The most challenging test faced by a startup is finding and securing those first customers willing to bet on the company when no one has heard of the firm and when the product has yet to be battle-tested.
At this stage, trust is your number one product feature and that will carry the deal. Trust is forged separate from the product and created during the sales process. And it’s the human part of the sales equation. When you’re trying to capture those first customers, it’s important to realize that any action that negatively affects the trust created can derail the sale.
In a startup, everyone is highly anxious about getting these early deals signed for many reasons. To the person working the account it can feel like everyone from the CEO on down wants in on the sale to make sure that it gets closed. If a company is not careful, this all-in, pile-on effort by the CEO and others can blow up a deal by damaging the trust built up between the prospect and salesperson.
Most early enterprise software products are buggy, lack features, and do not perform exactly as advertised. But that person who becomes one of your early customers wants to believe that this almost-working software will do everything they have been told it will do. They are trusting – sometimes betting their career that the company will make this idea a reality.
So, why would any sane middle manager or vice president risk their career on a half-baked product? Trust. The trust created by the person doing the deal carries the day.
I have seen a young CEO who is nervous and unskilled at enterprise sales, feeling out of control and uncertain about the status of a deal, call the prospect out of the blue to see how things were going. This simple act torpedoed the sale. That seemingly innocent outreach broke the bond of trust established between the salesperson and prospect.
Major deals have a life of their own and there are many players and influencers in an enterprise sale. Having others on your team jump in at the wrong time and engage the wrong person or the right person at the wrong time can dismantle a sale in seconds.
Remember, deals have their ups and downs before they close, and many will require lots of outreach and meetings before the contract gets signed. They get closed because of the promise of what the product can do, and more importantly, the bond of trust developed during the sales process.
Trust is what brings those early deals home. You need to work as hard on building trust and credibility as you do on your product.
Written by Tim Bates
Click here, to learn more about the Exponential Boot Camp for Startup Sales