At a time when Atlantic Canadian business people are being urged to prioritize sales, Momentum Canada has been founded in Saint John, N.B. to help foster the region’s sales culture.

Momentum’s programs include one that matches people who want to learn to sell with companies that can’t afford salespeople.

“We want to build a new generation of salespeople and healthier companies,” said CEO Joanna Killen, who co-founded Momentum with Corey Dugas and Nicholas Clermont.

“Gerry Pond (a veteran New Brunswick investor) has said that Atlantic Canadian companies can’t scale to significant size without greater expertise in selling to international customers.”

Killen said Momentum is currently training five novice salespeople. The trainees are paid a percentage of the value of the business they create for client companies.

“We work across sectors to help develop sales strategies,” Killen said.

The trainees’ clients include high-growth startups, established companies that need new ways to boost sales, and non-profits looking for strategies for fundraising.

Momentum was developed at a startup weekend in Moncton last November, where Killen pitched the idea after realizing there were many companies struggling with sales.

“I decided to see if anyone wanted to learn sales while earning commission,” said Killen, who previously worked with entrepreneurs at startup centres Vennture Garage and Enterprise Saint John.

Some of the students attending the startup weekend signed up with Momentum, which is located in the Saint John Enterprise Hub.

CVCA: Value of VC Rounds Triples in 2 Years

Killen said the trainee salespeople include restaurant servers and students from different disciplines.

“To join us, they must be action-oriented, coachable and passionate,” she said. “We feel anyone can learn sales. You need good communication and listening skills and to be a problem solver.”

The trainee sales agents work 10-15 hours a week. Those who succeed may find full-time work, Killen said.

“If you grow a company’s sales, there’s no reason why the company won’t hire you. There is more chance this can become a full-time gig for you.”

Killen’s co-founder, Corey Dugas, who is chief of sales, said freelance sales work could appeal to others in the community.

“Fifty per cent of disabled people don’t work,” Dugas said. “As salespeople, they can work from home and work for great companies.

“And it’s good for the grey economy — people over 55 who are being pushed out because people think they can’t understand technology. Their skills and knowledge are priceless.”

Momentum’s sales students are not currently asked to pay for their training, as the curriculum is still being developed.

“We’re creating curriculum as we work with the students,” Killen said.

She said it’s hard to learn sales from books. Sales professionals need the confidence and skills to make cold calls.

“People are bombarded online,” she said. “Picking up a phone or writing a letter is coming back into play as a way of reaching people.”

In the spring, Momentum will begin offering its Impact 12 Accelerator for 12 high-growth startups. The companies will move at their own pace and not be part of a cohort.

Impact 12 will also be offered free of charge. Killen said Momentum is funded by commissions and by income from a three-tier membership model for participating companies.

Killen hopes Momentum will benefit individuals, companies and society.

Momentum is currently seeking B Corp certification. (Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that meet high standards of environmental and social responsibility.)

“If regional companies grow, the economy improves and people get jobs. It’s good for everyone’s future,” she said.

“Atlantic Canada-made products are awesome. There are people in the world who want what you have; you’ve got to find them.”