I would say the the one tactic that I always love is this tactic called link and trade so we used the example where the sales rep just hears silence and then cuts price link any anything that you do any give that you make to the customer link it to something else hey everybody its Dick Polipnick here welcome back to another episode of online growth systems my special special guest today is Sean Higgins he is the entrepreneur in residence at tech stars in Minnesota Sean do you wanna just kind of tell us more about yourself yeah absolutely thanks for having me dick so you know the interesting thing about about tech stars is we’re an ecosystem that really tries to help entrepreneurs succeed so we son programs and communities like Startup Weekend you know startup week to trying to help bring people together who have ideas and haven’t quite figured it out but so that’s in the early early stage trying to help people get off the ground and get their businesses going and then we have traditional accelerator programs program I’m a part of in town is the tech stars retail program in that program we work with companies all across the world you know in retail in some way shape or form trying to help them grow their business whether that’s figuring out their message really honing in on the value prop they can have all the way to their business model helping them figure out how they can scale how they can get initial traction with their customers and so we’re really trying to be this end to end you know ecosystem for a company where you can get started get growth and then ultimately now with Texters ventures we’re doing investments in later stage companies as well so it’s really just a great organization I’m thrilled to be a part of it my background I’ve started companies in town I started I loose videos we were a b2b software-as-a-service company I led sales there from zero to a million bucks and a recurring revenue raised three million bucks I’m also a partner at a micro VC based in the region router ventures awesome awesome so we’re gonna be diving into each part of your story and today for those of you who are listening watching or reading we’re actually gonna be diving into Shawn’s expertise in his field because the mole the things that most people I asked him about our fundraising start up cells how to go from like how to scale from like zero to ten customers from ten to fifty from 50 to beyond and remind me the third thing that you’re most known for yeah I mean so the other thing folks will generally ask me on is just kind of general start of advice so you see a lot of people who have an idea and they’re not quite sure if it’s time to burn the boats they’re not quite sure what they can do to validate and actually prove out their idea to get started so just that that first kind of idea shall spark right yeah exactly yeah and that’s actually something for for my listeners they know they’re well aware that I’ve got too much experience probably with that last one without pursuing an idea for let’s say six months or two years before you decide to say you know eh I think there’s a better opportunity in another area or be like man this isn’t gonna work I mean right at the cut your loss is because you know like oh if I just spend another six months out it you know pursuing you know investor ABC or customer you know ABC like that’s what’s gonna like get me over this hump that’s what’s slowing me down and you just like you see it like you see the horizon but eventually like reality just has to kind of hit you and you have to say like is this viable product are people wanting it or are they not wanting it because I’m doing a bad job pitching which is something you can fix or they not wanting it because it’s a shitty product or it’s a bad you know opportunist it’s so funny you mentioned that one of the things I talk to people about is this whole idea of why don’t we focus on just being good can we do that first I’ll see companies that will pitch to say you know Shauna if I just had to decay by just at 500k I could go out and get this customer and you kind of go really like you know your product is just kind of wire frames that you drawn together here for me like what if you actually just went out and made it you spent a month and made made an MVP made a product a minimum sellable product that you could get in front of your customers what if you focused on that instead of focus on those other pieces because if you can if you can be good I’ll tell you getting customers getting financing it’s all easier when you’ve got something that folks actually want yeah that’s interesting so could you kind of like dive into like a case study of like somebody who like you don’t have to say obviously AME names or the company names or you know but kind of say like the general industry of like what the product was and what their struggles were and then did they end up fixing something and did they leave do they make an MVP and did it work or did they just keep going down the route that they were going and it didn’t work out yeah I mean I can’t even use you know I lost the company that I started right so when we created our product we thought we were going to be a corporate YouTube and we said we’d be a place where people could host their video content anytime you needed to find an answer you could access it right through that platform and when we started talking to customer so you know early stage that all made total sense on our whiteboard that’s how we were gonna go get customers that’s how we were gonna go get traction but then we did something we started talking to customers and we found out more and more and more it seems so obvious but most people don’t do it they just I think it looks so perfect on the whiteboard and they never want to ruin their pretty picture so I never actually go and try it out so we talked to customers the customers told us that the things they valued actually weren’t necessary the backend storage this whole you know management piece is much more on the recording how can you keep that quick ability to record and what we found was that you know the ability to make video and have it just be fast something you could record and share in silly open video up as a use case to teams that weren’t really using it teams and sales teams and support teams in general you know training who weren’t who weren’t videographers they could whip up some video content now and send it off to their team and we never would have learned that if we had gone out and raised money or tried to raise money right away we would have raised money around the wrong thing it wouldn’t have been validated we probably wouldn’t have been able to raise money just because it we didn’t have any homework that we