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How would you go about business development in early stage SaaS?

I have a couple of products (SaaS), one pre-beta, the other on beta stage with one (potentially) soon-to-be paying customer.

I am looking for help and both sides, a person and a platform to find prospective beta users for both products and convert them into paying clients.

For both products, I believe leads can be found on LinkedIn. I imagine having to develop and test a few different scripts to check interest, etc. The process and how it is implemented is a little bit foreign to me because biz dev / sales / marketing are not my area. That is why I hesitate to go along and wonder what your take is.

  • What is best in sense of getting faster to revenue?
  • What are the routes that you followed to get revenue the fastest?
  • What are the tools if any at all (i.e. crm, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, etc.)?
  • Should I focus on finding the biz development person first, or should I continue doing biz dev on my own and bring someone in the role of a salesman/woman later on as a way of scaling up whatever I find works?
  • How have you (technical founders) approached and found a biz dev advisor / co-founder / team member (in any of those roles)?

5 Replies

Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
Lucas, this a big subject. hard to tackle in one chunk. One thing to address right up front is to be sure you understand the various roles needed to get to revenue - can't hire the right people unless you know what they do, i.e. you appear to use the terms "Biz dev" and "sales" interchangeably and the roles are quite different. If what you need is revenue from enterprise customers (which is what i get from your post), for example, and you advertise for and interview and hire a "biz dev" person you may be disappointed. biz dev is focused on developing partnerships, not sales. These partnerships certainly are intended to lead to sales in the future, but they often take time go produce revenue. Your revenue generating model will vary depending on who your prospects are (consumers V SMB V enterprise) and your business model (B2C, B2B, B2B2C). it would help if you can provide more details.
Lucas E Wall
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Lucas E Wall Entrepreneur
CEO & Founder at ROI Checker
Good points, Rob. You are right, I am using biz dev and sales interchangeably but see the difference.

That is the conundrum I am facing and trying to clarify: If to bet on biz dev to create relationships that eventually lead to sales or simply try to find more clients for a product someone seems to be ready to buy.

More details on the products. One is a listing of SMB for sale located in places with specific characteristics (unemployment, population, proximity to farms/city, etc.). The client would be an immigration lawyer who gets the listing and can assist a prospective foreign investor pointing at businesses that qualify for investor visas. At least one lawyer has expressed interest in purchasing the listing.

The other product is less defined but goes around using a number of criterion to find profitable localities. Clients here are franchisors and/or franchisees who want to vet those localities.

In one model, the franchisor promotes the service as unbiased advise to be purchased in case the franchisee wants to vet assumptions and feasibility. Franchisee pays.

In another scenario, the franchisor can acquire the service to identify a list of tier 1, 2, 3, etc. localities where the franchise is available.

May be the level of definition of each product guides the answer about sales and biz dev?
Sandy Fischler
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Sandy Fischler Entrepreneur
Experiential Marketing Director | Event Producer | Event Management | Entrepreneur
I'll toss in some thoughts based on Steve Blank's Customer Development philosophy....

Your first stage is Product/Market fit, which is not sales based at this point. If you focus on sales before you are certain there is a market for your product, you just go around in circles. Early testing with a few select clients to make sure you are building something that the market needs and is willing to pay for is key.

Finding early adopter test customers is a deep process of understanding, REALLY understanding, your market. Who are these people, what do they need, what do they currently have, what gets them to an "aha moment" where they full grasp what you offer and how it can help them.

Once you've nailed the early test customers, are getting the Aha Moment, then you start working on a repeatable sales process. What process takes a prospect from Aha to Buy Now. So, you have two critical areas once you've clearly defined that you have a product that the market wants - you have to be able to reach your prospects and you have to be able to get them into your sales funnel. Marketing drives your reach then your sales process takes over and brings home the revenue.
Rob Gropper
2
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
Sandy makes good points, but i would argue that product/market fit should have already been completed or at least very far along for the product in beta. With a SaaS startup at this early stage with a product ready for early adopters i think sales is the next logical skill to acquire (whether you learn it or hire it) with the understanding that this person will need to wear many hats (sales, lead gen, marketing, etc.). An assumption needs to be that you will be intimately involved in each early sale to continue to perfect product/market fit, help address objections, product road-map discussions, etc. but you will want a partner/person who can quickly pick up much of that so you can focus on dev. MVC (min. viable company = product + sales). I'm not sure i would spend $$ on marketing or lean gen until you have the skills to act on the results. The tough part comes from the fact that (from what i can tell) you are targeting the SMB market if you are going after immigration lawyers. Revenue (product, services...) per sale will determine how you develop your sales model. Focus your value prop on increasing your customer's revenue/profit/customer base rather than cost savings. Revenue wins over cost reduction every time. Just by way of example, if you are over say, $1k ARR/sale but under $10k ARR/sale your process of lead gen, qualifying leads, and moving the prospect through your sales funnel to close and then on-boarding needs to be very very efficient. this likely precludes much face-to-fact selling and leveraging sales automation, remote demos (if you even need them). At less than $1k ARR/sale your model should more closely resemble a consumer model of marketing, SEO/SEM, and highly automated funnel management, conversion and on-boarding. You just can't afford much hands-on at less than $1k ARR. Over $10k ARR (and these are just examples, YMMV) you can afford more hand-holding and maybe even charge some on-boarding service fees. It will be an interesting process to find the right mix of skills, but it's doable. next step is to look at your ARR (annual recurring revenue) per sale to determine how hands-on/hands-off you can afford to be which will dictate the kind of experience/skills you need - leaning more toward marketing or more toward enterprise sales (broad brush strokes here). Again, this is a very big subject and one that many struggle with so you are not alone. i work with an incubator in Redmond WA and i'd say 25 of the 30 or so startups there struggle with this very issue - "i've built it, now how do i sell it"?
Sandy Fischler
0
0
Sandy Fischler Entrepreneur
Experiential Marketing Director | Event Producer | Event Management | Entrepreneur
Rob, I think we all like to assume that product/market fit was the first step, but then you read things like this and realize just how many people launch without doing the crucial early work :)

http://pando.com/2014/06/25/startups-anonymous-how-i-earned-my-mba-in-what-not-to-do/


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