Securing that first PAYING customer for your new product or innovation is no easy task. The market rarely comes to you; you must go to the market. In products designed for B2B, the strategic maneuvering associated with securing purchase is as intricate as a chess game. Lots of moves; lots of adaptations; and lots of risk. So many innovations are not really viable in the market without references and without other companies vouching for the benefits of the innovation. Herding is a fact of life (as I have mentioned before). Getting to customers herding behind your innovation requires that first milestone of a single purchase. Here are some things to think about on your journey to your first reference-able account.
1. Start with a limited target set of companies. Map 10 targeted companies that correlate to your market segments of interest: SMB, F100 etc. Remember: companies want to see themselves in your target market messages. That first company will open doors to similar companies so try multiple segments but keep the target volume small (see item 5 for reason)
2. Don’t beat around the bush; get in there and start articulating your value proposition. Don’t waste time shying away from exposing your innovation in straight forward terms. I cant tell you how many times inventors create words and phrases that are designed to dazzle their customers, only to be met with confusion. Engineers should not be allowed to expound on the intricacies of their inventions, supposing that the more detailed they get the more “value” there is in the delivery. Simply NOT true.
3. Be quantitative! NOW you know what math in school was all about. Express benefits in quantitative terms that stand the spotlight of intense scrutiny. The CFO will eventually get into the sales picture and you better be ready. Otherwise, you will never get to the end of the sales cycle and are doomed to learn nothing of the true value proposition.
4. Seek truthful feedback. Don’t waste your time with people who want to butter you up with a hidden agenda. Learn to quickly determine those that are straight shooters with you and enhance your prospects of securing a buy decision. Don’t land in the trap of believing that those that support your innovation are true supporters. They are if they BUY!
5. Test the complete sales cycle milestones for barriers and/or success. Don’t skip from one prospect to another, never getting past initial interest. You must get further down the sales cycle to understand the changes in purchasing criteria that occurs. You must get to a buy decision; the faster the better. Resist the impulse to move on when you run into barriers. A broad, flat sales funnel in the early stages of commercialization is not conducive to eventual success. Focused and deep is the rule here.
6. Broaden research to include marketing awareness indicators, buy cycles, displacement challenges, etc. When engaging with prospects, open your intuition aperture to learn about how customers learn about products, how they come to be influenced by peers and how they focus on decision variables. These will help with your strategies against purchasing barriers.
7. Seek the repeatable sale! The best first customer is that type of company or business entity that has exact duplicates in volume. Franchises, institutions, professional firms, etc. are all basically the same in needs and buying behavior. Secure that first one and chances are you are on your way to sustainable revenue.