GENERAL PARTNER AT ACCELEPRISE
How PMs Can Use the Sales Method to Scale B2B Revenue
Whitney Sales: Hi everyone. Uh, my name is Whitney Sales. I am, I am general partner. Uh, and uh, I lead our San Francisco office at Acceleprise. Uh, we're a B to B soft accelerator. We specifically focus on early stage go to market. So a little bit about me and my background. I, it's been great actually. I've seen a bunch of familiar faces here. You guys are focused on B2B SaaS. That's pretty awesome. Um, I've worked in early stage BDB fast my entire career. So, uh, I've managed pretty much every single end of the funnel. I have been the first sales person at organizations. I have worked with founders directly and taking a product to market. And I've also built teams, uh, and touch just about every stage. Uh, the, I've been through four acquisitions, one IPO, I've developed a methodology called the sales method that specifically focuses on early stage selling.
Whitney Sales: Uh, this is one part of a three part talk. So, um, will you guys find it valuable, uh, almost kind of dive in from here. So the point of this talk specifically to look at in your early stage, go to market, focusing on the customers that are most like most likely to buy your product and how do you actually find them and then, and then selling to them and focusing there. So how many of you are familiar with the law of diffusion of innovation? A couple of you. Okay. So it's a methodology by Jeffrey Moore that basically looks at how new products are adopted within markets. So essentially it looks at, there's a lot of different ways you can look at buyer personas. There's a readiness to buy, there's challenger sales such as, um, you know, there's teacher mindsets, et cetera. Uh, this is looking at an innovation mindset of your buyer, meaning there's five different stages that a buyer can have around innovation.
Whitney Sales: And this also applies to companies. It can apply to a department and as well as a person. And just because one person has a particular profile doesn't necessarily mean that the organization or the department they're in are gonna have that profile. And what this looks at is in the law of diffusion of innovation, two and a half percent of any given market are considered innovators. These group are the people who typically know the problem that they're trying to solve. Um, and I've already been trying to find a solution. So when they talk to you, they're looking at buy versus build. Uh, when you talk to them, the second group you're going to look at is early adopters. This is kind of your core that you really want to focus on. Cause these are the ones who are trying to stay on top of the new technology within the market and find the companies that are solving it in the best way.
Whitney Sales: So, uh, and they'll typically be the ones who will stand up on the soapbox and talk about you guys. We have one company, uh, in this cohort named tree hopper who's been selling into a larger organization, international organization. They found the head of HR. Uh, and that woman's just like, I really hope you guys are good cause I'm telling everyone about you. Those are the people you're looking for when you're, when you're doing your customer discovery, who are really bought in on the problem you're solving and willing to stand behind you. The next group are your early, these are the people who are actually asking who else is using your product. And I'll talk a little bit about why this is important and understanding these mindsets late majority do something because they have to in order to survive laggards are the people still on flip phones?
Whitney Sales: So, uh, when you look at this, the yellow curve is actually what you guys want to look at in a adoption. Um, because at 16% it's actually considered the tipping point within a given market, 15 to 16%. The problem is most founders when they're actually going after a given market will go after, uh, the total addressable market as opposed to focusing on a a hundred to 200 companies that are most likely to buy their product. And if you look at the 15 to 16% and that tipping point, meaning that your product actually goes viral within a market, if you focus on a group of customers, a hundred to 200 customers, most likely to buy, uh, you really only need to sell the six, you know, 16 to 32 customers versus 160. If you're looking at your total adjustable market, say for example, on the total adjustable market is a thousand. So it's a lot easier to hit that tipping point with an a group and segment and then go on to the next segment of group of buyers that you're actually looking at. Does it make sense? Okay. And there's a theory that Paul Graham has that you only need 10 customers to get to a hundred. It's because each of your individual customers has this spoke of color customers that are watching them around them. So if you find lookalike customers, they'll actually follow. So your early customers for shout out your later customers.