had done well because we went this way right because we went this way we were really able to validate with your customers so the thing I always tell people is I don’t really care how how pretty it looks on your whiteboard right the customer decides if it’s right or wrong you have to talk to them that’s that’s how this all works right so how far into the venture were you when you started talking to customers hole man and I still remember the moment so there are three of us founders that iowa’s was myself Nick Stockman and Peter Ferriss and so new Knick was our product leader our visionary as Peter was a technical guy he’d create much the code and I originally was the finance guy those are the roles we carved out for ourselves and you kind of realized that an early stage startup as the finance guy you really have nothing to do you’re like yep I paid the two bills this month yeah great like wait what I’m glad I’m adding value to the team right just as nothing to do and I remember kind of looking around one day banker in Peters basement or you know it’s like a local library so many of the spots we could just all get together is very rare that we’re all together in the early days and Peter was you know coding away on something that Nick was drawing a new wire I kind of thought to myself and I was like who’s gonna talk to the customers oh wait it’s uh it’s gonna be me like process of elimination that you’re that’s not yeah not you it’s not you so it’s gonna be me okay and so you know a few days after that I set up my first cold email I sent an email to 20 people in town and it was so custom and I typed it all out by hand I sent them all and I thought I was crushing it I was like this is how you do sales and then no one responded to me Nolan owners fine then I did it again the next day no one responded then the next thing no one was fun and so eventually I realized wow I’m spending way too much time on my outreach and my message sucks I need to be able to test my message in my pitch and so that’s really what got me what got me thinking and the questions that I know now that I wish I’d known the end where you need to be able to answer why anything why us why now in the eyes of your customer before you’re ready to send that email you need to have a theory around around what the value is right why does your category matter why anything why does your product beat out the other products or whatever they’re doing today for this that’s true why us and why now why should they move today instead of in six months how can you create urgency some businesses will have urgency there will be a regulation or an initiative or some like forcing function that creates this need for the customer to buy quickly but most deals you don’t actually have that so how can you manufacture a little bit of that urgency how can you use an exploding offer or use kind of the social proof point to show that this company’s falling behind not being involved in your solution those are just a lot of the things that I learned from from that journey so what did what did you do what did you do to manufacture that reality for your customers yes okay so for us I mean so why anything we actually learned that we wanted to target people who already knew the answer to why anything so if you were a customer and you’re like I don’t know why do it why should I use video we would say see you later you’re not for us and then in the space where you were using video our value prop was we had better usability and we were a cheaper product which usually meant hey you’re gonna get way more engagement than what you’ve had previously with this crazy expensive solution and you’re gonna spend a little bit less in the process so that kind of became our our why us and in terms of manufacturing urgency that exploding off our side of things we would get creative I mean we would we would run campaigns in certain industries featuring our customers so maybe if you’re a construction customer we would mention Mortenson construction and how they were able to leverage ILO’s to do X Y & Z and here’s why you know you’re kind of falling behind if you’re not you bring these things we also would run exploding offer campaigns so if you you know did something like show us your bill in a given month you know we would be willing to match that price or care guarantee you some savings and match new capability for capability stuff like that got people interested in and moving in the ways that we wanted them to so interesting yeah so there’s a lot of ways you can kind of manufacture that urgency that was that was one part of the equation the other part I want to bring up I didn’t I stopped manually typing out all these emails pretty quick you need to use sales automation because you’re an army of one right the big companies you’re competing against they’ve got they’ve got a bunch of people like marching to the beat in the phones and they can send out many knows you can’t afford to do that you’ve got to get smart with your sales automation even if it’s just simple things like every time you send an email have a couple automated follow-ups and so you can use tools like reply dot IO like back in my day sales loft was the tool they had an entry-level plan we could buy one seat they no longer have that there’s still a great tool for teams but I used reply dot IO I use HubSpot you just got to send out some automation in a you know in a quick if you like that’s the way you can do it without having to manually type out a hundred emails right right so let’s I really like that you’re mentioning like actual tools and like girls that you know viewers can actually go to what are some of your favorite tools John that you’re used today oh man so today today there’s a few so I really depends on the the part of the the sales stack that you’re looking at so I’ll start with my first ones so before you can you’ve been outbound you need to have information around your customer right so you need to have email addresses phone numbers and in order to get that information there’s a couple different ways you can do it there’s actually a new tool that I’ve been hearing a lot about and I’m getting a demo with them this week but everyone else I’ve talked to swears by them so I’m trying them out it’s seamless ai seamless ai is list building as a service so you pay like a monthly fee and they’ll do just in time lead generation for you which is pretty cool I’m interested in learning more about how they’re they’re doing it my my process is I use up work for that do I hire data scrapers upwards to find email addresses and you do that it’ll cost you about 15 to 30 cents a contact and they’ll be able to pull in you know the email the direct dial number their name the link to their