Founder-led selling at early-stage B2B startups is quite different than say ‘professional selling’ in the IT industry. I gave this talk in 2016 to highlight entrepreneurial skills that can help land the first few customers. Starting with PoCs and pilots, entrepreneurs can work their way towards a first commercial deal with a large company.Entrepreneurial-Skills-Selling-B2B-Technology-Products
I spent a fair amount of time persuading founders that they are already good at ‘sales’ even though they themselves may not realize this. After all, they convinced their spouses, friends, angel investors, early employees, families, etc. to join them on their entrepreneurial journey! I then discussed what B2B sales entail, how to build the BD team, and the importance of ‘sales readiness’. We explored how to use psychology to influence early customers and partners.
Selling to businesses is characterized by long sales cycles and multiple rounds of discussions. Founders can hack this process by understanding how and why purchase decisions are made. Features and pricing are rarely the main decision factors in B2B sales. Instead, relationships, trust, and confidence in the provision of maintenance and support may play a larger role.
Entrepreneurial skills are a combination of art and science. The best means to gain them is through practice – the next best is to study successful founders. Thus, first-time entrepreneurs should take the time to learn about companies that have succeeded in their industry. Moreover, they should also evaluate the ones who failed and the factors that caused these failures. The ability to hustle and play the ‘numbers game’ is equally vital to entrepreneurial selling. Founders must become comfortable with hearing innumerable ‘no’s from potential customers before the first ‘yes’. Persistent follow-ups with customers and partners can mark the difference between a high-growth startup and a failed venture. Finally, entrepreneurs must consider regional and socio-cultural factors in business negotiations. Confrontational or direct approaches are better suited to some countries. On the other hand, collaborative ones stand a better chance in others.