Whitney Sales: So, uh, when you're mapping your early go to market, this is generally the process I look at and I'm going to dive into each of these areas. And this is going to be flushed out in your customer discovery process. So as you guys, as people who are product technical founders are looking and understanding your buyers, you can actually map out the buying process while you're actually figuring out what you need to build. Um, so it's a way of kind of tag teaming your go to market as well as your product development. So a, when you're looking at your early customers, what you're looking at is who are they and how do you actually identify them? So, and it's not just who are they, it's what's your sweet spot within this group? And kind of talk a little bit about that and how to identify those.
Whitney Sales: And then how do you profile them to actually build a list of these, of these target customers. Then you go into positioning. What is it that you actually do in a way that your customer understands and how, why would they actually buy your product? Uh, then you're going into the channels. How do they go about buying your product? How do they learn about new technology? And then finally, pricing, um, Patrick Campbell was in here, so if you guys saw his talk, he's amazing. He comes in and speaks with our, at our accelerator during every program and he's fantastic. So I'm just going to touch on this briefly since you guys already got to talk on it. But, um, so when we look at your sweet spot, again, I was talking about the a hundred to 200 customers that are most likely to buy your product. Uh, there's some really specific characteristics of this group.
Whitney Sales: So the first thing you want to look at when you're looking at your target market of a hundred companies to 200 companies is excess. So meaning can you actually get in front of these people? Are they online and are they easy to access? Um, will they move through a buying process quickly and, uh, in the way that you communicate with them and you need to communicate with them. Uh, I want to use an example, uh, that came actually in this cohort as well. Um, it's company called Dash Systems and they do AI for manufacturing. When we first started working with them, they were looking at targeting the auto industry and pms within the auto industry. They had been people who are looking at the company for four years. He used to work in the space. We understood their problem really, really well and how painful it was.
Whitney Sales: And so he came in, he was actually really frustrated cause he was having a hard time with demand generation. And what we found is there were a couple accounts that are actually moving really quickly and when we dove in deeper, it actually wasn't these, these pms that he was talking to were outside of the auto industry. They were in the food manufacturing industry, same problem, different market. And when he actually focused on the food industry, his pipeline sort of growing 60% month over month, which is the, again, the really important piece around focusing on a target market that you can actually access. And we'll talk a little bit about different channels to figure out how to access them. Oh, excuse me. Oh wait, go back. There we go. Um, the next piece is pain. So when you look at, uh, the pain point, the pain point and problem that you're actually solving for, does this group that you can actually access have the pain.
Whitney Sales: So sometimes people will go after people lower within an organization and not necessarily the decision maker because that lower person understands the problem. What this means is you're not speaking to the problem of the higher level people within the organization. So you need to make sure whoever the people who have the money are also have the pain point you're solving for. Um, and you may end up in a bottom up sell, bottom up sell. But it also means you need to be selling top-down as well. And then finally, money, uh, you need to make sure the person you're talk talking to has the money to actually spend and budget to make the decisions. Because if not, you probably need to pivot and look at maybe another target group or a target profile.
Whitney Sales: Cool. So when we're looking at target companies, uh, and we look at the a hundred to 200 companies that you're actually looking to sell into, uh, it's really important to actually dive in and profile these companies. And again, this is how you can actually build out the list and understand them. So when you go after him, you're really targeted and spending your time effectively. So this should take about a week. Um, and it's a lot of research. So I'm going to kind of talk through each of these pieces. So one you're looking at what market are they in? Um, what profile do they have? So market meaning are they in a particular industry, um, is the Geo location, does that actually matter? UL Matter? That's really important when you're looking at vitality of your product because people in a specific geo location may be more likely to talk to one another, right?
Whitney Sales: At a specific or a specific state. It may be that the group of customers, the a hundred to 200 customers that you're looking at, that you're trying to build vitality across actually, um, talk to one another because they all go to the same conference every year. So it's looking at how these customers group one another and where you can actually find them. You, you might be looking for people who recently or a company that recently did a hire such as a chief innovation officer. One thing that's really interesting to build this list for chief innovation officers, go and plug and play and see who the speakers are, right? Cause that means there's a people who are proactively looking for companies who are, uh, who are innovating in the space so they can bring in new technology, uh, for conference lists. For example, you can actually call up a conference and ask them for a list of attendees from the previous year to see who was on the list.
