As founder of a UI/UX design service for SaaS companies, I’ve had a first row seat at many startups who are selling B2B software to big co’s. Selling to big corporations can be tough, especially for engineers who like to hide behind their code editor, but it’s not rocket science. Here are a few patterns I’ve seen the most successful B2B startups I’ve worked with use:
1. First, make friends with people that work for the big Co you’re trying to attract as a customer: current employees, ex-employees, vendors, contractors, anyone that’s got a foot in the door works here. Get to know them and learn about the key people within that particular organisation. If they are in direct contact with those key decision makers, ask them for an intro. If not, ask them who they know who does have a direct connection and work your way up the chain. Your goal is to connect with the people who control the budget, or those who have a big influence on those who do. In essence you’re not selling to a big anonymous Co. You’re selling to one or two individuals.
2. Second, study the big Co’s business model, industry trends and competitive landscape. Just like you, your target Co is trying to get somewhere. What are they currently lacking? How are their competitors doing? Before you get a chance to talk to decision makers, make sure you can see the world through their lens. If you can verbalise their current state, desired future state and how your software could help them get there, you’re 80% there.
3. Third, have a data-driven pitch ready about the specific pain points your software addresses for their business. Forget about the nice features you’ve built, the amazing frameworks you’ve used. Nobody cares. Talk numbers instead: ROI, time savings, customer satisfaction scores, Net Promoter Scores… whatever you can measure that is relevant to their business. The more specific the better. How does your software help them save money, or make more of it?
4. Fourth, be prepared to offer a pilot program or a trial. Big co’s are risk-averse by nature so they will appreciate you minimising their downside. You can also use this as an opportunity to learn more about their business and how your software can be tailored to fit their needs even. Keep in mind that you’re talking to one or two individuals. How can you help these people do their job better?
The software companies I’ve seen do very, very well, nail this process. In almost all cases, the engineer does most of the selling during the Startup’s infancy. Once the Startup grows and gets more funding, some choose to build a sales team to support their growth. Before that happens though, the founder(s) usually have nailed their pitch and systematised their approach, before handing it over to someone else.
I’ve rarely seen a startup succeed by hiring sales people from the get go. As a founder-engineer, you have to step up and go through this process yourself. Talk to your customers. You know your product inside out. Hiring someone from the outside is unlikely to result in success.
One thing that seems to help introvert founders is to really believe in what ever it is you’re building. If you’re unwilling to put in the extra effort to build relationships and market your product, it’s likely because you don’t believe in your product enough. Work on something you’re willing to pour the next 10 years of your life into.
Go. Get out there & talk to some people.
PS. Here are some of the B2B SaaS companies I’ve worked with that I’ve based my article on.