Business Development tips for Startups

A practical DO’S and DONT’S guide to grow sales for your Tech

Are you launching your new tech solution to the market? You need to validate your product-market fit or convert initial PoC into a recurring business? These Business Development tips for Startups are for you! It is not just about winning new customers. It is about gathering specific market intelligence for your tech. To improve your product features, validate your pricing model, launch new services, build channels, hire a sales team, etc. Check out these dos and don’ts of successful Business Development for B2B Tech Startups.

Business development is rarely, if ever, the solution to succeeding in a crowded industry, differentiating an offering or delivering a truly exceptional customer experience. But standing up an effective BD operation that brings in sustainable revenue and helps validate product-market fit can be the difference between survival and failure for a startup.

Mike Ghaffary, General Partner, Canvas Venture in TechCrunch

Are you sales ready?

#1 What is your Sales Story?

A great Sales Story forces you to identify initial target market(s), articulate specific client issues, unique value proposition, and package your offerings. Your Sales Story provides you with key talking points you need in various Sales situations, including calls, emails, proposals, etc. Have your plot as ready as a teaser while offering your product.

#2 Who is in Sales? Everyone!

Make Sales a CEO job priority, whether working with internal or external business development resources. The CEO as a Salesman is often the best option during the Prototype-to-Product phase. While hiring Sales Development Representative (SDR) or Key Account Managers (KAM), Founder(s) stay immersed in both market reality and product development – check out our post The Customer is back.

#3 What is your Sales goal?

We receive a lot of requests about Business Development from Startups. First step is to understand what you need. Do you have a Minimum Viable Product? Do you aim to generate early Proof Of Concept to show your technology? Are you looking to convert pilot customers into recurring revenues? You should tune your Business Development approach to meet these goals and be ready to say no to some potential customers.

#4 Where should you be selling?

Your Business development process needs to be scalable and affordable to match market structure. You will start with Direct Sales to generate valuable use cases. However, you will also need indirect channels to tackle a more fragmented market. Don’t be afraid to blend key account, online, marketplace and integrators. Be prepared to show obvious proof of Market to channel partners. 

#5 Are you all ready to execute?

Whether you are a Hardware vs. Software provider, it is critical to be prepared to engage resources to make Business Development a key to your startup growth. Get your technology to a market-ready level to approach Early Adopters and get first sales. Ask yourself: Do I have a workable prototype or am I still at a pretotype? How many demo kits will we need? Are your Engineering and Customer Success teams – big or small – ready to tackle customer requests? 

#6 CRM for customer data?

Keep it simple! Many Startups implement a CRM too early and are not using it. An excel tracker or a Trello Board is great to start prospecting; just prepare to introduce more advanced (free) software to secure team coordination such as Hubspot, Pipedrive, Zoho CRM, Mailchimp or Salesforce. Remember, it is not about the tool, but what you do with it!

#7 Secure Market Intelligence like a PRO

Successful Tech Startups learn from Business Development activities and customer interaction to validate valuable features. Skip endless internal meetings and have a direct talk with your prospects! This market intelligence will guide your Business Plan, product development roadmap and market understanding to talk to Venture Capitalists and kick-start customer acquisition.  

__________

Mind the Sales Gap!

Procrastinating… Delaying your market outreach

The overwhelming number 1 reason startups fail is the lack of market need. While getting to market too early can be a challenge, waiting too long to access target customers can become a genuine issue, particularly as you develop breakthrough technology. See some example how to tackle the market early.

Proof-of-Concept is not a Business

Do you suffer from very low Demo Pilot to recurring sales conversion? Do you spend more time applying to “Accelerator Programs” than talking with potential prospects? Selling Demo kits is not a goal; often Entrepreneurs rush to propose a free or paid demonstration kit. The Demo Kit is a valuable asset which you should use to confirm your value proposition and your pricing model. See this great SIFTED article.

“Presenting” is not “selling”

Do you have a great sales presentation ready? Have you fully rehearsed? WAIT! By sales law, a first meeting cannot be a presentation. Ever! Even when asked to do a presentation, turn it into a dialogue by asking questions throughout the meeting, but especially in the beginning. Just because you can build a slick PowerPoint presentation doesn’t mean you should.

Mike Weinberg, New Sales Simplified

Rush through the Price discussion

Many times, it will tempt you to rush to discuss the price “to ensure there is a readiness to pay”. Make sure the value of what you are providing is clear before proactively engaging in the price discussion. When the time is right, prepare to address proactively the budget, purchasing decision making and more. Check out Any Bounds Teaser Video on How to deal with the price objection and Sparksense Value Based Pricing model.

Accelerators & Startup events hopping

Choose between HAX, Station F, Hello Tomorrow, Kickstart Accelerator, ESA BIC, CERN BIC, Y Combinator, 500.co, Techstars, Plug & Play, Startup Grind, SLUSH, CES? These Events or accelerators are a huge time investment. Find out from prior participants how many pilots or Proof Of Concepts turned into recurring business? What did they get out of it? This will help you implement these Business Development tips for startups, and avoid the event trap. Check out our Post on the right events for Startups.

Over-staffing too early

Attitude beats Experience – beyond relevant Tech knowledge, look for communication, great listening skills and resilience in your team. Experienced Sales, practiced with Account Management, may find it difficult to engage with account discovery. It is crucial to stay flexible and adjust to promising applications and changing market opportunities. Look to blend internal and external resources to minimize cash burn and protect your runway while building revenues.

READY TO EXECUTE THESE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT TIPS FOR YOUR STARTUP?

Start with a general overview of Sales by Hubspot and Business Development for Startups by Startup Grind. Or with this article by Steve Sanger on Life in Business Development at a Startup.

Then you get a complete Playbook of Business Development methods & attitude of New Sales Simplified book by Mike Weinberg!

Eager for tactical recommendations? great examples of Business Development? Seth Godin wrote a Post a few years ago. Or keen to move away from Proof of Concept to a sustainable business? Check-out these Lessons on Sifted from Ernit – Innovation Theatre killed my company.

Last, is commercial traction key to speed up your fundraising? Check out this Forbes article on How To Create A Great Investor Pitch Deck For Startups Seeking Financing .

We launched sparksense back in 2017 to contribute our experience, energy and drive to bring innovative solutions from Tech to Market. Let us know how you could implement these Business Development Tips for Startups to speed up your business growth. Get in touch!