Whitney Sales: Tell them you're looking to exhibit, you get that list going in Richard somewhere. And then you have a target group of people who all get together on a regular basis. And you can cross reference across other conferences and see who are the people that line up across them. Those are probably your early adopters from a particular group. Just come with some hacks around that. Um, another thing you want to look at is age of an organization. And if you're selling an early stage sass product and it's an older company, um, it hasn't, did you have a tendency to be less innovative and not necessarily adopt new tech? But if you look at you as a tool like built with or Datanyze, um, there's a bunch of tools out there that are free that you can do this. You can do the plugin and actually look at the technology that they have on their site. Look for technology that's under five years old and that's gonna tell you that they're willing to adopt new tech, right? So there's some key indicators that they actually fit the buyer persona and have that psychology of an early adopter. So it's a really good way to actually segment your market and build journey your target buyers. Cool.
Whitney Sales: So now looking at the buyer personas with within your given organizations, again, we built the list of companies, we understand who they are, we understand our talking points around them. Um, we can reference other customers that are like them that we've had conversations with. Um, because we've been really focused now we need to look at the people we need to talk to within those organizations. So we talked a little bit about conference lists. That's one way to build it. Um, but you also, one thing to understand is that titles don't necessarily correlate with responsibilities. So when you look at, uh, the people you're looking at that you want to go after, there's different groups who can be involved in the decision making process within an organization and they may or may not be able to move it throughout. Uh, they might not, may or may not be able to be your champion within that company.
Whitney Sales: Uh, so you need to figure out who is most likely to fit that particular profile. And when you talk to those buyers, you need to be able to flush that out. So we've got our, we've got our target list of companies now we're in our target list of buyers. And in that, that you may be looking at how long they've been at the company. For example, the company Dash that I was talking about, they needed people who had been in an organization more than two years because it took about two years to get up and running and actually be efficient within the company. But they needed someone who'd been there less than six because at six they complacent. And so if you look at that particular profile, it's really, really easy to target those people. The other thing is people who are, have been at a company for about two years, they have a tendency to stick around at the company and past six they kind of go look, like I said, complacent. But they're also people who are bringing new ideas to the table typically and willing to put their reputation on it because the reputation is already established within the company. So that tenure is actually a really important thing to look at. Cool.
Whitney Sales: What you do. Uh, so this is a common problem. I actually see, especially with product technical founders when they're looking to sell into a given market. So each industry and group of customers has a language that they use. So when you're selling, you need to understand how to speak to your buyer in a way that they can actually relate to your product. This is again, another problem with, with spreading yourself too thin as you're going to market. If you don't have a specific group that you're targeting, the language you mute, you may use on your website or in your email marketing may not apply in the same way. And so you have to have multiple messages to hit your buyers. If you focus on a group to start with a hundred to 200 companies, you can figure out how that customer communicates. And then you can take that language, put it on your website, you can take it and put it on your, um, put it in your email content. You know, the customers, other customers you have in use cases to reference that apply to that particular customer. So you really focus on what it is you do and how it applies to your particular customer base. Okay.
Whitney Sales: You guys have any questions so far? Actually love and engaging with the audience throughout my talks. And I'm like getting a lot of nods here, but I'd love to, if you guys have any questions, please let me know and raise your hand. Cool. Features versus benefits. Um, so this is another common problem I actually see when people are going to market is when they talk about their product, they're not actually talking about the benefits and value the customer gets. So when you look at, uh, when you're looking to sell within an organization, again, we talked a little bit about the language, but you also need to understand how the specific features that you're selling benefit the customer that you're selling to. Because the benefits of one specific feature may be different from another company or for another company. So for example, um, I used to work for a company called talent IQ and now people, data labs, great company.
Whitney Sales: Um, and when they were going to market, they had two core customer bases. They were selling into one of them people. Data labs is an API that enriches CRM, marketing automation, a HR tech just to keep the people data up to date. And what they found is when they sold into uh, a, um, a marketing on or city, um, an ATS, an applicant tracking system, and they plugged that data in. The way they were looking to use it was to standardize their data so they could actually start to build analytics on top of their product. But when we talked to hired for example, um, hired was actually looking for it cause they had mobile user base that was a mobile users that were coming through. I needed to enrich the data as they were selling a, as the customers were coming through. So they actually increased their conversion rate on their mobile site by 30% by not having to enter in the information. Totally same exact same products, completely different use cases and completely different value. And if you didn't focus the conversation when you were selling to your customer and knowing how to talk to them and how they were actually gonna use and benefit from the product, you actually can't foe. You can't sell that benefit to them. Does that make sense? Cool.
