Why Your Sales Team Should Be Six Months Ahead of Your Product
I remember one particularly cold, gray January day, sitting in a conference room atop a Manhattan high-rise while I was at Blend. A consulting partner arranged a meeting with the CEO of a top-5 mortgage lender.
For three hours, we talked problem, market, roadmap and the next five years at his company – how he was going to take market share by owning the consumer lending experience, and how Blend could be a key piece to their strategy.
Sure, we showed a demo. On Flinto.
I was thinking the whole time “Please don’t ask us to click the blue button…,” because the blue button didn’t do anything.
Our lead designer had his laptop hooked up to his mobile phone. As we clicked through the demo, he made sure the right screen displayed next.
We knew full well that v1.0 of the product wouldn’t be ready until June. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was talking the right prospect with the right problem.
As a rule, sales should be at least 6 months ahead of product.
That is, you need to be selling at least six months ahead of when the product is ready to implement.
Expect to take at least 3-4 weeks to nail down your initial discovery call from the time you begin actively contacting your target prospects. Then expect another couple of weeks to book the demo with their team. That’s two months of selling time before you even start showing your product.
Besides that, everything leading up to the demo is the easy part of the sale.
It’s easy to talk with the executives on the other side of the table about their problem, why you started your company, and how the product works.
It’s even a little bit fun, right?
If you have the right prospect, those early conversations are validation that you’ve uncovered a key problem for your target customers, and that your product is what’s been missing in the market.
It’s after the demo that the real selling begins.
The demo only gets you started in the sale, because what lies ahead are all questions about technical specifications, managing endless conversations about integrations and building an implementation plan.
You’ll talk to CTOs about your product’s architecture and integrations to their existing systems. (“How do you handle on-prem server integrations?”)
You’ll talk to CIOs about your data dictionary, data flow diagrams and architecture schema. (“Can you map to our data headers?”)
You’ll talk to CROs and CSOs about your data security and disaster management protocols. (“You have your SOC 2 Type II report and ISO 27001 certification, right? We’ll also need to see your third party pen tests.”)
You’ll talk to CCOs about your adherence to compliance and regulatory rules in your market. (We had just a few of those in the mortgage market.)
That doesn’t even include the downstream conversations with each CXO’s team about what you need from them – opening up ports, teaching them your SDKs and APIs, setting up FTPs for data exports and scheduling training programs for the users.
Ever try to get time with an IT Director who’s managing an in-house development team and an army of overseas IT analysts?
Not to mention negotiating the pricing, contract, and procurement process.
The truth is, your customer doesn’t care about your product.
Their memory of the demo will be binary –– Either they’ll walk out of the room believing you can solve their problem, or they won’t.
So if you think that prospecting and lead gen is a later thing because your product launch isn’t for six months, think again.
Fill the funnel.
If you want some help with this, check out our “Fill Your Funnel” program I’m running this Spring. It’s designed to help you build and implement your startup’s sales engagement strategy to fill your funnel in the next 10 weeks, so that you can nail your number in 2019.
In “Fill Your Funnel,” you’ll learn how to:
- Build and implement your startup’s Multi-touch, Omni-channel Sales Engagement campaigns.
- Prospect the right way on LinkedIn (and no, it’s not sending crappy cold InMails…).
- Execute your Outbound Calling campaigns.
- Plan every hour, day and week of your selling time.
- Qualify, and disqualify, every lead in 12 minutes or less.
- Plus a whole lot more…
If your startup could use a boost of leads to fill your sales funnel, and if you want to build a repeatable sales engagement systems, send me an email at [email protected] with the word “FUNNEL.” I’ll ask you a few questions about where you are right now with your startup, and where you need to be in the next 6-12 months. If it seems like we might be a good fit, and I’ll share the details.