LinkedIn profile and you can use all of those different pieces in your your sales outreach your automation that’s one in terms of direct outreach I really like reply dot IO for early days like you can set up a series of emails and they’ll go out you know on your behalf at certain times and touch points it eliminates all of the the hesitancy you might face around oh I’ve email I already emailed and am I being annoying it gets rid of that it eliminates it from the equation helps you be on the ball with your outreach which is so so important and then lastly HubSpot or you know salesforce kind of that crm tool where your data can live I’m a big HubSpot person I contribute to the HubSpot blog I’ll be at inbound this September I think they’ve got a great product they’re doing some really powerful things out there and I use their sales to rules and their CRM to kind of be that source of record for all of my deal data that’s awesome so when you do a deal with whether it’s a firm or a startup that you are mentoring funding or you’re working with in the accelerator do you like kind of give them some of these tools or like oh yeah yeah yeah absolutely so in terms of getting started I really start with one of two things and we’ve touched on both of them a little bit when people struggle with outbound wonder if they’re trying to get their outbound off the ground there are two things that will really dramatically shift your success and so one is your message right it’s those three questions do you have a real good answer to though each of those three questions and ultimately the only judge of that that matters is your customer and it matters in a few different areas it’ll matter in your your email open your response rate your connect rate if you’re on the phone that’s really where that comes in we’ll have number of people that you once you talk to them are they willing to book a demo with you and move further down the funnel the other is data integrity right bad data at the top means it doesn’t mean you have to hit that many more people and this is what drives it drives me crazy dick so and a lot of folks out there will will tell you to like buy lists have you ever heard someone would say oh just buy a lead lists that come up ever oh my god actually that’s come up in interviews that we’ve had on the show and not to let the head mouth past gasps no no that’s it that’s a very common strategy yep so the issue and so leadless like listen you’re starting out it’s hard to find leads the issue I have with leadless is that when you buy lists it’s really only about 70% accurate so you have General CRM decay which means time expires people move to different jobs people move within the organization right which means that data that you grabbed you know today is probably still good but in six months or a year it’s probably a junk part of it anyway and so the way to combat that is to do something called just-in-time lead-gen which means the contacts you need to get you’re grabbing them a week before you’re gonna hit them right and there that’s kind of what seamless does perspective I does that down in Austin they’re more for a kind of enterprise accounts and then you can also do this process with your up worker right to kind of get that low low cost per per lead and get things going that way so it starts with messaging and it starts with data integrity those are kind of the two building blocks that you can build your outbound or inside sales team on sure okay so let’s have this this situation going on there is 20 year-old Shawn listening to this show right now and he’s the sales guy for his company yep and he’s like okay great I’m gonna hire a data scraper from up worth to feed me leads that I’m gonna use in my CRM what kind of leads should they be instructing the data scraper to look for yeah so this really varies depending on your industry so your industry in your product when you start a company you have an idea of who you think the customer is that may or may not be right in fact it’s probably wrong but you can talk to that person right talk to those people you think would be a good fit for you and you’re really gonna ask them like who the best person at the organization is for this you’re gonna have kind of a right person email or cadence and what you’re gonna find out your sales or whatever yeah exactly you know you’re the best person for this who handles this and by having enough conversations or the people you think are right you’re either gonna redirect it to people that are better or you’re not and in that case you know you can say okay wow I did have the right person or no shoot it looks like it’s this title over here we need to go get these people and so I would say come up with at least three categories of who you think your customer is within a particular vertical who you think you’re selling into and then talk to them and find out who’s good who else is involved in the decision who’s the best point of contact and as you get those data points suddenly it’s going to become a lot clearer what you should do and who you should be talking to sure I I really like that but one one question that kind of comes to my mind is let’s say that 20-year old Shawn is thinking to himself okay how much development of the product should I be doing before I reach out to customers and they say oh this sounds great is it ready and you’re like actually it’s just an idea phase or is that a good thing because then you can tweak it before you’re too time invested in case you had the wrong thing and they’re like you know actually that’s totally not what I want I would prefer this right like what stage in the development do you start doing outreach to customers and there’s a sub-sub question from that how do you deal with like I know that there’s people who are fearful of well what if I tell them what my idea is or I tell them what my product is and then they’re gonna steal it or they’re gonna tell they’re there I you know their tech department to like well we can just build this ourselves you know what I mean yeah so this this actually happens a little bit on best inside so some companies usually newer companies will try to ask investors to sign NDA’s because they’re worried that the ideas might get out there my biggest piece of advice on this is the idea you have especially do you happen to start it’s not really worth much what’s worth something is you and your team and the ability to execute and iterate on that idea right it’s it’s the saying a good team will take a bad idea and make a better one a bad team will take a good idea and make it terrible like that’s just how it is right it’s so interesting you you are the value add in your business don’t be afraid to share what you’re doing the other thing