Whitney Sales: Um, so again, I was just gonna go back real quick. When you're talking about features versus benefits, one of the really good ways to actually flush that out for your customer is ask them how they're using the product and what they, uh, what they're getting out of it. Um, ask them, uh, what value they're receiving and why they actually use it. And it'll start to flush that out in the language that you can communicate it. Same thing goes for what your product does. Ask them how they would describe the product to someone like them and another organization. And then use that exact language. You don't need to come up with the answer. Your customers will just give it to you.
Whitney Sales: Cool. So channels you know who you want to sell to. Now you need to actually identify where they live online. So again, if you focus this, you can actually start to flush out where those conversations exist. So a, the previous speaker was talking about developers. They don't like phone calls. If you talk to an HR sales person, they actually answer their phone. So you could be looking at people in customer support who live on Cora and actually are posting a lot of information on Cora to educate the market. Early adopters have a tendency to live on Twitter and other social media platforms because they're trying to get the word out on new technology that's coming to market. So it's really important to understand where those buyers live. Um, if you're talking to HR, again, sales person, executive vcs, they all live on Linkedin as well cause they're, they're mining information so you can actually flush out that information and see where they're live and then target them there. There's some other really interesting pieces. If you're a B to c company and you're trying to target users who use video, you can go and look at the subscribers on youtube and the people who actually watched that video content and reach out to him directly. So there's really interesting ways you can actually approach your go to market that are unique, um, and different from other companies. If you understand what type of things your customers are engaging in and then go and target those customers and flush them out and engage them. Okay.
Whitney Sales: Now all paths should lead to you guys. So if you know that those customers are living in those places, you need to be on them. You need to, if they're on video, you need to be posting video content. If they're on Cora, you need to be actively responding to them on Quora. You need to be engaging with the content that is of interest and focuses on your specific market. If they're on LinkedIn, you need to be posting actively on LinkedIn. If they're on Twitter, it's a really great way to reach out to people who typically aren't active online. You can directly tweeted them, engage in their content, see what they're talking about, and post content like them and tag them. And so there's really interesting ways you can, uh, you can engage with your users when you understand, again, how, how they're, uh, how they engage in La Online. And then you're talking to them in a way that they actually understand and the way they want to communicate with you.
Whitney Sales: Now, pricing. So again, I talked a little bit about, uh, how, you know, Patrick had given a talk, but for pricing itself, one thing that's really important as an early stage company, uh, before your first hundred customers, maybe even your first 50, your pricing is really in, it's in and of itself like your own product. It's gonna Change. You're gonna change it from customer to customer, your first customer, baby, one third of what you sell your next customer at. And it's the benefit of being an early customer with you. They got a discount because they were willing to take the risk on a new piece of technology. And maybe your product wasn't as built out when you're first selling a into a company, you're not actually trying. And VCs will get really pissed at me for this, but you're not actually trying to maximize the price point you're getting from that particular customer.
Whitney Sales: What you're trying to do is build up your use cases of customers that you can use and reference as you talk to that market that you're going to spread within. That's where you build that spoke. So each one successful use case with a good mid market company you can use to sell into the enterprise companies around it because every enterprise company that you're going to want to sell into is number one, not going to move until they know that they're typically fall into the early majority category and they're likely not gonna move until they know that it's validated with a mid market company. Market companies are really great to sell into because they were once a startup and they're willing to take more risks. So, uh, when you're looking at your pricing models, I'm willing to discount quite a bit for a good mid market company because I know I can get the enterprise company afterwards and the enterprise company is going to shorten their sales cycle by a third because they have fomo about fear of missing out about the new technology because they're in that early majority phase.
