. Then, in my experience, the results speak for themselves.

6. Bring in someone who can teach you sales expertise

A huge trend I’ve seen in recent years is companies looking for a coach or consultant. Four or five years ago, far fewer startups were looking for guides on their journey.

Now, companies realize that early sales require a level of expertise, and most startups don’t have this level of expertise. Having someone who can come in and teach you this is invaluable.

As this transition continues, a new trend is emerging where people go beyond just the tactical coaching: many startups are looking to solve the root cause of the problems in sales by tackling the decision-making process.

I’ve seen this have a much bigger impact on the broader growth of the company, and I think this trend will continue.

Getting the help you need as an early-stage startup

I’ve been where you are. And like it or not, as a startup founder, you need to have a basic understanding of sales to grow your business.

If you need a guide on that journey, now is the time to look for one.

About the Author: I'm a founder and sales coach who works with early and mid-stage startups looking to build a go-to-market strategy and scale sales. As a mentor to several startups, I've also discovered there is no magic bullet for building a successful playbook. The best sales leaders take a data-driven iterative approach, testing a multitude of sales strategies to find a unique combination with the highest ROI for a given business.

My mission is to empower founders and sales leaders in building a data-driven go-to-market playbook and scale a sales organization full of result-driven sales reps.

Kevin Ramani, founder and startup sales coach

Check out Kevin's profile in Close's Sales Consultants Directory to hear his words on startup sales + find the right consultant to grow your startup.

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