that I’ll say the benefit of sharing what you’re doing is it creates accountability tell anyone who will listen tell your family tell your friends tell your business colleagues this will help you create this accountability that we’re doing this right which helps you burn your boats and and know that you you’ve created this sense of urgency for yourself around creating a start-up in terms of your first question how do I know I have something that’s worth showing I’m in the idea phase the the readiness of your product is actually it’s important it’s always gonna be important we talked about being good you know you want to be good before you go out and try to raise money or go get customers but the other thing that’s important is how effectively you can communicate what you do and they’re almost inversely related if you can explain what you do to save your life you need something that you can use to show what you do or no one will take you seriously period right ever if you’re really good at explaining what you do the amount of product you actually need is is inversely related you know a lot of enterprise sales reps you can talk the talk and know the value they’ll walk in with a PowerPoint deck and they very rarely showed the software back in the day you can use a similar approach where if you have a really solid pitch you know you can have some minimal wireframes and some workflows in a slide deck as opposed to showing them a fully blown up product and what you can do is you can say hey you know I’m I’m backlogs in terms of actual potential deployments with you guys I’d love to have you try the capability it won’t be ready until December or February would that be a decent timeline for us to roll something out for you and your team just on a trial basis or whatever it is that way you can get some users right or some people who queued up to use the product and you don’t need to have a product fully base ultimately you’re gonna want to hear from them what are the features and capabilities you think are most important that’s going to influence your development efforts right gotta talk to your customer so that’s interesting that you’re kind of saying that um I was just like I think yesterday no two days ago I was at a meet up with a couple of internet entrepreneurs in Minneapolis and one guy it was having issue he he went and he pitched his product he has a SAS company you know and uh so he was kind of either at like the ninety percent like completion right so it there’s actually like a live demo that they can show and like this is what it’s gonna look like when your people are using it and he went and he actually got these bitches with these huge organizations I can’t like say who they are but and he actually they are like this is great we’re on it right now we have 20,000 sales reps that want to use your tool by the end of the year anyway oh my god like I just I’m in like beta version I was hoping you’re gonna say oh yeah like we’ll have a team of 50 people test it out and then maybe we’ll roll it out company-wide so now he’s almost in panic mode because he’s like oh my god is huge you know fortune 500 company wants to roll this out to 20,000 sales reps and what if it breaks on like day one you know I mean like what’s that gonna look like for my reputation how is that gonna look for like repeat business you know what if it’s like a too big of a task to fix so like how do you kind of approach there’s the other end of the spectrum of like you had two successful of a pitch you know what I mean yeah yeah so I mean it one that’s a good problem half right you’ve rated kind of a success disaster the first word and success disaster is success so you’re doing things you want to be doing in those scenarios if you have an opportunity at that level to hit it out of the park you wanna you want to drop everything else that you’re doing you want to double down on that opportunity that’s that’s my advice if you’ve got a a marquee customer who’s willing to deploy you at scale and you’ve got contract value behind it to back it up that’s what you want to do that’s the easiest way to move your company forward and maybe that means hiring more people more developers maybe that means going on raising a funding round to meet the meet the need there you can do some of those different pieces because you’ve gotten this this proof point you really want to lean in to the opportunity is what I’ll say on that one right right does that mean that let’s say in order to hire some people you have to raise a little bit more capital and a lot of investors are gonna say well do you have a an order placed you don’t even like or what do you think as an investor and as an entrepreneur what do you think about that oh yeah I mean I mean listen you want to have your customer sign on the line that’s dotted right that’s what counts the most right I think in terms of getting POS in the example you mentioned you know the customer is willing to deploy with you by the end of the year I would get something inked with them and say hey you know great I understand and maybe you want to scale it down understand you want 20,000 let’s do 1,000 we’re gonna be ready for you in December and then you’ve got something that you can take back to an investor and say hey here’s here’s our customer here’s why they’re excited to use it they’re going to be deploying with us the end of year we need to scale up and we’re gonna meet the need and that’s an understandable situation for folks – to help you with and and just from like an investor standpoint that’s like a hallelujah moment you know like oh the only reason we’re here is because we really need to scale like we’re just we need fulfillment money you know it’s funny a lot of a lot of people a lot of people will pitch their business like that whether it’s real or not right right I think if you have like some real forcing functions again it’s like the urgency right the number of deals that you see that actually have a real urgency is small the number of people that are trying to manufacture urgency is high but if you’ve got real urgency I would lead with that you know it’s like that the old like myth I actually don’t know how true it is of like the old Google slide deck where they would just show their number of users just like going up and like yep I need to raise money to deal with all the traffic you know can you help us yeah yeah so actually I’m gonna ask you another question that was talked about at the meetup because I feel like if anybody is a good person asked it’s gonna be you because you want some you know pretty much a SAS product that was rolled out you know to companies so when a company like that comes up to you and says okay we want to roll this out we’ve got 20,000 