Whitney Sales: Right? And you've proven out the use case and that big market company, again, less bureaucracy because they haven't built out their tiers of management. So it's a much faster sale cycle, one to three months typically versus the six months you have for an enterprise. Did you your proof, a proof of concept and they're easier to find. They're usually series B stage companies. So you can just go and scrape Crunchbase, go and look at the series B stage companies that fit into your target segment cause you've already flushed them out. And then you can find the enterprise companies above them and then go after a complimentary segment because a complimentary segment will have it just like it. So, um, coming back to pricing, um, there's three things you want to look at when you're doing pricing. One of them is BD in the ecosystem. So what other technology and the ecosystem is your, um, are your customers using.
Whitney Sales: So I remember I talked about Builtwith and Datanyze and they have plugins that you can actually see what technology being used on a site. If you know a customer is using one technology and you see it consistently across your customer base, that means probably a good technology for you to partner with. Do you need a plugin or do you want to do a develop a, a partnership where you can do cross selling, uh, within the organization, maybe white labeling, if that makes sense. Um, and if you know that, that it fits that specific, um, [inaudible] that those customers also use that product, you need to look at how that product's priced. So for example, if it's per user or per API call, you need to have pricing that correlates and under make sense to your buyer. There's a really great talk by um, put that, uh, Mike Dearing, um, from Harrison Metal on this specific topic, um, is because you can price and position yourself in a higher market if you're partnered with products that are higher end products and you look like them and talk like them and price like them.
Whitney Sales: So, um, how you price yourself is actually how you position yourself in the market as well. So that ecosystem plays really important. The other thing you look at as your competition within the ecosystem, how are they pricing their product? Are they doing something wrong? Are they doing something right in that? And then is it priced in the same way as your pricing your product? Is it higher or lower? Being a low cost leader is never is a race to the bottom. Don't ever do that. Um, what you want to look at is interesting ways to do channel partnerships or position your product. And then if you're missing specific features, are they features that are the enterprise features, are the higher end features so you can actually move up market or are they features for the lower end of the market? The futures were low in the market.
Whitney Sales: You may want to wait, wait a little while to develop those, do your bottoms upsell and broaden book feature developments. You can actually move up market to higher enterprise level customers. Um, and then the final piece of this one is when you're looking at, um, again, when you're looking at your pricing model, look at it like a product. So approach it as a step at a time, um, and understand that it's going to be a moving target. You're never going to get it right the first time. So when you sell your first customer, if they don't give you pushback on pricing, triple it for the next customer and then keep tripling it until you start to get pushed back and then scale it back. It's the same thing for selling. Get aggressive and then realize where you got too aggressive and then scale it back.
Whitney Sales: So again, moving target like its own product. So in summary, I love go to market. I'm, I have basically my early career would skip leave companies to go do this over and over and over again. And now I get to do it everyday. It's a puzzle. It's really, really fun if you look at it that way. And if you look at it like a product itself and each of these things that you're trying to solve for and develop a process around, it's a lot more fun. Um, and as well on this, if you have any questions, this is just one part of a four part or three part talk. So I have a script on how to a, on how to actually structure your sales call. I'm happy to share. Um, I also have the next phase post, um, this initial founder selling and discovery process.
Whitney Sales: So I'm happy to answer questions around that if you're a little bit later stage. Um, here are some resources that I actually think are really great Price Intelligently, which is Patrick's, um, site is really great for pricing. His blog is also really helpful. Um, as you're, as you're developing for entrepreneurs is David Skok's site at which the previous speaker just, uh, just mentioned. It's a really great site for finding research data, et cetera. Um, faster, really great stuff on sales, content comp plans, sales hiring, uh, and then some books. I really like bargaining advantages. One of my favorite negotiation books. There's a really great tip around it around log rolling. Um, sales acceleration formula by rank rubbers, a challenger sale, which is great for profiling buyers if you're in more strategic enterprise sale. Um, it's really important to understand how you need to challenge your buyer's thinking, uh, and that process and then to sell is human. If you guys are not traditional salespeople and get turned off by the idea of selling, it's really important to understand that everyone is selling at some point in time, whether it's a product for money or whether it's an idea you're trying to go after, um, by Daniel Pink. It's really, really great.
Whitney Sales: Any questions? Nope.
Whitney Sales: Okay, cool. Awesome. Thank you guys.
Keep me posted on Empower 2019.