As an entrepreneur first and foremost, whilst you may not realise it, you are a salesperson. Whether that’s selling your business to investors, commercial partners, prospective customers or new employees.
This is especially true of early stage software businesses, your ability to portray your vision will undoubtedly be one of the most defining factors in your future success. At Mercia I often see businesses which have a fantastic product, but the management teams lack the sales expertise and processes to sell it.
The following process is informed by the ‘predictable revenue’ model from the software company Salesforce. However, it can broadly be applied to the majority of B2B technical sales where the price point is significant enough to warrant an in-person sale, compared to lower ticket value items where the process should be as automated as possible.
The ‘predictable revenue’ sales model is the separation of the various sales roles. From identifying a customer (researcher) and making initial contact (sales development representative) to finally closing the sale (business development manager). The model is based on the idea that there is a lack of focus on the individual stages of the sales process if the entire process is managed by one individual - challenges can occur in generating enough leads due to too much time being spent on pipeline management and closing. By separating those roles (only possible in a 2+ person sales team!) you can improve your sales team’s efficiency, and therefore close more deals.
1. Identifying and researching a prospective customer
The first step in your process is for the researcher to create qualified leads that can then be passed down the sales funnel. The more leads that you put in, the more that will come out and therefore the more deals you are likely to close.
Usually the most difficult part of this whole process is finding the decision maker who will have a say in whether their company buys your product. For each company, it may be useful to identify multiple individuals through account based marketing. LinkedIn Premium can be used to help identify these individuals and create a database in your CRM system of choice. It may be worthwhile creating an ideal customer profile/buyer persona before doing this as it helps to target individuals through job title, company, industry and geography.
Here are several tools that may be useful:
CRM - Pipedrive, Hubspot, Salesforce, Dynamics, Zoho
Sourcing email addresses - Clearbit, Emailhunter, Zoominfo, DiscoverOrg
Now that you have identified your customers, you need to research them - knowledge is power, after all. Researching potential prospects before a call or email will make a considerable difference to the outcome. It’s vital to take a personalised approach towards any sales interaction, not only does it create a more meaningful conversation for both you and a potential customer, but it also shows that you’ve taken the time to do your research and are genuinely interested in learning more about the company.
Research can include blog articles, Twitter posts or news articles that your prospect or their company has been featured in. The researcher should then package this information (ammunition) up in a format that allows the sales development representative to easily engage with the prospect.
2. Making initial contact with a customer
It is the role of the sales development team to schedule a meeting or online demo to understand the customer’s requirements. The demo can be organised through a variety of ways, including social media, telephone or email.
When constructing the email they should use the data provided by the researcher in stages 1 and 2. The rule is to be specific and be personalised. No one likes to receive an email that could have been sent to 100 other people.
The email should include a clear call to action such as the offer of a demo with the business development manager. However, it will most likely take a few interactions to progress to the next stage and according to the Online Marketing Institute, the average lead needs to be contacted eight times before you can expect to receive a response.
Useful tools include:
Email scheduling: Boomerang
Meeting scheduling: Calendly
3. Demo of the product
The business development manager is your ‘closer,’ with an intricate knowledge of your product and customer base. They are the most experienced within the sales team. This stage of the process is less easily defined as it is highly dependent on your business. However, key to these meetings or further calls is ensuring that you demonstrate the ability to solve your customer problem - this is something you should always have in the back of your mind.
The first contact should be an initial scoping call. This is a key opportunity to establish the customer's requirements, briefly illustrate the key advantages of the product and to reconfirm that it’s a mutual fit with the client.
Following a successful first call, you should then embark on a longer ‘discovery’ call. This should include creating a plan with the customer to bring in key decision makers to the process, if they are not already included.
After the discovery call you should then conduct a demonstration of the product, which with software products is usually completed online. This should illustrate features which align to specific business challenges uncovered in the discovery phase. You should avoid giving what are referred to as 'feature dumps' which disengage prospects and often sound highly scripted. Too often inexperienced (and sometimes experienced) sellers will be tempted to showcase their entire platform and set of features - many of which, bear no relevance to the customer’s situation.
Useful tools include:
Meeting/demo software: Gotomeeting, Join.me, Webex, Zoom
These sales processes were informed by the ‘Predictable revenue’ sales model, employed by many SaaS (software as a service) companies including Salesforce and Mercia’s portfolio company Refract, a sales conversational intelligence platform.
The purpose of this guide is to demonstrate that sales can be more of a science than an art and with strictly defined processes in place, you can be well-positioned towards closing more deals. There is definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sales so it should be adjusted to your business and product as appropriate.
However, with the right team and sales processes in place, the Predictable Revenue model can be used to effectively scale both your sales team and revenue.
Alex Hoppenbrouwers, Investment Associate, Mercia Technologies PLC
Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors