The answer, for most companies, is either chalking up sales or not. But understanding why sales don't happen — particularly when the salesperson is a recent hire — is pretty much a black box. And that's where a Burlington startup, Qstream, wants to help. The company just closed $2.8 million in new funding for a mobile app that tests a salesperson's knowledge about what they're selling and how best to sell it.
The idea, explains CEO and co-founder Duncan Lennox, is that "sales reps spend three minutes a day playing our Q&A game on their phones. They can do it while waiting for their lattes at Starbucks." The questions might be about the features of the product or service they're selling, or perhaps ways to address common objections or answer questions about competitors. Reps' scores are then compiled into a report for the sales supervisor. "It provides real-time data on a daily basis about what people know or don't know," Lennox says. In pharmaceutical sales, for instance, "you can see which reps might be struggling to explain the efficacy of a drug with a particular kind of patient. You might need to spend more time with him, or provide some extra training."
Founded in 2008, Qstream has now raised about $4.4 million in total. Investors include Frontline Ventures in Dublin, Ireland and and Boston's Launchpad Venture Group. The company has about a dozen employees, mainly in Burlington. But Qstream also has an engineering and international sales outpost in Dublin.
"When I talk to a VP of sales, they often tell me that they wish they knew what their sales reps said when they got in front of a customer," says Lennox. Qstream's pitch is that it can help ensure that they say the right thing.
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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December 9: Web Innovators Group
Demos of new mobile apps and web ventures at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. Free admission; cash bar.
December 10: Fintech Demo Day
Short demos from startups in the financial technology realm.
December 11: Unpitch
Entrepreneurs and investors sit down for lunch, advice, and feedback. Entrepreneurs must apply to participate.