You’ve tried MEDDIC, you’ve tried Bowtie, you’ve tried Challenger and yet somehow you’re still free-styling the majority of customer calls… Sounds familiar? Fear not, you’re definitely not alone!
If, as a founder, you are still actively involved in selling, it means your sales playbook is not mature yet. And it's entirely normal for an early-stage business! Just like you can't find product-market fit overnight, the Go-To-Market strategy also takes a few iterations to get right.
Early-stage sales are closer to business development than their later-stage counterpart. By "later stage", we mean Series B and beyond - the stage when the sales process is genuinely repeatable and comparable across different customer journeys. On the other hand, business development is all about one-offs and creatively finding win-win scenarios in each situation.
The inconvenient truth about early-stage sales is that no common frameworks and popular approaches apply. Your product falls outside traditional budgeting cycles when it is in a new category. And even if it is a cheaper/better/faster replacement of something already existing, there is a trust gap to overcome. You will likely have to "land and expand" to prove that your service is reliable and worthy of going through the pain of replacing an existing vendor. Traditional sales frameworks won't apply in these cases.
The inconvenient truth about early-stage sales is that no common frameworks and popular approaches apply
And yet you need to start planning and scripting your customer interactions to prepare your business for future growth. Running every customer call "ad hoc" may work for a while but quickly becomes too chaotic to manage. Putting some structure in place and standardizing how you qualify customers is the first step in finding the Go-To-Market fit. We spoke with the most experienced early-stage operators to find out how to create the ideal call plan for early-stage companies and share it with our community.
Here's what we learned:
- The best call plans start with a recap of the previous call and set the agenda for the upcoming meeting.
- When you meet a new customer for the first time, instead of a recap, share what you know about the customer (from high-level research or inquiry they left) and ask them, "What else do I need to know about your company to help you effectively?".
- Leave a buffer of 5-10 minutes at the end of the call if anyone goes off track during the meeting. Finish the session early if you do not need the buffer - everyone loves time back in their calendar!
- Agree on the next steps during the call and schedule the next meeting while you are still on the call to ensure that you are progressing the deal forward.
- If you run out of time and still have more to discuss, schedule the next meeting instead of overrunning the current call. It's good to leave your customer wanting more! Commitment grows with every new touchpoint.
- Short, more frequent video calls are better than longer, less frequent ones. Keeping participants engaged for longer than 45 minutes is an art in itself. And now is not the right time to practice it.
How do you put this into practice? Create a plan that will help you win customers faster with the help of our expert advice.
Here's what you should cover in your first discovery call with a new prospect:
- Business situation: You need to understand the broader context of your prospect reaching out. What is the company up against, and what does it mean for the person who reached out? Guided by your pre-call research, go beyond surface-level questions to uncover where the company stands and the current top priorities.
- Why now: Just because a project is important doesn't mean it is urgent! Dig deeper to understand why the buyer is reaching out right now. Has an offsite raised some critical questions? Is the company gearing up to expand in a new geography? Understanding the urgency is vital in fostering it throughout the sales cycle.
- Acute pain: If you discussed the first two points, you already have a general understanding of the pain your prospective buyer is dealing with. Now is the time to uncover the extent of the pain. Are there others in the org who face the issue? Are important projects blocked? Remember to revisit the overall business situation when discussing acute pain.
- Stakeholders: Understanding stakeholders is not just about decision-making. You need to know who will be using your product, who will benefit from it and who needs to be onboard to ensure the deployment is successful (e.g. IT). For an early-stage company, the sale doesn't end when the contract is signed, and it's crucial to have a detailed understanding of what is involved in making the deployment successful.
- Timing: Is this something that should have happened yesterday? Similar to "why now", but should now bring yourself and your product into the picture. Schedule the next call, and map out what will happen over the next few weeks. Now is the time to start working together with your prospective customer!
Salesroom helps Account Executives and sales teams build trust with prospective buyers and reach their goals faster. But we also help founders facilitate memorable conversations with prospective partners and win customers. We developed industry-leading call scripts based on expert advice and our experience in the field that help founders navigate customer conversations.
Sign up for a free Salesroom account to get access to our templates, created specifically to help early-stage teams get to $1M in ARR faster!