people on the docket waiting for this product how do you deal with pricing at that kind of a scale cuz obviously there’s like enterprise and like just how deep of a of a discount do you give when you’re dealing with that kind of numbers yeah I mean especially if it’s your first contract you’re not gonna know what to price for most b2b fast products they end up pricing not enough and very rarely are they over pricing the customer will beat you up again if they over if you’re over pricing they’ll try to push your price back down there’s a few different things you can do I mean you know with your early customers with your first 10 customers you’re probably gonna charge them 10 different prices it’s just how it works because you don’t know you don’t really know how much value are they getting I don’t know I think there’s value here I think they’re getting this if they’re getting that ultimately they’ll help you prove out the value to the next 10 the next 90 as you go from 10 to 100 so that early price like the one thing I’ll say is the next time you get a customer of that same type there’s a great rule exits by a Jason Lumpkin with SAS sir and he says that you know when you’re doing you know software to service sales to large counts and you land one early on the next time you get an account of that same type double your pricing there’s to see what happens because more often than not you you way under priced the first one so since the first one I would I would try to do that exercise think about what you think is a reasonable price and then double it cuz worst case scenario you’re gonna get beat up by the vendor management function and you might have to come back down hopefully you end up in a place you know right where you want to be having said that that my biggest you know grievance with any sales rep already startup sales founder is when you tell someone a price and you immediately cave on the price you know so often people think of price as this this innate barrier to moving a deal forward and maybe it is some cases it can be some cases it’s definitely not if they have budget you giving them an extra 20k doesn’t help anybody doesn’t help you they were gonna buy anyway right so when you’re in your negotiation you want to find out what’s important what else is important what’s most important and you do this essentially by taking positions Shawn we can’t spend over 20 grand Shawn we have to have it by October Shawn needs to do XY and Z you take those positions blanket statements and you turn them into interests oh why why do we need to have by this oh there’s a training program coming out oh you need to use it for that okay great why can’t it be more than 20 grand Oh the budget cycle renews in February so maybe if we started small here we could roll into something larger then okay so often people just take take what the customer says is like Ashton stone it doesn’t have to be in can understand oh yeah I agree and with the scenario you said like they could you know start out at a lower price start out with a smaller case right let’s say from October with in come February when budgets come back to roll around you say okay now let’s roll this out to more users and then you go back to the price that your original I think of it this way if you’re the startup founder if you’re doing that early stage sales it’s like you’re a pitcher on the mound and if you only are you know listening what the customer says and treating it all as a section stone you’re gonna throw a fastball every single time but the customer the batter will tell you what to throw you know they’ll say oh it’s needs to be this day and you’re like oh interesting like we can start small like maybe that’s your changeup you start with a small pilot contract and then you can expand yeah or they’ll say something else and you know you need to go a different route need to go for as much as you possibly can be it right now maybe they’re their projects getting defunded in February shoot well what can we get going now let’s try to go for 2,000 or 3,000 people and so it’s almost like you’re learning these other pitches by listening to your customer customer tell you which pitch to throw to to win the deal right right and in the worst case scenario is people who panic like on the spot like in real time like let’s say that you and me were you know customer SAS producer and they say we need it for this amount and then they immediately like say ok you don’t I mean or no you don’t I mean like it’s ok to like sit there and think and like do math in your head that’ll actually impress the customer like oh I guess their pricing wasn’t just a poof imaginary number that though this sounds good let’s just price it at that like if you’re actually like crunching numbers like okay this is what it costs for storage this is what it costs for whatever blah blah blah support blah blah blah then you can actually like think and you can say you know what and it’s okay to say you know what let me get back to you on that that’s something I have to check into and see what we can do for you because that provides you a cushion for like defense that you don’t have to like immediately like give in to their what they’re asking because it’s bad if you if you say oh yeah we’ll do it for that price and then you come back the next day you know what we can’t do it for that like that just looks sure over-promised under deliver the one thing I will say about pausing so pausing in and of itself is a very powerful tactic in sales when someone says something you can just give them a long pause and if they’re not confident what they said sometimes they’ll retract what what they said and like start negotiating with himself this happens with with new sales reps all the time I’ll get the product demo they’ll mention the price and I’ll just wait they’ll say it’s it’s 10k and you’re like oh and you just sit there and they feel it they feel that awkward pause kind of sit in my god I don’t actually 8500 it’s 8500 you’re like okay what else you got for me today you know they just gave us something and you have to give up anything so it’s a slippery slope on the flip side to your point if someone says hey I can do it for 20k and you were willing to accept it for 10 you know you can jump up and that’s a great deal for you it’s twice the value about you what you wanted to get but take a minute even in those scenarios where you know you can do it take a minute because no one wants to be in the deal where the other guy jumps up to shake your hand because that means that I feel like I stepped rude right exactly you don’t want it you don’t want that to happen right interesting so even if they over price them your own product you know mmm right you think and that is so