Recently, yet another stacked panel shared their expertise on how to increase sales with startups at Catapult Chicago working to scale up. The conversation included how to:

  • Find the decision maker quickly by building relationships from the top-down and bottom-up
  • Navigate procurement and deal with ridged budget and billing cycles
  • Work with IT departments to find the sweet spot between customized and standardized options

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The panelists each provided a very different perspective on how to: 1) position your service or product, 2) listen to your customers, 3) prioritize potential buyers, and 4) keep it genuine:

1) Positioning: How transformational are you willing to be?

Are you servicing demand that already exists, or are you creating new demand? If the line item for your product or service already exists—and you can do it better, faster, and cheaper—there’s a clear cut sales process. If it doesn’t, you’ve got to do more invasive surgery to determine a potential buyer’s needs. You also have to tell a compelling, carefully researched story about how and why they need you.

One option is to break up your product into manageable chunks that are immediately understandable to potential clients and customers. If you get a lot of positive feedback at a sales meeting, but a potential client can’t put your service on a conveyer belt immediately, then the show’s over.

Once your foot is in the door, you can transition from a preexisting line item to the brand new, innovative, disruptive service you wanted to sell in the first place.

2) Listening: Do you do it enough?

Probably not. Listen to your customers. If they tell you a feature you’re really excited about is no good, move on. That’s it. Just do it.

3) Picking Buyers: “Dogs and cats living together—mass hysteria!”

Do your homework. You don’t know a thing about how to increase sales to big companies if you don’t carefully research the companies you’re selling to first. Before approaching a potential buyer, figure out what tools they already have at their disposal, and how your tool fits into their tool belt.

Select your customers even more carefully than they select you because your first crop of customers will shape who you become. If your customers aren’t shaping your product the way you want it to be, you won’t ever end up with the company you wanted to build.

4) Be Genuine

You will get asked over and over about your ROI. But, if you are truly ahead of the power curve, an effective response is, “What’s the risk of ignoring this opportunity?” Remember, CFOs kicked and screamed when social media first started stealing dollars from print and TV.

Sales is a human thing. Be at the forefront of people’s minds. Your champion at a potential buyer meeting may have a single hour with his or her CEO later that day. Is your company talked about 1st or 5th?

Someone must manage the sales process, otherwise you’ll just have a series of “good” meetings and never actually go anywhere. This is a mistake a lot of founders make. Sales is actually what happens between meetings.

Remember, in tech especially, you can’t always have the fastest gun. But you can have the most steadfast relationship.