“Startups don’t fail because the product sucks; startups fail because of a failure to sell the product.”
If you’re the founder of a B2B startup with a SaaS product, then this post is for you. As the Chief Marketing Officer of Viralogy, it is my primary objective to sell our product to companies. In this post, I will describe my current selling techniques, processes, and what I’ve learned from trial and error. This is how to sell your product.
What we’re selling and who we’re selling it to
Viralogy is a Social Commerce platform that utilizes the Facebook Social Graph to personalize the shopping experience for ecommerce stores. We are targeting companies that fit the following criteria:
- Industry: Ecommerce
- Niche: Beauty Retail
- Annual Revenue: $1M – $10M
Know exactly who your target market is. We went as far as to purchase the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide 2010 Edition so that we could better understand our target market.
Twitter won’t bring you the clients – You’ll need to grow some balls and pick up the phone
I am cold-calling potential clients.
I’m not trying to Tweet them or message them via Facebook. I’m not trying to comment on their blogs in hopes that they’ll respond. If I had a year to sell the product, then perhaps I would employ these methods; however, a young internet startup needs clients as soon as possible, and the best way to do that is to get my ass on the phone and start selling directly to my target market.
Cold-calling will grow hair on your chest. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart – just ask my Co-Founder Yu-kai. So if you don’t have what it takes, then you better find someone who does.
The most effective selling method for a young unknown company with an extremely small budget is to get on the phone and make sales calls.
Your mindset before you begin
Selling is a numbers game. At the same time, you don’t want to “waste” potential prospects by selling completely unprepared. Before you begin, do the following:
- Read Cold Calling Techniques that Really Work
- Practice with your Co-Founders for a whole day straight
- Have a solid base of 75 target companies to call each week
The key is to be persistent and patient. You will not make an appointment with a potential client the first week – I didn’t. But during my second week, I was able to make 4 appointments. I stay persistent and patient and make 15 cold-calls to new potential prospects every single weekday.
Rejoice every time that someone rejects you because it means you’re getting that much closer to a sale. Seek out the rejections! I’m serious here; you have to completely lose your mind and hunt for the rejections because the more times that you get rejected, the more sales that you’re making.
The tools that I use
I use a particular set of tools that every bootstrapped startup can afford.
1. Skype to make calls
I pay $2.99/month to make unlimited calls to the US and Canada via Skype. This means I don’t have to worry about my cell phone bill or the horrible reception we have at the apartment. With this plan, the calls you make show up as 0123456… on caller ID. This is bad because if a person sees this unknown number, she is unlikely to pick up the phone.
I therefore pay $30/year for a Skype number so that I have a real number when making Skype calls.
2. Alexa to look up target companies
3. The CRM
Stephen, our CTO, built a custom CRM for me to use.
If I didn’t have Stephen’s CRM, I would use Sales Force since it only costs $5/month for the basic plan. One of the most important elements of sales is to stay organized. Write down everything from the date you first contact the potential client to the details of the last conversation you had with them.
To find the names and numbers of the professionals I need to contact, I use a combination of Linkedin and Jigsaw.
I first use Jigsaw to find the corporate number of the company and the names of people involved with marketing or ecommerce. I then use LinkedIn to cross reference the names and make sure they still work at the company. I also use LinkedIn to find out more details about the professional and to find any information that I can use to my advantage.
5. PB Works to host all potential client materials
I use PB Works to manage and share all of the following documents:
- Detailed notes of calls I’ve had with potential clients
- The Power Point Presentation for potential clients
- Agreements that clients have signed
Elements of the cold call
Now that you have your tools, you’re ready to start making calls.
Important: During the first call, you’re selling the appointment – not the product
Your goal is to get the potential client interested in what you have to offer. Don’t try to sell the potential client your product and all of the great features you have – they don’t want to hear about it. All you can do is hopefully catch their attention by solving a pain that they have, and moving them to commit to an appointment call with you.
1. The opener
Open with the following sequence:
- Introduce yourself
- Introduce your company
- Establish credibility
- Tell them specifically why you’re calling
- Push for the appointment
This is exactly how I open every time:
Hi David, this is Jun Loayza from Viralogy and my team has worked on social campaigns for Levi’s, LG, and Victoria Secret. I’m calling specifically today to set up a call to tell you about how our social platform can increase your sales revenue and provide detailed social analytics about your shoppers. Are you available next Tuesday at 10am EST to set up a call?
2. How to react when they respond
The person you are calling will most likely not want to set up a call. This is how you can bypass the most common responses:
“I’m sorry, I’m just not interested right now.”
Your response: You know what David, that is exactly what some of our customers said before they heard what I had to say. That’s why I really feel we should get together next week.
“I’m sorry, I’m really busy right now and can’t talk on the phone. Can you send me something via email.”
