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.