like interesting right what what what’s another like powerful like sales tool at you like him like that to me is a tangible thing that people listening can actually start using today let’s say that was you know this on the way to their work they’re like holy shit I’m gonna use that today you know I mean right there like a piece of animal that you can give them yeah I would say the the one tactic that I always love is this tactic called Lincoln trade so we use the example where the sales rep just hears silence and been cuts price link any anything that you do any give that you make to the customer link it to something else say alright if if you can give us a signed contract by the end of the month we can get you that 10% off and go for 10 K to 9 K how does that sound and by doing that the customer knows every single time they’re not gonna get anything for free right so if they ask you for a feature if they ask you for a discount link it is something else okay you have to be a referral customer for us and we need to get the deal done within by the end of the month right you know whatever whatever those things the value that you can get from that relationship make sure you’re driving that conversation that’ll enable the customer to help it’ll help them take you more seriously and they know they’re not gonna be able to take advantage of you right right because it adds like it tells them that your time is valuable too and so many like startups are like wool these I only have let’s say that it’s a bigger price you know really niche they’re like I only have like four or five prospects at a time like I really do have a lot of time to commit to them and that’s almost like a bad thing because if they know that you have all the time in the world and that you’re waiting for them they’re gonna like like I’m not everybody will do this but they could like use that you know what I mean right I mean you you you always want to have a baton a best alternative to a negotiated agreement right and if they feel like you need them more than they need you they have leverage and they’ll use it against you so even if it’s not you know as real you always want to kind of posture in a way that you can walk away from the deal mm-hmm so what another question I want to ask you is what is one example of like a case study that you in your business where with Aiello’s that you had you know customer XYZ come in you used this tactic this strategy and you had this kind of an outcome like something like a story that people can listen to and like that because I always I always find out that when we use stories in our show it helps people remember the tactics better because that they call yeah that’s sure sure and not really like a tactic but I’ll just leverage the importance of following up so we had a customer that we met with in oh man I was like October of October last year I think it was and when we met them they were very late in their buying process they had already done their research their evaluation we weren’t on the list but we did the demo we showed him our product and they were very impressed except the only issue as they were trying to make a decision ASAP and so following up is important everyone knows following up is important but when you’re following up via certain mediums it only counts when the customer you know sees the medium and responds to you and so make sure that you’re actually connecting with the customer and a regular basis so with this customer you know what we ended up doing was I set up a call immediately right after the demo cuz I knew they had a short time line I set up for 8:30 that morning the next day and we talked through what they wanted to see so I sent them over some materials they asked about our mobile capabilities I sent them an app he played with it that evening I fell out with him at 8:30 the next day and said hey you know how’d it go with the app who else do we need to loop in on the decision to see if this is something we want to pursue he gave me some names I said okay what do they want to see and we added them and then the next day at 8:30 after that on that call I booked another to call for 8:30 and then you know I was like this guy’s morning cup of coffee every single morning connecting with him seeing how we were progressing showing him that we were responsive and receptive to what they wanted to do and then by the fourth day they had picked us to be the vendor so they their account was open for a total of four days they had already done a lot of research they were just towards the end of the buying process but if we hadn’t followed up as diligently as we did and shown the the product and the company’s ability and willingness to work with the customer we probably would not have even been considered Wow Wow so you’re telling me that to fill in the blanks you there were other vendors that they were looking at for the needs that Eilis was providing yeah and the fact that you were there every single day the next day to like continue up follow up on the sales process versus your competitors probably weren’t doing that they’re like oh we’ll just send over the proposal we did a demo we did a follow-up right oh it’s just up to their buying decision like we’ll just wait to hear back from them yeah so there’s this this thing in sales of if you don’t have like a scheduled reason for why the customers delaying if there’s not something that’s happening if you’re just hearing this like long pause usually it means they’re talking to someone else like someone is taking initiative with the customer and you want it to be even right you want to be that person driving the initiative one thing you can do to do just that is any time you’re in a meeting or any time you’re on the phone if you’re having a meaningful station it’s not that initial conversation like a cold call if you’ve got a scheduled meeting ask for a follow-up meeting you know that you’ll talk about next steps you can say okay it sounds mean to lupine this decision-maker or run a trial with our product why don’t we check in Friday of next week just to see how everything’s going and by doing that you’re gonna know one or two things one when you’re on the phone with someone it’s very very hard for them to agree not to me eat with you they basically have they have to hate you to agree not to meet you right so you got that working your favor and to if they do say you know no there’s got to be something else you’re gonna start to air other objections that would have previously gone unnoticed in a minute I love that and then you can and then you can actually confront those objections on the same call you can say oh why it like and then we’ll take another one out of your book oh why is that why do I need it