Beta users · Business Development

How to help close our first big account?

John Duffield

May 21st, 2014

We are so close to closing our first deal - how can we help push it over the line... ideas/thoughts please..

- we are a B2B mobile SaaS product and we're about to close a deal
- we approached potential customer first and were the catalyst for them evaluating others in the space. We are one of a handful vendors they're considering and hopefully a front-runner
- customer knows we are new and is concerned with our infancy: I reassured them that our personalized service is superior (given we're small), talked about our all-star team, our proven product (we have demonstrated beta), our industry experience, our key differentiators, our competitive pricing etc,
- potential customer is looking for long-term partnership opportunity for the technology
- We put together a highly incentivized offer, packaged it all up in a beautiful deck (called to make sure it was received)
- They are very impressed with us, but our infancy is working against us.

We are likely to hear by end of week / early next week. Question is - WHAT CAN WE DO NOW TO PUSH IT OVER THE LINE.. How have people bent over backwards to impress and standout in front of clients without being annoying and/or too desperate. Ideas include:

- hand written note mailed?
- printed brochure mailed?
- express courier a smart phone (turned on and unlocked) with the product loaded?
- get lunch or breakfast delivered on us?

This would be a huge step forward for our product and help tremendously with our current pursuit of seed funding.

Shobhit Verma Ed Tech Test Prep

May 21st, 2014

Take a copy of all the conversation to an investor and ask them to do contingency investment or convertible note. Take an LOI for investment from potential investor and call your customer to share this news. Having additional funding will be a clear signal that other people believe that you will exist in the long run. 

George Revutsky Founder at Digital & Conversion Nerds

May 21st, 2014

Hi John - if your cost structure permits it, you need to try to get 3 brand name customers in for free ASAP, or for a very very nominal fee. Make it no risk for them to try you but in return they agree to be reference-able and you are allowed to use their logos on your site, etc. Then future sales will be much easier. Maybe you could even have those 3 free ones help you convert this one. I've done variations of this process at least 5 times in the last couple years, and it has worked every time: 1) get 3 free customers and make sure they are happy 2) pimp their logos on your site (sales and lead gen conversion on my site goes up) 3) get 24 free customers 4) change the copy on your site to say "join dozens of happy customers such as..." and change your site to have 4-6 prominent logos underneath the above copy (sales and lead gen conversion rates will go up again) 5) start charging some time after you have between 10 and 100 free customers (the number varies by type of product and target customer, of course) feel free to ping me directly with any questions.... George Yury Revutsky | CEO 415.887.7674 x12 415-531-8335 (direct)

Scot Gensler Strategic Operations & Business Development Executive

May 21st, 2014

Some quick thoughts:

- Invest more time in the personal relationship - lunch, dinner, drink, etc.
- Make it clear you'll bend over backwards to exceed their expectations to turn them into a reference-able customer.  Ask multiple times between now and decision time if there's anything you can do to come out the winner.  Consider getting creative with deal-terms (e.g. if you're not happy in x weeks/months, we'll let you get out or a full refund or whatever).  Key for you is make their yes brain-dead simple.
- Ask the main decision-maker to consider joining your advisory board (independent of what decision they make).  This demonstrates that you think highly of him/her and also may result in them taking a more active interest in your success.

Todd Ellermann Experienced I.T. Leader, CTO, and Creative Entrepreneur

May 21st, 2014

If the product exists in software form, you might consider offering to put code in escrow, conditional upon your going belly up they get a permanent free license to use and modify or something along this line.  Your best bet is getting them involved from an ownership/advisory position.  You want your first customer to be your champion, if possible. 

John Duffield

May 21st, 2014

Thank you, Shobhit - very interesting idea. Had not thought of that.

Scot - They are in different city so can't get together personally. I will ask them how we can come out on top and see if we can get any more creative with the deal (already heavy incentive if they sign on for a year... but could say they could opt-out in x months). Love the idea of the advisory board, had contemplated that.

What are your thoughts on mailing something? Organizing food delivery etc..

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

May 21st, 2014

John, can you address the company viability issue more directly? You can send them one of your kidneys but if you can't explain why you'll be in business in three months then that's the only issue.

Sean Hurley Optimize Your Dream.

May 21st, 2014

Have you offered a steep discount if they pay one years worth of service in advance? --- Sean M. Hurley, Founder & CEO Hurley Associates Growth Partners 617-784-1435 "Helping Creative Entrepreneurs Bring Exceptional Products To Market"

Rob G

May 21st, 2014

do your homework.  gimmicks usually can't hurt (but be careful not to offend or look cheesy), but don't rely on them to make the difference.  People buy from people they like.  Give them reasons to like you.  I don't know the size and sophistication of the prospect, but if this deal is important then you cannot rely on what you think you know.  If you haven't yet read "Strategic Selling" by Miller and Hyman (sp) then do so ASAP.  in the interim you need to develop a "customer coach" - in larger companies on larger deals there will always be multiple buying influencers - economic buyer, user buyer, technical buyer, executive sponsor, etc.  You should always work to develop an inside coach - someone who sits in the meetings and knows who is thinking what.  they can help you navigate and sell internally.  You also need to do your homework on your competitors - you should know everything about the companies, their products, their sales people, track record, financial situation, etc.  Throwing mud should not be your first choice, but if, for example, a competitor is known to be inflexible regarding integration or feature mods, etc. then use that to your advantage. 

If risk is the issue that they are expressing to you then be sure you understand what risk means to each individual buying influence.  Risk to the CFO is different than risk to the VP marketing or IT mgr.  If risk is the only issue holding them back then work with them to mitigate that risk.  For example, offering software source code escrow might be all that's needed.  You have to work to your strengths so you have to make your small size look like a strength.  Perhaps that means that because you are small this first customer can have a significant influence on your product road map. Typically $$ is not the primary driver with these customers - offering a 50% discount because you are a small company is typically not the answer to the risk issue. 

Will Dukes Business Development Strategist and Professional Speaker

May 21st, 2014

No cheese please. You have to quell that basic fear. How do you reduce their perceived risk and give them the gut level trust in your ability to follow through? Without knowing the details, do they have an "out" in the agreement? Some kind of performance guarantee? The phone preloaded with the product is good, (though have they not already had hands on interaction?) improved by having a video of an objective authority with nothing to gain (a mentor of yours perhaps) testimonialize you and your team - not the product or the model, but you. (If they like the product, but are concerned about "infancy" they are likely just unsure if you all can pull it off) Don't rehash facts and numbers, that time has passed. Just give them the experience and confidence they need to move foward. -Will Sent from Nine

John Wallace President at Apps Incorporated

May 21st, 2014

What is the payoff if they go with you? What is the risk if they don't go with you? Handwritten notes and glossy brochures might get you the meeting. To win the deal, you have to offer more payoff and less risk than your competitors. 

A great book on closing deals is "S.P.I.N. Selling" by Neil Rackham. It's an oldie, but the info in it never goes out of style.