Motivational speaker Tony Robbins provides a few tips on how entrepreneurs can up their sales game.
There is a lot of attention on “lean startups” and “scaling big” with minimal marketing and sales efforts.
These are great stories and I love reading about the breakout, viral success of a hot startup. But that doesn’t reflect what the majority of startups experience, and it’s even less frequent for one selling B2B software.
Let’s face it: Selling B2B software is complex stuff. There are sponsors, blockers, administrators, users, and other personas at play. Initiating a sale can begin with any one of them. But to sell high-ticket, enterprise solutions at scale, you will need a systematic approach that can be applied by a sales team or channel.
The rise of SaaS/cloud-based products does mean that line-of-business purchasers are less IT-dependent than when there is a hefty on-premises component. That’s good news. However, many hosted products do need to integrate with existing systems in some fashion and will require some sign-off from IT and others in the organization.
At the risk of making a sweeping generalization, people in the enterprise tend to fall into two buckets: “above the line” and “below the line.” Both are critical to running the enterprise, but they have different roles in the selling process.
Above-the-line people are executives, line-of-business leaders, and the very senior IT folks who set organizational priorities and allocate budget. They are more likely to take risks to move the organization ahead. No decent-sized deal is getting done without support from above the line — or by at least showing irrefutable evidence that your solution is directly tied to solving pains above the line. As the saying goes, “No pain, no change.” They want to understand benefits, not features.
Below-the-line people are managers and their teams. They are accountable to execute projects that support the goals that were set above the line. These folks are also critical, because they will recommend — or veto — specific solutions and supporting projects. They will also seek out solutions to problems they have been given. It’s a big mistake to discount people in your database that don’t carry an executive title, as they can be instrumental in getting a deal started or approved. You need to serve them appropriately.
When selling bigger ticket B2B products that will involve a range of personas, I think it’s helpful to consider a two-pronged approach: top-down and bottom-up.
- The bottom-up approach involves reaching below-the-line influencers. Enterprise sales efforts can benefit from ensuring that this crowd will approve a solution when asked – as well as considering it a place to start. In fact, many of today’s B2B products sold into the enterprise are growing quite well by staying primarily below the line.
The CEO of GoodData, Roman Stanek, did a nice job of exploring the challenges and benefits of applying traditional “old school” selling techniques to reach the enterprise. It’s definitely worth a read.
If you want to sell your technology to the enterprise and buy a big ski chalet in Switzerland, you have to solve real problems for the enterprise, and you should expect to have a substantial sales and marketing operation. Fundamentally, the product has to make work easier, integrate better with other systems, and meet much more stringent requirements than a consumer product would. The enterprise is a large and slow-moving but powerful and valuable animal. Capturing it requires addressing its concerns and its persona head-on.
What he didn’t cover as much is how applying “new school” techniques can assist selling into the enterprise. Inbound marketing tactics, such as content marketing, blogging, and social media, can actually help earn interaction with target segments and drive people to engage.
CXO’s don’t generally try products, but below-the-line people value a product that is easily evaluated and an experience worth sharing. They have been significantly impacted by their experiences trying consumer-based technology in their personal lives. This is a real opportunity for marketing to drive engagement, trials, and potentially even initial purchases when kept below procurement thresholds. Engaged users are a powerful feeder into the sales process.
If your product aspires or requires more widespread enterprise-wide deployment, a laser-focused sales team can help. But in this case they’ll be working to upsell happy accounts or to close bigger enterprise deals. More traditional selling techniques, such as outbound calling or telemarketing, may be helpful in supporting this too, but working from some base will always be more productive than raw cold-calling.
Many startups and early stage companies targeting the enterprise should consider applying lean startup discipline to a mix of new school go-to-market techniques with some old school selling. The skill and art is determining the right mix!
This story originally appeared on Mark Lorion.
VentureBeat » Entrepreneur
This sponsored post is produced by SPROCKIT.
New startups, competitions, accelerators, and incubators pop up nearly every day aiming to reinvent everything. The media and entertainment industry is no exception. The question is: How can startups stand out amid all of the noise and forge real change?
Enter SPROCKIT, a year-round program now in its second year. It aims to shine a spotlight on the most disruptive startups and help them collaborate with leaders in the industry. It is not an incubator, an accelerator, or a competition. It’s an invitation-only trusted community of elite startups and iconic companies.
The media and entertainment industry has experienced rapid change in recent years. The ways consumers can find and experience content is endless, making it challenging for companies to navigate the ever-changing landscape. We at SPROCKIT believe that to further the industry as a whole, today’s icons and tomorrow’s leaders need to work in concert. By focusing on fostering relationships between entrepreneurs and established executives, we can better address challenges and find workable solutions to problems facing the industry today.
That is why SPROCKIT is driven by the larger media and entertainment industry and kicks off at NAB Show, the largest convention for those who create, manage, and distribute entertainment on all media platforms. It’s April 5 to April 10 in Las Vegas. SPROCKIT helps companies who are poised to reinvent the market stand just as tall as the conglomerates by introducing them as VIPs to leaders in the industry.
So who are these “disruptive” startups? The first 10 invited to participate in SPROCKIT 2014 include:
- AudioAir enhances the entertainment experience for patrons of sports bars, restaurants, or other establishments with muted TV screens by allowing users to listen, watch, and interact with the TV through their mobile device.
