Quora is one of those cool new services you can get easily caught up in if you’re not careful! Since dipping my big toe in about a week ago, I’m pleased to say that people seemed to like the first question I answered on kick-starting a B2B sales operation for a new web service. So much so, I decided to repost my answer here. Enjoy!
Getting sales going for a new web service is similar to the process of getting the company going in general. Keep in mind, a) there will be overlap in the timing of these steps and b) you actually have to have a good product that people want to use!
Step 1: figure out what your target audience is really willing to pay for.
Is it features? Storage space? Ability to add users? You may start with a hypothesis of what this is (totally fine), but the key thing is to deploy, test, and iterate quickly in order to refine. Tip #1: don’t monetize the feature(s) that help your product spread. Tip #2: make it easy for people who love it, to share it.
Step 2: engage your user base consistently in order to understand the value they get from your service.
Regardless of what YOU thought you were building your product for, it’s only once you get it into the hands of real users, will you understand how they articulate the value. Use these insights to refine your monetization strategy. At this point if you don’t have enough resources to personally reach out to the majority of your users, consider hiring some “product coaches” to assist. If you’re having trouble getting users, proactively reach out to some in-target early adopters and offer to have them use the product for free.
Step 3: create awareness of your market and value proposition.
Awareness helps you sell by expanding your audience and reducing the level of effort required to explain. If your topic is sexy and relevant, get people talking about it and about you. Press mentions in industry, tech, business publications help create buzz and awareness. If you’re in a new space, demonstrating thought leadership is important. A great place to showcase this content is on your blog (blog early and often!). Loop your early clients into this process and help them tell their story to the world. I often liken our early experience at Rypple to LinkedIn 7 years ago (i.e. explaining to people “Why should you put your private resume online for everyone to see?!?”. A challenge early on, but obviously not so now). Once you’ve overcome the awareness hump, articulating your product’s value in your sales process becomes much easier.
Step 4: understand your customer’s buying cycle and help nurture them along.
Most people who visit your site for the first time won’t buy your product. They’ll likely need more information about what you’ll do with their email address when they provide it? how and why they should use your product? who else uses it? the benefits they can expect, etc. That’s why it’s important to understand the steps your prospects take as they attempt to buy your product and have your site/sales process reflect those steps. Providing the right information at just the right time is key to developing as frictionless a sales cycle as possible. A great way to catalyze this effort is to assemble a team of product/community coaches. i.e. actual people who can personally reach out and engage your users, answer their questions, and funnel their insights back to your product/marketing team. Tip: your sales and marketing efforts should be BFF’s.
Step 5: continuously refine with the help of data.
As you’re looking to build a repeatable sales process, understanding what your target customers look like and how they behave on your site and in your product is imperative. If your users are mainly small to medium size technology companies, don’t start marketing to hospitals. Understand what your sales cycle/funnel looks like, where the pinch points are, and relentlessly focus on improving one part at a time. Measure enough things to make educated business decisions about how to refine your sales approach, but don’t go nuts and start defining metrics you have no intention of acting on. Remember, only your mother cares about how smart you are!
Bonus Tip: make it as easy as possible for your customers to give you money.
Sounds silly but making the payment process as simple and frictionless as possible is key. Provide opportunities to easily upgrade and pay at key points. Eliminate errors and inconsistencies in your checkout process. Employ a simple billing approach. And the best advice, provide amazing and personal “Four Seasons” customer service!