Friday, October 3, 2014

Close Enterprise Deals As a B2B SaaS Startup Without in-House Salespeople

Before we begin talking about the who, what, when, let's spend some time talking about why this is even possible today to compete with sales professionals from established B2B SaaS firms. Two words: Empowered Buyers.Let me explain that a bit so we are on the same page at the outset. There was a time (it still exists in certain countries and industries) when salespeople were able to manipulate buyers into buying, make false promises they had no intention of keeping, create a mystery around and about a product, play around with pricing, used psychology and 'techniques' to sell. This is no longer the case, buyers know these tricks, have more information about the product, the company why, even the salesperson. Internet and social media has played a role here but more importantly, I believe, buyers have evolved with the sellers.So, in essence, if you are a salesperson (or a non-sales person) who does not use any of these tactics, you stand a better chance at wins neck to neck.Secondly, let's talk about the chances of a startup vs an established vendor. If you are new, you are a third generation B2B SaaS firm. Although will have more integrations available, more consultants in the market, a richer partner ecosystem and 1000s of customer case studies, the fact is I and a vast majority of salespeople don't want to use it. It's just old. It's not made for the salesperson. It needs implementation and maintenance.. So are there pros to buying from an established vendor? sure.. Are there cons? Hell, yes, loads! To be fair to established vendors, I'd say you stand a 50:50 chance.With me so far? Great. Now we've established that, at least theoretically, it is possible to beat an established competitor without a professional salesperson on board.Let's now shift focus to the who,what, how, when.How did you know of this opportunity? I'm assuming, since you are a startup, you do not have an outbound lead generation inside sales team (yet) and that most of your leads are inbound leads from your SEO, content and email marketing initiatives. I'm also assuming that most of the time the leads are from smaller firms but every once in a while there's a USD 10k+/ year opportunity staring at you, one from a larger firm.Here are the pieces of the puzzle, I trust you to be able to make sense of it as a whole.1) The Decision Maker: Identify the decision maker. Simple as it sounds, this is by far the most tricky task on this list and the one most prone to error, but there is an easy solution. He/ she is not the most vocal of evaluators, he/she is not necessarily the person who signs the check. In larger organizations this is simply the person who is tasked with finding a solution for the problem at hand. How do you identify who this is. Identify who the person with the budget is and ask them. Use email/ LinkedIn or request a 2 minute call with them. They'll tell you who makes the call on this one. I can't think of a better analogy, so I'm using a war analogy (I do not believe there is any similarity between sales and war or even sports for that matter): You just won the most important battle in this war!2) How did it come to this? Why Change? What does the ideal solution look like? Why would they choose one vendor over another?: You would have heard this a lot: You should ask a lot of probing questions, and then listen. And it is right.. Let me tell you what kind of questions you want to ask. The difference between a conversation that we enjoy and the one that we are merely present in is this: Questions that seek information and questions that seek criterion, questions that make you think rather than seek sectors of brain with stored information. Let me give you an example:

a) What are certain things that the system should be able to do?b) What does the ideal solution look like? What will that help you achieve? How else can it be achieved?You'll need a mix of both. The idea is to have a conversation that you both get some value out of.3) Trust and Reputation: This is built over ages. As a startup you may not be able to leverage this unless you, individually, have a reputation you could use. All B2B SaaS vendors do no-contracts, monthly fees, free trial etc, so these are not game changers. Here are a few pointers that help:a) Use every interaction to build trust. Be honest.b) Commit only when you can as much as you can.c) Offer to do customer visits/ calls as against responding to their requestd) Offer to do pilot with real data even if it takes additional effort. Charge a fee if required.e) Say No or I don't know when needed, back it up/ get back when you can.4) Players:a) Champion: Usually the person who signed up/became a lead with you will be your champion within the organization. He/she found you, so it is in their interest that you do well. Empower this individual with whatever material they need, Ask to help him present or offer to present on their behalf. They'll usually know the buying process in the org and will be more than glad to share with you the real picture of how a tool like yours is bought.b) Evaluators: Evaluators generally are the people who's work-lives will be affected by this buying decision. A good leader will always make sure that the users who are to use the solution have a say in which solution was procured. Your job is to identify who these evaluators are, learn and manage their expectations and show the tool showcasing exactly what they asked for, individually if required. The idea is to know what each of them want and deliver as close to it as possible. If you are doing a proof of concept/pilot, make sure you understand what they want achieved at the end of the trial to call it success.5) Money and Negotiation: Money is generally a non-issue. I'm not a big fan of negotiation, so I believe in sharing one reasonable pricing irrespective of the buyer's budget as I think it's unfair on customers who aren't good negotiators. But take your call. There are buyers who enjoy negotiating, you do not want to disappoint them. Think of all the things you have to negotiate with, it's not just the money, it could be services, training, maintenance, support, terms.6) Risk: They like you, they like what they see in the product. Buyers will still need to know that this decision doesn't set them back by a couple of months. State all risks, real or perceived, and share how to manage them. Do get your deployment team involved with their IT teams for technical feasibility and get an A-OK there. Commit inside the contract proactively.As you'll see it's not that big of a deal. It's quite fun especially for someone who enjoys conversations. The only question is would you want to do it/would this be a good use of your time.

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