done by October why I need you for this price right suddenly you’ve got the interest not just the positions absolutely right right and like it just goes to prove that like information is you know power it’s your advantage because if you don’t know what your customers objectives are if you don’t know what their issues are you don’t know what their needs are how can you be that solution for them right right now you can’t you can’t so you know identifying again and boils back to the three questions right if you know those those three wise anything else and now suddenly you’re gonna be able to show the value and show how you can fit in and meet some of those needs sure so Sean I want to kind of like take a little divulge here so we were we’ve we’ve talked a lot about SAS and startup sales so now let’s dive into the other part of your expertise and fundraising what kind of tangible advice let’s say somebody who’s listening to this right now is about to go pitch an investor right they have a couple of meetings today with several funds what’s um what’s what are some pointers that you can give them oh man let’s see so I might take that question and go on the flip side so the reasons why I think folks struggle with fundraising there’s a couple common mistakes that people make and so the the first I’ll say is you know that I whole idea of how do we get good before we try to go out and raise money or go out and get that customer and getting good a lot of times early stages will mean the team so if you haven’t done a good job recruiting other co-founders of it justyou if you have gaps like we all do and you haven’t met those gaps you know maybe you’re a tech company without a tech founder that’s pretty tough it’s very hard to be a tech company without a check for I just it really doesn’t work you need to get a tech calendar and you probably know you need to get a tech founder so go do it and then go try to raise the money right right good good first in on top of that I’ll say some things that folks do that usually rubs people the wrong way one is their competition side so it’s very easy to get this mentality of us against them and we’re gonna beat them every single time because of these things when the reality is an investor wants you to be intellectually honest they want you to look in the mirror and be able to tell yourself what what is really gonna be the most likely outcome which is there will be types of deals that you will be able to win and there will be types of deals that your competition will be able to win what do those deals look like are you a low-cost provider targeting people that have smaller budgets are you this huge differentiated product going after the fortune 500 when someone Menston mentions usability are you gonna win or lose right it’s okay but just have those answers and say hey you know this competitor is doing this these things and they’re gonna beat us in this segment that’s just the way it is we’re gonna beat them over here because this is where our focus is and these are the things that we’re doing so don’t have that us against them mentality instead kind of know where each of you play in the market all right and because if we’re in an investor standpoint if it sounds too good to be true it almost always is right they say oh no we’re we’re superior in every single way for me if it’s much more validating if they come out and be even if they’re even if you make something up even if you actually are like better than them in every way if you just come up with you fine because there’s gonna be something and no matter how small it is and say you know what they do have us beat they got way better vending machines in their office than we do right you know maybe not that but you know something to say like you know they are beating us here that’s gonna feel from an investor’s standpoint okay they are really being transparent with me either being honest yeah so that way I can make a better informed decision and the thing I’ll say that is this you know in a market where you don’t think you have any competition or you think you beat the competition every single way that is a market that you do not understand is as you think you do interesting expand on that yeah so here’s what I’ll say so a lot of times folks will create a category like salesforce was one of the first crms right before that we had you know databases that had customer information we had little black books people would carry around and salesforce had competition the competition was the old category of storing customer information it was storing it in your head it was the little black book it was the database system somewhere there’s a file cabinet right right the file cabinet right some salesforce had competition every single company has competition it can be old categories if you’re creating a way that’s usually what it is if you’re riding a web a with a bunch of other people it’s the surfers that are next to you they’re your competition more often than not right show your diligence do your homework know your market and by doing that you’re gonna know who your competitors are in every scenario here for sure and actually a company that comes to mind for both things that we just talked about is Amazon when Amazon was pitching their company when Jeff Bezos was pitching to investors he would actually be it this is what he would tell him he said there is a 70% chance you’re gonna lose all your money and this is gonna flop by if it’s at 30% where it you know works you’re gonna we’re gonna do very very very well right but they don’t sparrin see with people was almost attractive obviously it turns off a lot of investors but for the ones who are on board they’re like an advocate for you they’re on they’re on your team because they want yeah I mean every investor wants you to succeed but if they’re in that boat where like they know your chances but they know what is the light at the end of tunnel they’re totally for you they’re rooting for you and then like a knowing your category somebody could argue all amazon has zero competition they are like v like even back then when they started they’re like the only online bookseller you know what I mean right yeah he did say no not really like Barnes Barnes and Noble and mom-and-pop book shops they are technically your your competition right now it’s the people that you might be replacing that are your current competition yeah exactly exactly so do your homework on that side I think that’s really important the other area where I see folks making mistakes is really on there go to the market maybe they’ve got on a couple of you know deals through their network or their they’re trying to figure out what levers they can pull it’s totally okay to be in discovery