This guest post is written by David Clayton, Director at the business development and sales consultancy True&North. Prior to True&North David worked in various business development and sales roles at the Guardian, launching the Apps Blog, Guardian hacks SXSW and the Guardian Media Academy. Having delivered a well-received Seedcamp masterclass in B2B sales techniques, David here explains how startups can effectively sell to large risk-averse companies.
Up until now you’ve been focused on impressing investors – and you’ve done something right because you’ve raised funds for your business. It would be tempting to assume that a version of the pitch that got investors excited will work for customers – bad idea.
The pitch and positioning that helped you raise funds, showed somebody inherently comfortable with risk that you were worth a punt. A customer buys something because they need or want it. They’re not taking a bet and they’re not comfortable with risk.
Think about the things that play into the buying decision for you. After all, you’ve bought an awful lot of stuff in your lifetime. Ever bought something of real personal value, like an engagement ring? Or something really expensive, like a house? How did you feel just before you said yes and paid for the ring or signed the documents for your new home?
If you’re like most buyers, the closer you got to signing on the dotted line the more important your risk became. Not “Will it solve my problem?” – if you’re this far along you’re happy with that. Not “Can I get it or something similar cheaper?” – if you’re this far along you’re also comfortable enough with the price (even if it feels expensive). Your prime thought and/or feeling is, “What could go wrong?”
So put yourselves in the shoes of your prospect – the person at Deep Pockets Inc. you’re pitching to – who is seeing you because you’re supposedly disrupting ‘blah blah blah’.
Let’s assume you’ve got across the first couple of hurdles; the prospect thinks you know your stuff, that your product or service will fit with their strategy and it will deliver on their objective (you’re doing better than most to get this far).
As the prospect gets closer to short-listing or buying from you, all they will be thinking and/or feeling is risk…
What will this mean for my workload?
Sally Burtt-Jones, associate at True&North, often talks in our workshops about how many prospects just want to get home for EastEnders. That is pretty apt in many cases. So it is on you to identify if you’re dealing with this kind of person or someone more ambitious who is all about the job.
We’ve never bought from these guys before. Even if sticking with Big Silly Inc. is more expensive and the solution is less of a fit, no one here ever got fired for buying from Big Silly Inc.
This is different and new… If I do what I did last year I know what I’m safe.
What will my boss say if this is difficult / doesn’t work as planned? How will it look to my colleagues?
If we implement this, James in IT will have to approve it and lead on it, I don’t like James and that will be painful for me.
Really empathise; really put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. Are you telling me there is stuff you want to buy but haven’t because it will cause friction with your husband / wife / BF / GF? Of course – it plays out just the same between all humans who need consensus on a decision and implementation.
“They’re a small company, will they still be around next week?”
As a startup you are inherently a risky propositions, so address this issue head on.
“These guys were 10 minutes late, will they really deliver”
Sad to say that many startups I’ve come across seem to forget basic rules of business, like be on time.
“Does the potential upside warrant me putting my neck on the line?”
The question that sums it all up, Is it worth the bother?
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr
You know that risk is a concern for anyone buying anything of value. You know that as a new company a prospect will perceive you as more risky than incumbents – so be courageous and tackle risk head on.
Assertively control the conversation around perceived weaknesses, to prevent objections through preparation rather than be on the back foot responding to objections, or worse just leaving it all unsaid.
With your product you no doubt iterate based on user behaviour; a sales pitch is just the same. You pitch, some things work, some things don’t. Learn from the last pitch and reiterate. If an objection came up last time, build a response into your pitch that will reassure your prospect.
If you are going to meetings and having “nice” conversations and people would like “the information” and will be “in touch”, the only person you are kidding is yourself.
Charlie Wilkie, SVP Sponsorship at The Guardian, talks about asking the uncomfortable questions. If all the questions in your last sales pitch were easy to ask chances are you’re not doing your job.
The only way you will consistently complete the sale is to continue working hard after the prospect has said your product is interesting and could be a good fit. This is the point many sales interactions end. The sales person is so happy to have heard the good news, they stop just when they should be getting started.
Here are 3 simple steps to take a prospect through at this stage:
If that’s too much to remember just empathise with your prospect. Go back to when you bought your home, engagement ring or equivalent. The risk you felt just before the purchase didn’t go away when you completed the purchase, it carried on until your proposal was accepted or you moved in to your new house and evaluated your choices.
Ultimately a good sale requires informed, confident buyers and it is on you to create them.
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Twice a year we jump on a plane with a dozen of our startups and head to the US to introduce them to some of the world’s most prestigious companies and investors. During the 2 weeks that we’re there we travel to New York, Boston, San Francisco and the Valley. But as with all things, there’s a bit more to it than meets the eye – it’s not a sight-seeing tour! So lets take a look at what really goes on during Seedcamp’s US Trip and why so many of our startups find the experience invaluable.
