Selling is something very hard for most developers. We spend most of our time behind a computer and talk mainly with people from our field. Reaching unknown people with a different job and convince them to buy a product is not natural to us.
In our day to day, knowing to sell is not really useful. But with the rise of the Indie Hacker movement, more and more developers build their product and sell it by themselves. Sales skills which were not useful until there become predominant.
A good product and strong marketing can be enough. But if you evolve in the B2B field and sell complex tools, you will have to rely on sales to grow your business significantly.
Selling can be scary because we imagine that it requires to be charismatic, charming and good at influencing people. Of course, that kind of personality is better for doing sales. But, it is useful for only a part of the whole process. The rest can be systematized. Something we are good at as engineers.
In this blog post we will review the basics you need to have a decent sales level. It will allow you to convince people to buy your product without doing great during meetings. By applying them, me and my business partner were able to convince 20 studios in 6 months to use our solution at CGWire with no experience in Sales.
NB: We assume here that you have a good product, that you are proud of it and know which market you target.
The first step towards better Sales skills is to improve your overall behavior when dealing with customers. You have to adopt a particular mindset that will convey good feelings:
- Be very confident about your product.
- Be very confident about the team behind your product.
- Be very confident about your pricing.
- Be fit and always feel energized.
- Have a strong will to close your sales.
- Think more about proposing a solution to a problem than getting money from your customer.
- See you as someone who helps others with his product.
Adopting the right mindset will make you more positive during your interactions and will make you stronger when facing objections.
Like any fields, Sales requires preparation. Preparation is boring because it doesn't provide immediate results. But the information you get from it will make you more confident and accurate during the meetings. You will be more credible during the discussions too. In the following, we are going to list the routine you should have to be well prepared.
- Identify your potential leads: you have to know who can be interested in your product and how to contact them.
- Qualify your leads: geography, size, income, running projects are all information that will help you to propose the right solution.
- Draw the traditional organigram of your audience: it will help you to understand who takes the decision and who is an influencer.
- Know the timeline of your audience projects: depending on their project stage, people are more or less open to buy a new solution.
Product and process
- Know the product you are selling.
- Know your competition: customers will compare what you do to similar products. You must be able to position your product towards the competitor.
- Describe your Sales process:
- Know what is your next move for each stage of the sale.
- Set time frames to perform your followup.
- It's mandatory to have a CRM tool. It will allow you to:
- Note every information you collect during the meetings.
- Store the status of all your leads.
- Store the contact information of everyone involved in the buying decision.
- Have a good videoconference setup. Online meetings are less efficient but it will save you tons of time compared to physical meetings.
- The offer must be very clear and shared by the whole company.
- You need several tiers to adapt to the company size.
- Temporary discounts are useful to close faster.
- Options are great for up sales.
- Propose training and services (integration, custom features)
You will probably have to include people from your team in the Sales process. Keep them informed of your progress and give them all the data needed for the meeting.
Customers sometimes like to see who is building the product. Introducing your engineers builds trust, so make sure they will do a good performance. And when you bring them to the meeting don't try to look smarter than them about their field. It will just make you look arrogant and convey the idea that your team does not good. Show that you like to work together and that you are complementary.
- Write a demo scenario showing the main benefits of the solution.
- Learn it by heart.
- Iterate on it after doing several meeting.
- Try to identify the Aha moment, the feature that makes them understand that your solution is good for them.
Now that you are ready, it's time to reach your leads. We don't like to use our phone but it's still a very efficient way to contact your potential customers. It allows you to better understand the needs of your contact.
Your first goal is to obtain a meeting with the decision maker, for that
briefly introduce the main benefits of the solution and explain why you are doing this project and why it matters for you. They would be more likely to talk with someone who has a real project in mind than to a simple seller. Once you explained who you are you can start the meeting or set one with several people.
Calling is the opportunity too to understand the needs of your contact at the personal level. Your features are only a part of what they are looking for. As developers, we think that they want more efficient tools to boost their productivity. But, sometimes, it's just that someone asks them to get rid of the previous solution, that they want to have fun with a new tool, they want to please someone or that they want to look smart at their next meeting.
Another thing that calls procure is that you can meet many people one by one from the same company. It's the opportunity to understand who is doing what. Knowing who is the one who decides, who is the one who gives the technical agreement, who is the one who will perform the payment allows you to make sure that the information is well spread inside the company. And in the end it will help to fasten the deal.
Call are great because it gives you the opportunity to have one-to-one meeting with people. By having a direct conversation and knowing better the context of your leads, you will be able to propose the right answers to their concerns when the big meeting will come.
