Over the years, one thing that has never changed and I imagine never will for startups undertaking B2B sales is quantifying your sales messaging and value proposition. This is incredibly hard and is one of the things that makes sales at this stage very difficult. It is also one of the reasons many organizations work with outsourced sales organizations in the early days since it is more cost effective while figuring all of this out.
As we all know sales efforts at the B2B sales level, and lets be more specific, at the enterprise B2B level, take between 6 to 18 months. If anyone tells you different don’t believe them. As a startup too, given the nature of your business, large companies are not going to throw all their eggs into one basket all at once. Rather, they will take small bites first to ensure your product works, you can support it and it does what you say it does. Part of the reason for this is that at this point, you are unable to truly articulate your value proposition particularly from a quantitative perspective. When I say this, I mean ROI (return on investment) or even simpler metrics like payback, or cost savings or revenue growth.
It is not a problem but the reality is you simply don’t have enough clients to prove these numbers. Getting qualitative messaging together is super, but that is easy. Anyone can whip off messaging about “making you more efficient” or “helping your employees work faster” or “making it easier for your customers to interact with you.” I think you get my meaning here. What really sells at the senior level and how your internal champion call sell it to their boss is the quantitative benefits they will see by deploying your product. This sells!
So, the trick is how do you get there. Well, it is not easy that is for sure. You may get lucky and get a company that is willing to pay whatever your ask them for your product and just try it. LOL, if that happens please call me, we have a lot of other clients that have products we can sell them too. Oftentimes that is not the case and you need to provide some form of incentive for them to give you a shot. So here are a few ideas you could try to get this quantitative sales data:
- Rolling out a low cost pilot – this is a great one as you win by having a real customer to work with and they win as the price would be lower than normal. There is also upside potential here over time as you can hopefully grow the installation.
- A trial for a number of months at no cost with the intention to buy – investors may say the customer needs to pay but I would say you need to take a longer approach and invest in yourself if you truly believe in the value of your product. It is not like you are providing it for free forever. You are simply lowering a barrier of entry by making it easier for the customer to give you a shot. I think the expectation needs to be set with the customer that they would pay if successful.
- A small deployment at no cost to drive proof of concept and a case study – another option similar to the bullet above is to do a small deployment at no cost but your payment is a solid reference and case study. Nothing sells better in B2B startup sales than reference customers and case studies. You need positive stories. Get one.
For a startup to be successful you need to be in it for the long haul, so be patient, methodical and strategic.
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