Simply put, the US market is huge and presents an attractive next step for many European startups. In addition to its 300 million consumers the US is home to many of the world’s largest companies and investors. Within our network we’re proud to name companies such as Dropbox, Google, Square and Stripe in addition to tier-1 investors such as Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners. Our US Trip is an opportunity for our startups to visit all of these companies (and many more) to hear from experts and pitch their startups. Because all the stops are with people at the top of their game, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn from the best.
Some of our startups may be raising rounds and for them it’s a great opportunity to pitch and extend their investor network. But for others its about networking and learning from the best in the industry.
Breakfast meetings, networking events and dinners are all part of the experience. We give our startups maximum exposure to our network, so it’s a great time to connect, discuss and form relationships outside of an office environment. It’s a pretty intense week so there isn’t a lot of room for sight-seeing, but we try to grab the occasional visit to a famous landmark!
We invite Seedcamp startups who are at the right stage to consider expanding into the US or who are looking to raise a new round of funding. These startups will most likely have joined us through one of our quarterly Seedcamp Week events in London or Berlin.
It’s time to follow up those leads! We encourage startups to follow up with companies and investors as soon as possible, preferably immediately after a meeting; but in any case, once the trip has ended the dialogue continues and we do our best to facilitate those discussions when appropriate. We cover the US Trip live on Twitter so follow the action. You can also view photos from previous US Trips on our Flickr page.
This guest post is written by Will Critchlow, Founder and CEO of Distilled; an award-winning online marketing agency. Will has consulted on digital strategy for some of the world’s most influential companies and believes tomorrow’s biggest brands will be built online. Will recently came in to lead a masterclass focusing on results-driven digital marketing. This article follows on from that session, focusing on how optimising a website’s conversion rate can be like a superpower.
Setting up an effective website is tough. It takes time to figure out what works, and you quickly lose an outside perspective on how your customers experience each page.
However, it’s worth the battle. Having a higher conversion rate than your competitors isn’t just useful, it’s pretty much a superpower.
Achieving a higher conversion rate is particularly important to startups as it not only brings the obvious benefits of more customers or sign-ups for any given level of website traffic, but less obviously it also:
Sounds pretty good, right? Welcome to the world of conversion rate optimisation (CRO).
CRO is, essentially, about getting more people doing what you want on your website. Ask yourself: for every 100 people who visit, how many people do you convert? Now, how many people could you convert? (The ‘conversion’ may be a sale, someone downloading a guide, or whatever it is that defines success in your business.)
So let’s delve into the ‘how’. A senior member of the Distilled team, Paddy Moogan, outlines a five-step process:
There are certain key areas to look at here, which can roughly be broken down as follows:
After gathering the above information, it’s time to work out what to test. You need to come up with specific hypotheses, based on your research. For example, if your research indicated that customers like your money-back guarantee, you could make this selling point more prominent on your product page to see if a higher number of people start the checkout process.
You also need to pin down who you’re testing – what types of customers – and which web pages.
If you need sign-off on your tests, it’s time to start showing exactly what they’ll look like. Good wireframing tools include Balsamiq and Mockingbird.
At Distilled we use Optimizely to run split tests, redirecting a proportion of traffic to the test pages. Whatever you use, remember to test your new designs across various browsers as you don’t want to distort your tests by having broken pages on some platforms.
Were your hypotheses correct? Before you can answer this question, you need to make sure you’ve reached statistical significance, ie. you have enough information available to form a reliable conclusion. To get more in depth on this, check out this article.
If your hypotheses were wrong, it’s a case of returning to your research stage to dig a little deeper into what’s preventing or discouraging people from converting. None of your previous tests have been a waste – it’s all about building up an understanding of the process and this inevitably involves some leg work.
Soon enough, however, you’ll start figuring out the weaknesses of your website. It’s then immensely satisfying to remove the bumps in the process and see the conversions speed up.
And once you’ve got your CRO superpower? You can watch your company fly.
I hope you found this post useful. To get more in depth on CRO, check out Paddy’s Moz article on the topic. He also penned a chapter for this ebook on conversions by Yottaa.
This guest post is written by Ken Valledy, CEO of Tech2brand. Up until December 2013, Ken worked for Anheuser-Busch Inbev, where he held numerous senior Marketing positions including UK Brand Director for Beck’s Beer and Consumer Connections (Digital) Director for Western Europe. This article was first featured on Tech2Brand.
Assistant Brand Manager, Brand Manager, Senior Brand Manager, Marketing Manager, Brand Director, Marketing Director – lots of titles, but who really holds the keys to the Marketing purse when it comes to new start-up tech innovation?
That is the question I have been asked quite a few times recently. Obviously, there isn’t one answer that fits all companies, but I will attempt to provide my angle on this question.
Many many years ago, I was a Brand Manager for CastlemaineXXXX – a great brand (at the time) and a great title. In the eyes of a layman, I was the ‘manager’ in charge of the brand (as the title would suggest). In reality, I was responsible for some brand projects & campaigns and I generally ‘got things done’. However, when it came to more strategic decisions, that was the responsibility of the Senior Brand Manager or the Marketing Manager – they were the real ‘managers’ of the brand.
