We believe that a startup has no business hiring sales people before founders can close sales on their own. If you cannot sell your product, chances our other people won’t be either. So here are some things we learned, that helped us close some decent deals in the last 12 months:
1.) Your sales pitch needs to clearly communicate at least one of the four positive measures:
- Our product is cheaper (than what client is already using; least valuable point)
- Our product is better (needs to be quantifiable better)
- Our product is faster (value of this point fluctuates with the type of business)
- Our product lets you do things you could not do before (most valuable point)
Unless you are Wall mart or Costco — you do not want compete on price. Ever. There will always be someone out there, who can (and will) undercut you.
Sales people, especially founders doing sales. Assume too much about their clients. Finish your sales pitch always with “Is there anything else I should ask that I did not ask?”
You will be amazed with the feedback you will get. In our case, they would volunteer information about problems they currently have, their existing solutions (your competitors), their needs, etc..
For example, from one of our sales pitches “When we currently try to share with “X” department from our mobile device using “Y” product (competitor) we do not know if they have received it?”
From that one sentence, we learn that they share information internally (with another “X” department), they use mobile devices (therefore should be pitched mobile apps as a sales point) and we learn that our competitor “Y” is lacking a feature they need.
2.) No one wants to waste time, so prior to each meeting clearly define:
- Meeting location (It is always better to meet at a neutral location — like a bar or a coffee shop but that is rarely an option, next best thing is clients office, and finally — your office)
- Meeting date (try to get Tuesdays, Tuesdays are ideal. While people are most eager on Mondays, they are also too busy. Fridays are bad. People (most of them) mentally check out come Friday.
- Start and end times (this will give client an idea on how much of their time you will take. A lot of meetings get dropped or declined because potential client is afraid you will just take up too much of their time and they will be too polite to kick you out).
- Meeting objective (is this a meeting to learn more about the client and “feel” if the person you are meeting can serve as “internal champion” that is, someone who will “push” for adoption of the product from within, or is it a meeting to show your solution to larger audience)
- Specific roles (Understand the chain of command in the company you are going into. LinkedIn is a great tool to map out “who reports to who” and how a chain of ddecision making might work)
Oh, and always be nice to executive assistants (secretaries in the “old speak”). They will in most cases be the gate keeper. Many of the ones we spoke to, outlasted two or more CEO’s. They often hold huge power and knowledge about the company and internal processes. Befriend them.
3.) Internal champion will almost always be someone who is not a newbie at the company (he has too much to risk) or a C level executive (they are too busy). So you should look for your internal champion in the middle management. That is, people who are high enough on the corporate ladder so that their jobs are safe if you turn out to be a DUD but have a lot to gain if they promote a solution that results in success.
Once you find an internal champion, ask him for real-world problems company is facing in their work and then use those examples to illustrate the use of your product in a demo to solve those problems. People will be able to instantly relate.
4.) Give promo material at the end. If you give it out at the start of your demo, your audience will jump ahead of you and form conclusions and assumptions that you then have to spend extra time explaining/debunking.
5.) During your sales demo, there will always be questions. There is such a thing as a “dumb” question. There is in fact also a “great” question and a “good” question. “Great” questions you should answer right away as they will usually speak to benefits of your product/solution. “Good” question you should answer at the end of your demo and “dumb” ones… you should still answer them but at the very end, if there is time (after the “good” questions).
So how do you define a “great” question? It is usually a question that leads to the next product screen or next slide (if powerpoint is your thing…)
6.) You should work on developing a series of “60 second sales pitches” that are targeted at specific problems in your target market. Very often, you will have only a short time to pitch a prospect and if you know their business (most likely you will exchange business cards…yes people still do that…sorry bump app) you will be able to pitch them on solving their specific need rather than giving a bland “We make business awesome” pitch.
7) It is ok to hear “No”. The most competitive companies close about 15% of deals that come their way. and 70% of all prospects will NEVER buy from ANYONE. Learning how to identify those is more art than science. You will get better at it with time.
Happy prospecting and demoing! I am looking forward to my commission cheque ;)