- Cognitive Networks is a provider of real-time services that power Enhanced TV on Smart TVs, enabling viewers to receive increased engagement and interactions with content through their Smart TV.
- ExciteM’s self-serve platform enables broadcast stations to create custom interactive mobile and social experiences for their audiences in real time.
- theloop is a social marketplace website, enabling individuals and brands to showcase and deliver services as well as monetize their online content.
- MAZ is a mobile publishing platform that empowers brands to create better user experiences by transforming their media properties into “mini” social networks.
- Penthera is a provider of intelligent portable video software solutions for TV networks and content distributors.
- ShareRocket is a social media ratings and audience solution that helps media companies and broadcasters measure their social media equity, benchmark against peers, and turn that social market intelligence into actionable insights to drive success.
- Tomorrowish is a social media DVR that syncs and curates a live social media TV experience for viewers where they can participate in real-time conversations about a show whether it’s live or after it’s already aired.
- Wayin provides real-time intelligence into how viewers engage with TV programming and gives producers creative freedom to easily display social content within their own broadcast production workflow.
- WebTuner brings broadband to television, and with its next-generation hardware, innovative content guide, and addressable and interactive advertising platform, it creates a unique consumer experience advancing industry growth and creativity.
And how is this initiative being “driven” by the industry?
Leading media companies including Cox Media Group, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television, Tribune Broadcasting, and Univision have joined SPROCKIT as founding corporate members and engaged executives to work alongside startups. Other collaborators include: Convergent Wealth Advisors, Angel Capital Association, National Science Foundation, Interactive Television Alliance, InfoDev, Springboard Enterprises, New Vantage Group, Boston Consulting Group, Ernst & Young, and SmithGeiger, and the list goes on.
Leaders from these organizations will lend their expertise to the program and guide discussions for bringing new products, services, and revenue models to market. They too recognize that to stay ahead of the curve, innovators – whether they are emerging entrepreneurs or industry luminaries – need to work together.
SPROCKIT is a model for any industry. It goes beyond the concept of an accelerator or incubator, and instead, fosters a community and creates a platform to help media and entertainment thrive.
Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amazon quietly launched a new mobile application designed for Amazon Sellers, the individuals and businesses who leverage Amazon’s scale to reach the company’s millions of shoppers by listing their products on Amazon’s site. Amazon Seller, as the app is simply called, offers a suite of mobile tools that allow sellers to search and scan barcodes of items, check prices, sales… Read More
Marketing automation company Autopilot is releasing a new prospecting tool for sales and marketing that’s generating up to 42 percent reply rates on cold email tomorrow.
That compares to a traditional rate of just 1 percent to 9 percent.
The tool, which companies like Bosch, Model N, and Voxer are already using, helps marketers get live, current email for people they find on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, and other popular sites online. Called Prospect Ace, the plugin bridges the seemingly inevitable gap between marketing and sales.
“After we started a few companies in Australia and were lucky enough to sell them, we got a lot of consulting contracts,” CEO Michael Sharkey told me last week. “We saw huge gaps between sales and marketing … and we saw the same problem everywhere: data.”
The Chrome plugin focuses on solving that data problem in the prospecting stage: finding people who might be interested in your product or service. Once you’ve found someone that looks like they might be a potential buyer, Prospect Ace initiates a query in Autopilot’s data and modeling system and spits out an email, which Sharkey says is “guaranteed to be verified.”
You can buy access to Prospect Ace separately, but naturally, the company would prefer that you then drop that email into its marketing automation system, Autopilot, which you can do with a single click.
“Prospect Ace integrates into Autopilot,” Sharkey says. “Just pick a campaign, drop the prospect right into the campaign, and he’s now in my automated marketing campaign.”
While Bosch is the biggest customer whose name is public for Prospect Ace, Sharkey told me several other names that would raise a few eyebrows, including two of the biggest names in file-sharing and cloud-content management and one of the biggest mobile carriers in the U.S.
And the company is eating its own dogfood, too.
“When we came back in Q1, we decided we would only build our pipeline using this tool,” Sharkey said. “We’ve already closed a heck of a lot of business off this already.”
That includes prospecting success which has hit 42 percent.
An interesting use that some of its prelaunch customers were trying includes finding people on LinkedIn who have followed a competitor, or on Facebook who have liked a competitor, and then using it to build a prospect list. That’s pretty powerful, particularly if you integrate it into your competitive marketing campaigns, prebuilt for specific competitors.
Aaron Ross, the former director of sales for Salesforce and now a consultant and author of Predictable Revenue, agrees.
“An important part of prospecting is about the quality of the data,” Ross said in a statement. “Prospect Ace is the first data solution to allow sales development to easily target prospect and find verified email addresses from social profiles.”
That is, of course, the big difference.
The alternative is buying data from Data.com or other sources, and that can be tricky — analytics firm KISSmetrics once asked for a refund after finding its purchased data to be 80 percent inaccurate. Sharkey says that Prospect Ace simply provides better data, which, when used appropriately, generates much better returns.
Pricing ranges from $ 199/month and up.
VentureBeat » Entrepreneur