In the cold light of day, Brand Managers do not (generally) make the big decisions involving brand strategy, they execute the day to day campaign tasks, but they are not accountable for delivering the brand strategy in it’s entirety. Subsequently, they don’t have the authority to move brand budgets around. They may control a budget for a certain project, but if a new opportunity (eg. a new piece of start-up tech) comes along and requires some budget allocation, the Senior Brand Manager or Marketing Manager will usually sign this off.
So who really does what? Please find below a ‘whistle-stop’ overview of the numerous roles within a Marketing team:
Assistant Brand Manager: the first rung of the Marketing career ladder. This role is all about learning the ropes and assisting in delivering smaller / tactic projects. Budget scope: minimal
Brand Manager: responsible for executing tactical projects and campaigns. Budget scope: responsible for small campaign budgets.
Senior Brand Manager: responsible for key brand campaigns and assists in strategic direction of the brand. Budget Scope: responsible for sizable budgets for key campaigns
Marketing Manager: responsible for delivery of the brand strategy across all campaigns. Budget Scope: accountable for the optimal allocation of the total brand budget.
Brand Director / Marketing Director: sets strategic direction for the brand and ensures that wider business is aligned. Budget Scope: technically accountable for the total Marketing budget, but execution of budgets lies with the Marketing Manager and the wider brand team.
In terms of who is the best person to release budget for new start-up tech innovation, the ‘sweet spot is the Marketing Manager or the ‘Senior Brand Manager’. They are the real ‘gate keepers’ of the brand budget – they will decide whether budget should or could be allocated to support a new piece of start-up tech innovation.
In contrast, if you are in front of a Brand Director or Marketing Director, you may have gone in too high – they themselves could just refer you to their 2nd in command – the ‘Marketing Manager’, for the final assessment of the opportunity and the final decision?
This obviously isn’t a definitive description of the many different positions within a Marketing team, it is just a ‘heads up’ that some times titles can be misleading. Obviously, you can’t pick who you pitch your new start-up tech innovation to and you can only present to who is in the room – however, just be aware that, when it comes to managing the brand budgets, Brand Managers aren’t always the Brand Managers.
Next week we hit the road for our US Trip Fall 2014! Keep an eye on the blog as we’ll soon post more about why we’re going, where are we stopping & what’s the agenda.
In the meantime, here are the teams attending the Seedcamp US Trip Fall 2014:
We’re incredibly excited to welcome Dave Haynes to our team. He’ll be taking on a Business Development role as well as heading up Academy and Seedhack. Dave joins us from Makeshift and was an early hire at SoundCloud, making him ideally placed to help our startups grow and prosper.
Introduce yourself in a 40-word elevator pitch
With an entrepreneurial background in the music/tech industry, I now love helping startups. I was part of the early team at SoundCloud and created events such as MusicHackDay. Most recently I was at Makeshift helping grow multiple products into startups.
What are you most looking forward to in your role at Seedcamp?
There’s almost too many things to mention. But ultimately I love connecting people and ideas to make bigger, better or more magical things happen. I also think people do their best work when they’re passionate about what they’re doing and are surrounded by good people. I’ve only been here a few days, but it feels like this is the case at Seedcamp.
When not working, what are you most likely to be doing?
Well, I have a young family with two boys (aged 2 and 6), so I try and spend as much time as possible with them and my wife. This means I probably play way too much Lego and Minecraft for a 34-yr old. But I like to travel too and recently setup a semi-regular trip called Planned Outage with my friend @stef. We curate a group of like-minded entrepreneurial/creative folk and disappear off the grid for a few days to recharge the batteries and come back feeling fresh. The first trip saw us kayaking in the Norwegian fjords, it was breathtaking.
Who was your childhood hero?
That’s a tough one. A lot of my early heroes were musicians. As a young kid that meant listening to whatever my parents were playing in the car. But in my teens I religiously followed artists and DJ’s like Gilles Peterson, Coldcut, James Lavelle and Goldie. I was always obsessed with the latest and newest music and secretly spent all my school dinner money on vinyl! In the end, our local record store closed down, so my brother and I setup our own and a record label as well, which meant I could work with and meet many of those heroes later in life.
What’s your specialist subject outside of work?
Well, after five intense years at a fast-growing startup like SoundCloud, I realised that I needed to restore my health a little and found a sanctuary in running. Just eighteen months ago, I was terribly out of shape and wouldn’t even run for a train, but recently I completed my second half-marathon and am totally obsessed. I’m not sure I’d call myself a specialist though, I still need to get a lot faster.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a startup?
It sounds obvious but I think a lot of startup teams don’t quite appreciate how much work it takes. It’s a real journey, so if you’re just starting out then make sure that both yourself and your co-founder are committed to this for the long-haul. Startup isn’t just a lifestyle or something that you plan to flip in 18 months. It can be of course, but it turns out best when you’re commited to changing something in the world or solving a real problem that you’re determined to fix. But remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint, so equip yourself for the long-haul.
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