At this stage in the ISV process I am thinking about SELLING, how do I build sales momentum and become profitable straight away. I have reached out to others in the industry for insights about the early days of getting your product to market that I will be testing myself in 2020.
First 10 Customers
One of the parallel activities that should be considered as part of building is getting customers and making profit. As with any good profit strategy you want to keep your costs to an absolute minimum. As my dad used to say, can it run on the smell of an oily rag? Can you get your business up and running and profitable on a minimum amount of resources?
There is one thing a business cannot live without and that is sales. You need to stoke up your sales engine and create a sales system that you can measure and tweak to maximize the results. A sales system should be designed in such a way that someone who is trained on the system with an appetite to sell can sell if they follow the system.
In the early days, the focus should be on metrics around lead indicators rather than lag indicators. For example, in a game of Rugby we can measure a lead indicator such as what team has a high percentage of control of the ball, success rates in lineouts or scrums, interceptions and tackles.
These are all significant lead indicators because if you do well in these areas you are more likely to win the game come full time when the final whistle is blown. The score at full time is a lag indicator. Once the whistle is blown you can’t change the result.
If you actively measure lead indicators, you can tweak them throughout the game and improve your position. When we think about sales in these early days, we want to measure the average number of demos/presentations that you can do per day as a business. The higher this number is, the higher your likelihood of success.
Why Selling before Marketing
There is no point in marketing at this point if it involves spending money. Focus on presenting and demoing to as many businesses as you can. Set goals, compete with yourself, work fuckin hard and get your product and your pitch in front of as many people as possible.
Marketing will come further down the road once you have refined your message and business story. As you test your message on your customers it will become apparent what motions move to sales and what actions block a deal. There is a risk in throwing money at marketing. People tend to spend excessive cash on marketing hoping it will solve a sales problem, but often it is lack of understanding of your message and how that message is landing with customers.
Once you have refined your messaging, presentations and demos then you can start spending on marketing to amplify your message. Consider reading Seth Godin’s book This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See
Tools for Selling
As your Minimum Viable Product is being built out in parallel, work on your sales tools so you are ready for launch. Consider things such as the following:
Refine your storytelling skills; are you connecting with the customer and their problem that your software solves? Consider this in the following areas:
- How does your software make the customer more money?
- How does it save your customer money?
- How will your software enable your customers to leverage time more effectively? (Think productivity and synergy.)
- Do you need targeted stories for the various buyer personas you will engage with?
Demo 30 min
You needed to prepare your demo. It should be 100% scripted, and you should be able to do it in your sleep, you know it so well. When engaging a customer, know how to tweak it to the customers’ business language such as industry terms and acronyms that a customer may use. The customer should feel like the software was designed for the unique way their business operates. Every employee should be able to give this demo with confidence.
Just like in Rugby where we have drills practicing various forms of gameplay, the same should be considered here. Everyone should practice the demo until they can all deliver on messages that addresses the customer need.
Your presentation needs to be on point as well; every slide in the presentation needs to be killed unless it adds value to the customer. How will you use the presentation to engage the customer and get them talking about the problems you can solve with your software?
NEVER talk about yourself or your company until the very end of your presentation. No one cares how cool you think your company is until you have added massive value to them. Solve the customer’s problems, and then they will be open to learning more about you and your company.
Make sure everyone in your company knows how to present this presentation and stay on message adding value to your target customer. Oh, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone. Every single new hire should practice this until they have mastered it, after all you want your company and ISV solution to be a success. And part of that has everyone clear on what you do and how you empower your customers.
Everyone may not have a title that includes sales, but everyone in your company should have a selling attitude, so train everyone, drill everyone in the product storytelling, demoing and presenting accordingly.
In this early stage you should have started to test your pricing models. What model will get you to profit and growth? What is the customer appetite for the value you create? What number of licenses do you need to sell per month, quarter and year? Will you offer a discount in exchange for regular feedback and reviews to validate your software, pricing, support, testing of new features and alignment with the customer’s needs?
You may loop through this process for about six months, but at the end of that six months you should have precise data on how to move forward with your pricing model. As a rule, always be testing and gathering data to create data-informed decisions rather than operating with your gut and instinct. Many a gambler has lost the shirt off their back because they did not use data but relied on emotion.
Stay focused for the first six months from launch and decide where to next at the end of that six months. Sell as your life depends on it in that first six months, don’t be tempted to start over on the MVP, tweak and improve but above all else SELL!
Get your storytelling right, get your presentation right and get your demo right. Test your selling on anything that breathes as well as potential customers until you have mastered it.
Measure the Number of Presentations/Demos
Remember lead indicator is what you want to measure and validate and tweak over time.
What have you found works at this early stage?