In most cases, customers want to organise a physical meeting. During that time they can judge if the will be able to work with you and if your solution is satisfying. Meetings can happen online or at the customer place. Most of the time, the customer wants to see a demo and he will invite you and several other people from his company to discuss around your solution.
They don't know well your product and why they need it. The result is that they want to rush to the demo. But, the first part of the meeting must be dedicated to customer discovery. Think about a window seller. A customer calls for a new window by giving a vague description of what he wants. How the salesman can propose something valuable without seeing the window to change, knowing the materials required, having the measurements? It's impossible and it's the same for you. Even if you qualified your lead before, you have to understand their situation and their context to propose them the right offer.
And you have to do even more than that. You have to show them how their current situation is wrong. Show them the weak points and quantify their loss. It will help them to understand that they need your solution. They are not always really aware that they lose a lot of time by using the wrong product. Talk about the problem, understand it and clarify its consequences.
NB: SPIN Selling, one of the reference book for Sales say that it is the most important part. To be honest, to me it's the hardest stage to run.
Then you can run the demo. It must be informative and be the opportunity too to show your references. Go slowly and comment on everything you do. Try to follow a script involving persona and real data.
Explain how a competitor solved a specific problem with a given feature. Show them that you built the software with people from the industry. Social proof is a strong selling point. Because you are an engineer, people won't trust you as someone being able to choose the right features, except if you designed them with someone of their field.
If you have a good demo, you will notice too that there is an "Aha" moment where the customer understands the whole benefit of the solution. Make sure to always reach that moment once you identify it.
Once you understood their situation, show them your product and how well you worked with your other customers, it's time to conclude.
At the end of the demo, the customer will ask for the pricing. At that time, make a recap of the context and gives an offer (the more precise the better). At this point, the conversation should reach its end.
It's time for the next step: proposing a trial version and sending a quote. Set a date for a next meeting or call to discuss the trial and/or the quote. It's important to frame the discussion in terms of time and sales.
If they refuse your trial, your quote or a future meeting, consider it as a no. And try to understand the reason behind it. It will help you with your follow-up. Getting a no is not a problem but the reason behind it must be clearly stated.
- Listen more than you speak, you are here to help not to show how good you are.
- You are here to provide solutions: your software is going to help them and your processes are flexible enough to fit in with the client processes.
- Stay positive and don't talk about your software limitations.
- Avoid or shorten discussions on details that your product don't cover.
- Focus on what the product brings, not what is missing to make it perfect.
The closing is made of three parts:
- The acknowledgment of the customer
- The amount and related discounts
- The payment date
Closing happens mostly outside of the meeting. Once the quote is sent, wait a few more days and it's time to call to know if it's ok to go further. If they are ok, that's great news, but it's not finished.
Even if you have their agreement, customers will negotiate on the price and the payment date. It's going to be hard for you to keep your rates. Try to not lower down your prices and propose extra stuff (like free months) instead of giving discounts.
For the payment, it's better to make sure it comes quickly. Because if it takes too long, some people in the company could change their mind. Worst , you won't be able to deploy your solution until you have the payment. Which can be annoying for the product team. Sometimes, the client has a hard schedule constraint and cannot pay you right now. In that case, be flexible. You have to bring solutions for the payment too.
Closing can be scary but it's better for everyone that you state it clearly. Unending dicussions are time consuming and won't give a good image of your company.
Follow up every customer and lead regularly. You need to know if your customers are satisfied with your products and what is their current situation.
For every lead you met, it's good to give them a call or email them every six months. You have to show them what's new on your side and you have to understand know how things evolved for them. Make sure that all your call brings them new information about your product and your company. You have to be identified as someone who brings value not someone who desperately push products.
As said earlier, social proof is an essential part of the sales. People trust companies recommended by their friends. Early sales happen mostly through the network. So nurture it and make sure that everyone who likes your product has the right information to promote it. Your early adopters can sometimes be your best salesmen!
Overall, Sales requires to be rigorous. This is the reason why it's accessible by engineers. If you collect the required information, prepare yourself properly, follow the right process, it should work in the end. No need to have strong charisma or influence.
That said, at some point, you will figure out that it's not enough, that you need to go further. Some accounts are very hard to convince and doing all the preps requires a lot of work. Negotiating deals requires energy and dedication.
So, if you want to grow faster, you should seriously consider hiring a salesman. It's great to handle things by yourself but sales is a job that requires a lot of practice to be totally efficient. If you can't be dedicated fully to it, you need someone who can focus on it. He will have more time and expertise, which will lead you to many new customers!
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash