May 13, 2014
Blocking and Tackling
Rapid growth is critical to startup success, but hiring sales people only scales linearly. When properly conceived and executed, partnership...
In a members-only session with SaaS sales leader Mitch Morando, Heavybit member companies learned how to kick off founder-led sales initiatives. Of course, one of the essential components of closing your first few deals is identifying and capturing the attention of the right prospects. During the session, Mitch shared some sales prospecting tips for technical SaaS buyers that founders can use to help fill their early-stage sales pipeline with better candidates, including:
Many early-stage companies believe that the earlier they can land a big customer, the better. But the bigger the deal, the longer and more complex the buying cycle. Mitch recommends focusing on the right size of company; generally speaking aim big enough for the buyer to have the budget and team needed to invest in your product, but not so large that the buying cycle will be slow and resource-intensive.
For more on right-sizing your prospecting targets, read Nick Beecroft’s article on Fishing in the Right Pond.
Sales prospecting often starts with hunting through LinkedIn profiles searching for the right fit: oftentimes, a VP of Engineering or Product. Many inexperienced founders stop reading after the title and reach out to everyone with the right title, but this “spray-and-pray” approach that won’t yield great results. Mitch noted during his session that being able to strategically read a LinkedIn profile is an underrated skill that every founder should take time to learn to do. Having this ability will help you find prospects who will be receptive to your pitch and excited to check out your product.
Ultimately your prospecting strategy comes down to looking for indicators that this person is an early adopter. Ask, “How likely is this person to understand the value that I’m offering them?”
It’s important to identify a buyer who will be receptive to your pitch, especially for technical products. Here are a few things to look for when analyzing LinkedIn profiles:
It’s tempting to try to squeeze every round peg into the square hole of your product, but chasing every prospect with a passing interest in what you’re building is a common mistake for early-stage companies. Even if a prospect seem like a great fit (on paper), or if you’re convinced that they’d love your product (if they just gave it a chance):
If they aren’t a good fit right now, they aren’t a good use of your time right now.
Your time is too valuable to spend convincing people they should want your product. Focus instead on people who understand the value you can bring them — what Edith Harbaugh called selling bibles to the converted in her talk on Turning Critics into Champions.
Not every lead will be a great fit, but knowing how to leverage bad leads for better ones is an important skill to practice. Mitch advises that at the end of the meeting, ask the prospect, “Who is one team that you think could benefit from our solution right now?” It’s important to ask for only one — you want one high-quality lead, not several bad ones. Mitch stresses that you don’t need to ask for an introduction — you’re just finding another, better, lead to pursue next.
Want to learn more about sales prospecting, qualification and hiring your first salesperson? Check out Building Early-Stage Sales teams featuring Mitch Morando on our panel of early-sales experts, or learn more about the Morando Method.