321 Chats with Kristina Williams, CEO of Alberta Enterprise Corporation

By April 4, 2018 No Comments

Sales Talent: An Ecosystem Perspective


Kristina, you’ve been advocating for building up the local sales talent pool for years. Why do you think that’s important for Alberta?

Startups need the 4 M’s: money, mentors, markets and management.  And when I say “management”, I don’t just mean CEOs and CTOs. Startups need to be able to market and sell great products – so they need sales and marketing executives to get that done.

There’s plenty of sales, biz dev and marketing talent in other markets. We all hear about how deep the talent pool is in Silicon Valley. But it’s challenging for Alberta startups to recruit top executives to Alberta. So, we have to level up our people to ensure our startups can access the full bench they need to create, and then scale, their startup.

Why is the sales talent gap so acute here?

I know from my own experience working in sales and marketing that there are few opportunities to learn these essential crafts. We have tremendous academic programs at various levels, covering related topics like leadership, marketing, development, IP management and finance. But few of these have a focus on sales, which is such a critical skillset.

You’ve been on the investment side now for several years. How much weight do you see investors putting on sales capacity?

Every company lives and dies based on their sales. If you can’t sell your product, you don’t have a business. As a result, many investors look carefully at revenues not just as validation of the market potential of the company, but also evidence of the founder and management team’s ability to execute. This may vary with different business models, of course, such as social ventures and new energy solutions. But for everyone else, there is – quite rightly – deep focus on the ability to generate revenue.

So – how important are sales skills when it comes to raising capital?

Everything we do in both our work and personal lives is about sales and marketing! Applying for a job is “selling” yourself. Raising capital is about “selling” an investor on your vision and ability to create value for shareholders. Fundraising for a non-profit organization, or building a social enterprise still requires the ability to influence and persuade the community to support you in your mission.

As does parenting! 😉

Why did Alberta Enterprise become a founding sponsor of 321 Sales Academy?

At Alberta Enterprise, we help make angel and VC capital available to entrepreneurs – a necessary part of the funding continuum for startups. Grants and tax credits from various levels of government can also be key. But it’s important for founders not to forget about customer revenue as a tremendous source of both market validation and funding for growth.

We support 321 Sales Academy for a few reasons.

First, it’s practical, not theoretical. The programs from 321 help founders and their teams level up their skills, build a sales play book, and put those skills to work in real time.

Second, 321 forces accountability. There is no “going away” to apply the learning later. Participants are accountable to themselves and their cohort to apply what they are learning.

Last, the programs are based on proven methodologies and delivered by experienced facilitators – people who’ve been in the trenches themselves, and want to share those experiences for the benefit of our community.


This post originally appeared on Alberta Enterprise Corporation’s Start Alberta portal.