Security · Go to market strategy

Can anyone recommend good sales agents (individuals or companies) that can set up meetings directly with IT decision makers?

Neil King Founder & CEO at Sift Security

April 30th, 2013

I am looking to start selling an early stage (pre-beta) enterprise security software to IT at Fortune 500 companies.  Prior to hiring a sales force, I would like to start by having a sales agency set up 10-20 qualified meetings, where I would act as the salesperson.  

I am also interested to better understand what is an appropriate financial arrangement for this type of lead generation.


Rahul Singh Founder & CEO at Distelli

April 30th, 2013

Hi Nell,

I'm in the same situation as you and I would recommend starting small yourself and getting 1 or 2 active customers / users of your software and getting them to use it and provide feedback and get you to a point closer to being out of beta / pre-beta before going for 10-20 meetings.

The reason is that you only need 1 or 2 (3 tops) people to actively use your software to get the feedback to improve and going for a larger audience early on might have the negative effect of putting off your users early because your software might have some rough edges.

Also going out and getting those early meetings yourself will give you a better understanding of your customer base and help you build the skills to pitch before you bring in a sales agency.

Thats been my experience so far and while its been slow and frustrating at times its working well for me now.


Jonathan Vanasco

May 5th, 2013

Having been on the other side of the situation, here's my experience:

Phones ring non-stop all day and emails never stop coming in -- all because one asshole vendor/sales guy put your contact details into Salesforce or something similar, and there's a global data pool.  For a little over a year, SalesForce thought I was the CTO of IAC -- all of it -- not one of their holdings.  The amount of phone and email spam I got was ludicrous.   Sometimes a caller is able to get trick their way past admin assistants - they immediately go on your black list.  Sometimes a caller gets your direct contact details, suddenly you have a voice mail every 24-72 hours of them trying to get through - they get to the top of your black list.  You amass a huge array of phone numbers , email addresses and products that you never want to use -- ever.  You don't know who they are, what they do, or how much they cost.  All you care about is that they have an aggressive sales force who claims that they want to help you - yet makes your day as nightmarish as possible.  Even cold email pitches are annoying - you get at least 10 of them a day.  You don't want to read them, but if you did... you don't have time.

So who gets their calls answered , emails read, or a chance to pitch you ?

Introductions from friends , industry contacts and former colleagues will at least get a paragraph or two read.  9/10 times that will lead to a phone call.  If the idea is actually useful, a portion of those will get a face-to-face.  If you don't have a connection to the 'decision maker', see if you have one to someone in their office.  Staff always wants to look good.  If a trusted engineer or product manager came to me and said "this is a friend of a friend's company , it looks useful and not like a total waste of your time," then we looked at the product together and decided if it was interesting enough to warrant further action.  Even if I thought it was crap, if my team members really believed in it, we'd schedule a call or meeting.

Bottom line: any sort of "qualified lead" from a lead-gen professional is going to be hard to get for you, and start out a bit tenuous.    If your team and advisors can't make a phonecall to get you in to pitch someone , or your current clients/customers won't push you into their network - you've got a larger problem than lead-gen.  

Pre-beta sales and IT sales are both completely different beasts.  The vast majority of pre-beta sales I've seen have been either :

  1. Startup has some sort of pull at a company.  Their college roommate is the decision maker, or they used to be in the top staff.  The sale isn't done on any merits, its a courtesy.

  2. The product is coming from an existing company , and you're getting a serious discount for pre-ordering or test-driving as a "launch partner".  it usually comes with a 3-9 month free trial.

  3. The product is a new feature from an existing vendor.  you're getting a pre-launch discount if you commit to something.  

Dealing with Corporate IT is a completely different beast.  The word "beta" throws them off in a heartbeat. 

+1 to Rahul's Customer Development strategy.  All the startups my corp team engaged needed a lot of hand-holding to fine-tune their product and pitch to something usable.  A lot of people came in with an interesting piece of technology, but had no idea how the corps run from the inside or how our technology stacks were implemented.  We helped some understand products that we'd actually consider buying, and would intro to our network if we liked the idea or team.

+1 to Michael's comment.  

I'd also add that the first thing we would ask someone is "who is your largest customer so far" , usually followed by financial questions. good answers were "X uses us" or "not live yet, but we developed this with x,y,z".  It's a HUGE turn off when someone is trying to sell us something that hasn't been sold before, wasn't customer developed with someone else, and hasn't gone through a free trial.

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

May 1st, 2013

+1 on Rahul's comment. Even if you are uncomfortable with the sales process, you will learn 10X more by engaging with real people and getting real feedback yourself. Trying to offload it to someone who only superficially gets what you do and cannot react to objections will likely only get you weak prospects... especially for a complex area such as enterprise security.  Once you have a repeatable process for qualification, then you can try to find an outside resource.

At least twice I've made the mistake of investing in channels relationships before I was ready ("Hey, Oracle owns that account; their customers need X; we have X and Oracle doesn't.") and it ends the same.  If you don't know how to sell your own product, *no one* else will.


Russ Value creator and deal maker

May 5th, 2013

I have friend who is a seasoned VP of sales at a Fortune 500 company which has invested heavily (over $100 million) in developing an already proven enterprise security solution targeting Fortune 1000 companies as well as Government and Educational institutions.  You will save a huge amount of time by aligning with people like this in the industry and building relationships with them.


Can you sell the "magic sauce" or license it to a larger company with an established sales channel?