Your response: Yes of course I can. [Get their email address]. I will go ahead and send you a detailed presentation by the end of the day. I’ll follow through with you next Tuesday at 10am EST to talk to you about the presentation in further detail. Does this time work for you?
“We’re already using a similar product.”
Your response: David, may I ask you what product you’re currently using? [He tells you the product]. That’s great because we’ve actually worked alongside this product in the past and have had great success. That’s why I really feel we should get together next week.
Do everything in your power to get to the appointment! Don’t let a simple “No” turn you away. As a sales person, it is your duty… no, it’s your purpose to get the appointment.
3. How to leave a voice mail
I never expect someone to call me after I leave a voicemail. It very rarely happens. Instead, the purpose of my voicemail is to get them thinking about my company and me. It must be short, sweet, and to the point.
Hi David, this is Jun Loayza from Viralogy and my team has worked on social campaigns for Levi’s, LG, and Victoria Secret. I’m calling specifically today to set up a call to tell you about how our social platform can increase your sales revenue and provide detailed social analytics about your shoppers. You can give me a call at 714-657-9332. Thanks and I look forward to speaking with you.
Remember, don’t expect someone to return your voicemail. However, a good voicemail gets them interested in your product and what you have to offer. I have had 2 potential clients recognize me from my message when I call them again and say that they’re interested and would like to set up a follow up call.
4. Get past the Gatekeeper
Gatekeepers usually aren’t that bad. Just be confident and pretend like you’re suppose to talk to the potential client. The following line gets me through about 75% of the time with no questions asked:
Hi Stephanie. This is Jun Loayza calling for David Scott
That’s it. It really is that simple.
Should the gatekeeper ask “What is this regarding?“, I respond with:
My company recently completed a successful campaign with XYZ company and David would be very interested to learn about how we can do the same for your company.
Should the gate keep ask “Is he expecting your call?“, I respond with:
No he’s not actually, but my company recently completed a successful campaign with XYZ company and David would be very interested to learn about how we can do the same for your company.
If the gatekeeper just won’t let you through, try to get the potential client’s voicemail.
You got them to want the appointment
You got them to say “Yes, I’d like to set up a call.” That’s great! Now it’s time to move fast so that they don’t forget.
1. Use Google Calendar to invite them to a Calendar Invite
After a successful call, I immediately invite the potential client to the agreed upon date and time using Google Calendar. In this way, I know that he has it on his calendar and am notified when he accepts the invite.
2. Send the Power Point Presentation the night before the call
I send it the night before the call for the following reasons:
- The potential client is reminded about our call when he sees the email the following morning
- If I send it more than 2 days before our call, the presentation will get buried in a pile of emails. By sending it the night before, I make sure that it is the top email in his inbox
3. Do your research the night before
Make sure you’ve looked up the potential client’s information on LinkedIn. Make sure you have thoroughly looked over the company website and searched for the company on Google. Come as prepared as you can possibly be.
The day has come. The day of the call and how to WOW them
This is it. It’s time to go in for the close – or at least get to the next step. Your goal on this sales call is to get another meeting with the decision makers, or get another meeting to discuss the terms of the contract.
1. How to start off the call
Introduce yourself and your company. Drop big names of clients you have worked with before to establish credibility. And above all else, sound confident and as if you know what you’re doing.
2. Before you walk them through your presentation
Before you jump into the pitch, you need to find out what they want and need. I always start with the following question:
Before we get started, I’d like to find out more about your online digital goals. I’ve looked through your store and noticed that you’re using A, B, and C. What social media goals to you have in the next 6-12 months?
There answer will tell me exactly how to tailor my pitch.
3. The pitch
Practice, practice, and practice some more with your founders. If you’ve practiced enough, then your pitch should go very smoothly and you’ll sound very confident the entire way. People make emotional decisions, so the potential client needs to feel that they can trust you with their money.
4. How to close the deal
Allow the potential client to ask you questions and make sure that you have awesome answers. Once the potential client is done with all of his questions, end with the following:
David, now that I know more about your goals and I’ve explained how the Viralogy platform will help you hit those goals, this social campaign just makes sense to me. What do you think?
That’s it. Wait to hear what he has to say and respond accordingly. Remember, your goal is to get to the next meeting, and not to get them to sign right then and there.
If the potential client wants to talk it over with his team before he makes a decision, ask him when is a great time for you to present to his entire team.
If the potential client wants to think it over for a while, set up a call with him next week with an exact date and time.
Don’t hang up the phone without having the next meeting established.
Always learning and iterating
I’m still in the early stages of sales. I’m constantly learning from my mistakes and trying to get better with each potential client that I call. This post summarizes what I’ve learned in the past month of cold-calling.
If you have any questions about cold-calling or tips of your own, please leave them in the comment section.
Lets sell our products together!!!