Sales Strategy — Selling a Product Versus Selling a Platform.

What does your customer want to buy? Are they using your product as a stepping stone or enabler to a much bigger transformation? Or are you part of a larger product and fit the puzzle?

Are you selling a product or a platform?

I listened into sales conversations at one of our startups. The product has many benefits, some of which customers only discover after they used the product for a bit. Sometimes the customer discovers that her problem is larger than she thought and appreciates the additional value we deliver. That’s good for up-selling and expansion.

But too often I overheard sales people tout the additional value to customers when the customer only want to solve an urgent need. That had one of two effects:

  • “Oh no, this thing does tons of other things that I don’t need but I’m going to pay for.”
  • “Hm. You’re right. There are lots of other areas I have not thought about yet where you seem to provide tremendous value. I think we have to get back to our drawing board and think about our approach. “

In both cases you lost the deal.

Exception: You lost the deal already.

But maybe the customer has already selected a competitive solution. Or perhaps her current approach and strategy is better suited for a competitive product than yours. Then the above approach can throw a wrench in your competitors sales motion: They might realize that they are over-paying for functionality they won’t use; or they might realize that their approach with the competitor is limiting their effectiveness.

But: you have to discuss every one of these types of exceptions with the executive team:

  • Are they an effect of a bad qualification process for MQLs or SQLs?
  • Are you spending valuable sales time on competitive marketing and positioning?
  • Are you starting to pick a fight with a competitor where you’d rather fly under the radar for a little bit longer?
  • Are there really no other lower-hanging-fruit than trying to turn a customer away from a competitor?
  • Is this customer perhaps systemically the wrong buyer? Do you even want their business?
  • Is this an ego thing?

As a venture-backed startup you have to find a hyper-growth sales motion. The faster you can hone in and refine your strategy, the more likely your organization will be able to succeed.

Thoughts? Opinions? Comments? Corrections?