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The Smarter Startup

Five useful tips startup CEOs can apply to get sales on the right track

A few weeks ago we organized an event where Mitch Morando, CEO at Whalr, gave an engaging talk on the five not-so-obvious tips to jumpstart a sales organization in a startup.

Make your first meeting a bonding meeting.

A few weeks ago we organized an event where Mitch Morando, CEO at Whalr, gave an engaging talk on the five not-so-obvious tips to jumpstart a sales organization in a startup. I thought that many of the CEOs of Burkland’ clients who did not attend the talk can benefit from this summary of his tips. Mitch has extensive experience running sales for SaaS companies, and his current company, Whalr, specializes in sales. He refers to their Product Qualified Lead offering as “Moneyball for SaaS Sales.”

Here are the five easy-to-implement tips that Mitch has learned and perfected over his two decades selling.

  1.     Forget the demo

Everybody in SaaS wants to show potential clients what they have right away as soon as they get a meeting. “Book your demo” is one of the most common call-to-action buttons on the sites of hundreds of SaaS companies. Mitch has a contrarian opinion on this rush to show, not tell. For him, when a sales person is able to break through and get a meeting, the focus should be on understanding what the pain of the person on the other side of the meeting is, before rushing into showing how your solution can be the painkiller. A meeting where a sales person engages and listens will have a far better outcome than rushing in to show a demo and then not having enough time to listen. In fact, a demo can be the hook for the second meeting, which then turns into a meeting of “remember you said your pain was…here is the answer to it” kind of conversation.

  1.     Ask them to rate their pain

Few sales people qualify a lead by understanding the level of pain a potential customer has. As a result, they waste months “barking at the wrong tree,” because their solution is perceived as a nice-to-have. Mitch advises to ask potential customers to rate their pain on a scale of 0 to 10 to really understand the urgency and how far they are from a potential decision to buy. Only by knowing the urgency to solve a problem a client perceives as painful can a sales person know where they stand. Once you know the severity of their pain – in their own eyes – you can choose to stay on course, come back when the pain increases, or, in rare cases, educate them on why the pain they perceive they have is more severe than they think.

  1.     Teach the #1 highest value thing you know

People appreciate learning something new and useful. As social beings, we “trade” on information that is useful and that is the way we create bonds. Any good sales person has something to teach a prospect client. This is because a sales person sees issues from the outside, meets with many people in the same situation, and knows the industry better – hopefully – than prospective clients. As a result, there is always one thing of value you can teach on your first meeting with a prospect. Mitch advises to go in with the goal of not leaving until you teach something they can value and use right away. Sales people who do this consistently create bonds faster and get to the second meeting as a valuable resource for the prospect, not just as the person who wants to sell them something and move on.

  1.     Do only paid pilots

Using your SaaS solution should give a customer tremendous value, which they should see and pay for. Even if the cost of a pilot is symbolic, charging for it sends a signal that your product is way more valuable than the dozen “free” options they usually have available, and that converting from a pilot to a regular use will happen automatically and seamlessly as they adopt your solution to solve their problem. Fear of charging for a pilot backfires most of the time because we are human and we don’t value freebies. In SaaS specifically, clients tend not to devote the attention and internal resources that your solution will need to solve their pain if they have no skin in the game.

  1.   Ask the customer for the one person that they can recommend you to talk to

People love to make intros. We use intros to prove to our peers that we are valuable. When a person finds a product they get excited about, they want to spread the word to their network. Using this humanistic insight, Mitch recommends to ask a prospect client, on your first meeting with them, for the name of one person who they think you should also be talking to, and to really lower barriers, just get the name and the company, do not ask for an intro – you can find them and tell them who referred you to them. Asking for this has two huge benefits: you can get a lead, and you can test whether the client you are asking this from values your product enough to think it can also be valuable for their peers.

None of these tips seem hard to implement or test. It is the little things like these five tips from Mitch that can change the attitudes and the focus of your sales people, so they can differentiate themselves from the hordes of other sales people calling on the same people pushing demos, not learning from customers, not teaching anything, and leaving meetings with nothing to follow-up on.