mode be really open and upfront about that don’t come across as you have it all figured out at the same time you don’t want to say hey we don’t know the answer this problem we’re gonna go find somebody to figure it out for us the problems we have today are very rarely solved by people we haven’t met yet and that’s especially true for sales so if you don’t know how to sell your product when you bring on a sales person and they start to struggle how are you gonna be able to help them at all you won’t they’ll just continue to struggle and flounder and eventually three months later you have to get rid of them yeah I think there’s a lot of a lot of takeaways in that because you need to have a plan in place if you say this is a problem we have we have no idea how the hell we’re gonna solve it but if you say we’re taking action towards fixing this problem that’s where you’re gonna that that’s better than just going in there and saying oh I don’t know we’re just gonna have to figure it out right so the next question I want to ask you as an investor as an investor what are some components that you look for in your companies and of the ones you have or have not invested in the ones that have succeeded and like really blossomed to be successful what are some other things the traits that they have in common like man it just seems like everyone that succeeds has this thing going for them or the ones that fail have this thing going for them oh man so I think for Furby person like the deals that I’ve kind of spearheaded are usually in categories where I either know a lot about the category they’re targeting or I’ve used the product so I’ll just use an example in town so local crates so a router invested in local crate they have milk it solution for retail and they’re actually the only solution right now that’s able to leverage kind of the local co-op and local farmers markets so you get ingredients that are sourced from kind of your community which you know you’re always in a better spot if you can get that it’s generally fresher it doesn’t use preservatives and then they have a milk good solution where they teach you how to make food and I originally met them in TechStars last year as a mentor and it was a company dick where I met them and I’m like man they’re growing a lot with marketing channels like it’s not really an area where I can help my how can I help this company I said you know what I’m gonna use their product and I I made you know a dozen me a dozen local crate meals with my girlfriend and they basically they changed my cooking experience man they took me to another level but but the interesting thing was I was able to use the product and I understood the value properties wow this is really interesting the thing I love about local crate is the team you know as an investor you’re looking at lines not individual dots and that team was always hustling always kind of getting that next that next deal that next opportunities when they launch with you know it started in the spring was a huge opportunity to put them into different stores and I just saw that they had that track record they were willing to make things happen on the other side another deal that I really like is funnel AI so what they do is essentially enable you to crawl through you know forums and social channels to find people who are upset either with your competitors or looking into a product category and this is crazy valuable so when I did sales we looked at inside sales channels things like kora where people can post questions and then you can have you know subject matter experts answer them or even Twitter where people are talking about you know what should I get and I’m in the market for a new car what any of any recommendations what what funnel will do is they’ll actually crawl those areas and take those individual posts and put them in front of your sales teams so you can take that social sentiment and turn it into a lead what’s so powerful about that day is it’s you’re getting them at the moment where they’re upset with your competitor yeah we’re at the moment where they’re looking right they just tweeted and that can hit your crm and you can say wow you know if I’m a car dealer and someone just said man I had a terrible test drive at this Toyota dealership I want to know about that so I can like jump in like hey maybe you should be thinking about a new you know Kia here’s here’s what we can do for you like let’s get you over by the lot and have you show you a way better experience than what you just had and write stuff like that converts so I set up an HUD demo of their account and I pretended I had a CRM I pretended I competed with Salesforce and HubSpot and I just tracked the leads that it got for me over a two-week period and from doing that I said yes like I would be able to get meetings using the software this would be valuable to me as a Sales Leader I would buy this that’s kind of how I knew I said all right this product is really good and I chatted the tree and the team and again same thing they kind of were just consistently growing their business I said all right they’ve got the track record they’ve got a good product let’s let’s do something awesome Sean thanks for having you on the show we totally appreciate it we got so many gold nuggets we’re gonna have to do like a part too sometime because I feel like we barely scratched the surface of like the knowledge you can bring our viewers like oh my god well we’ll do a dig thanks so much for having me man no problem and where can they follow up on your do you want them to say that social media is a website how do you want them to contact you if they want to like follow you yeah so the best way to stay in touch with me is usually Twitter so I’m at a hIgG 19:21 you can also I’m new to the Instagram game but I’m getting out there it’s at Shawn Higgins startup is it’s my instant handle so yeah check me out on social I’m happy to follow up and keep the conversation rolling awesome and we’ll have everything that Shawn and I have talked about whether it’s links a certain company or a social media all in the show notes at online growth systems comm slash show notes John thanks for being on the show and we’ll see you next time all righty thanks – take care man they don’t even like it I will be put in the box nobody telling me what I should Rock nobody telling me what I should drop cause I do what I want and just robot I’ll start recording tomorrow in the morning they snow right now pouring my soul in there every story I’m writing producing that makes it I’m ester I’m building my craft and I’m not looking back I’ve become when there were things I want to do what I want to As found on Youtube
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