With the new investment and a fresh office, we set out to scale our business. We’ve now arrived in early Fall 2013 and it was time to do a soft launch of the sales of Responster.
Why a soft launch you might ask? Well, as with the previous iterations of the product we felt that we had much to learn about the current market situation, our potential customers and how Responster would fit their needs. We also didn’t have that much sales experience. I had previously been working in a phone store and Ludvig had been selling cinnamon rolls at a café, but none of us had sold this type of service before.
Since Responster is an open platform used for almost any type of data collection we decided to target different market segments to see what their actual needs are. We made a list of companies active in gym, healthcare, retail and restaurants found around Stockholm. Focusing on companies in Stockholm was a conscious choice so that we could meet with them in person in order to better understand their needs.
We hired a full-time salesman who was going to be our front figure by calling these companies. He had previous experience in similar types of sales, so we felt that he was our go to guy. Using a tool called Podio (great stuff, we’re going to come back to this in a future post) we built a basic sales tool with all of the companies listed. This way our salesman could start calling from day one.
The following months were really valuable to us and we learned a lot about our potential customers, our value proposition and especially what it takes to run sales. Quite early on we realized that we weren’t the only ones trying to sell products or services to the companies we contacted. The sheer effort it took just being able to get in touch with the person we wanted to talk to was enormous. If we didn’t have the direct number we had to go through a receptionist, which quite often didn’t lead anywhere. Other times when we had the direct number we had to call multiple times just to get in touch. When we finally did so we realized the other challenge of being out on the big ocean of sales:
if you in any way present yourself as a salesman you’re not going to get anywhere.
We found out that the persons on the other line reacted negatively as soon as they understood our purpose of calling them. When you come to think about it, it’s not that strange if you get multiple calls a day from different salesmen.
Having realized that the persons that we called more than too often judged us as “one of those salesmen”, we had to change our way of approaching them. We didn’t want to be regular salesmen, we wanted to be something else. After some sales meetings and a lot of discussions, we had come up with a new plan. It all came back to what we wanted to achieve with Responster in the very beginning. We had developed Responster from a discovered need (you remember this right?) and a market gap. With Responster, we had found a way for companies to easily collect useful data, which they previously had associated with time-consuming projects and tools. So, instead of selling this new tool for easy customer feedback collection, we set out to help companies get to know their customers better. We wanted to become their friends.
This meant that whenever we reached persons at companies we always made sure to first build personal connections with them. We often told them about our own customer experiences with the companies, such as how we found their service or offerings. After establishing this connection, it was easier to say that we had this great new tool that could help them become better and that we wanted to help them.
With this new approach, we started getting more and more meetings and had the opportunity to show Responster and discuss how the companies could use it. Based on the inputs we got from the persons we met (and the customers we acquired) we got tons of ideas for how to make Responster better. We also had some new things we had to figure out, which wasn’t clear to us at the time.
But all of this will have to wait until the next post! Make sure to tune in next week to find out. In the meantime, here are some takeaways from today’s post based on what we learned from our early sales:
- Don’t settle for a sales model from the very start. Be prepared to change parts of it based on the feedback you get and what you learn along the way.
- Be more personal than sales minded. Ultimately you want to help the company that you’re calling, and just so you happen to have this great product or service in order to do this.
- Get to know the persons that you’re calling and the companies they work for as early as possible. They might become your customers, at which point they are your best friends.
The future of feedback is a 10-part series on how Responster grew into what it has become today.
Every week I’ll publish a new post where I tell you about the life of a startup, the Responster-team and how a product is born.
I hope that you’ll find these posts interesting. If you have a startup of your own or have experience in software similar to Responster, I’d love hearing from you. You can drop me a line whenever you want at [email protected].