How to Build A Sales Pipeline for Software Dev Businesses in 2020 / Introduction

This is part one of a multi-part series

Let’s talk about selling. How do you sell to a customer? How do you predict sales? How do you find out what to offer? 

This content is for all Small Business Owners who want to sell better and more predictably. 

Right now, you might ask yourself these questions:

  • “How do I know what your customers want?”  
  • “How do I sell it to them?”
  • “How do you generate demand?”

Before people will come and buy from you, you need to understand what kind of problem they have and systematically offer solutions.

Field Research

We start with field research, asking the question for you to answer: Does your customer know that they have a problem?

Let’s say you offer software development services, specialized in brand-new startups. If a brand-new startup wants to go into the market, do they know that they need a website or web application for it? 

Do they have people on staff that can build it? Do they know how to operate and scale web applications? They are aware of the former, but not necessarily about the latter.

Therefore, go ahead and reach out to founders to see what their problems are. Start with questions like “Is it easy for you right now to attract new software developers?”, “Can you pay them market rates?”. 

Why not jumping in with “Hey, I offer full-service web development”? That’s what everybody else is doing. They’re trying to offer software developers as a commodity.

You, on the other hand, see it as a more complex product. Not every software development job is the same. Software Development projects differ in terms of user experience, scaling, and security requirements.

You want to address those founders thinking about hiring software developers to implement their business model but are struggling to do so. That’s your target audience. And by eliciting their current pain points, you will have a better start into the conversation because you’re focused on the founder’s issue and not your product or service.

If a founder is aware of the problem but doesn’t know how to solve it, you need to talk about solutions.

If a founder is not aware that they might have a problem, you first need to create awareness before talking about solutions.

So, now ask them questions. Listen carefully to what they’re saying. Everything you offer is your time and an open ear. Focus on why they need a web application? What benefit does it bring to their business? Does it have to be only a web application, or do they also need to support mobile devices?

What is an important market? Is it nationwide? Are they planning to offer it internationally? 

Take a lot of notes about what they’ll tell you.

If you’ve led a few of these interviews, you will find out common themes. For instance, everybody has the problem of hiring Devs, onboard them, and delivering a prototype in time. 

Also, it takes a lot of time to get the first version of the software into production. “Should we use AWS? Digital Ocean? Google Cloud Platform? Kubernetes?” It might not be your customer’s area of expertise. 

Your customers don’t answer all these questions because it’s not their main field of expertise (yet). They’re good at something else. That’s why they founded a new company and looking into hiring you.

Formulate an offer

You just found out that it’s difficult for companies to hire software developers and onboard them effectively.

An initial offer could look like this: 

Instead of hiring developers, the startup spends its software developer budget with you every month. You come in, conduct requirements analysis, agree on milestones, and start to deliver value.

Your customer then has their hands free to focus on their core business. They have a monthly calculable expense for which, in return, they get tremendous value: An implementation of their business model.

On top of that, you also bring it into production — another significant factor for them: showing the Proof of Concept around to get feedback.

For you, it’s lucrative because you can charge additional fees for hosting and maintenance every month.

How to talk about the offer

Now that the offer stands, how do you talk about it with prospective customers? Rule #1: Don’t talk about features. Your prospects don’t care about features as much. They care about their business and solving their problems. For instance, they need to validate their business, for which they need a working software prototype. 

You need to understand the critical differences between a feature and a benefit. In this case, a part could be something like “Written in JavaScript.” The customer probably doesn’t care too much. You could also use any other language as long as it runs in the browser. 

A benefit, however, addresses a problem they have. Because you’re using JavaScript and it runs in the browser, the application is accessible for all users simultaneously. They can access it on any device, and you’re not wasting time by waiting for App Store Reviews and such.

Also, since you already have a tech stack and developers familiar with it, you will spend less time with setup and deliver value faster, which will also benefit your customer because they can validate their business idea more quickly. While you’re working on the first version of the software, your customer can work on their business to bring it forward.

Here’s a task for you: Sit down and write down twenty benefits about your product or service you want to offer. 

Once you have this list, rank them from top to bottom. These will help you to argue effectively during prospecting.

Your prospect needs to get the feeling that you understand them and their current situation. It’s like you walking into a car dealership, looking for a family, and the salesperson shows you sports cars instead.

You’re solving your prospect’s problems. Therefore you need to talk about issues and solutions, not features.

In the next part, we will build a sales process that you can use as a template for your software business.

To be continued.

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