August 1, 2017 Ted Bauer

Selling to the mainstream: Take steps back to go ahead

By Martin Weiss, BizXpand

Last week Ted gave us the theory why selling to mainstream is a completely different animal than selling to early adopters.

Here’s my hands on experience at Bizxpand. We help international SaaS and software companies expand their business in Central Europe.

Our dream client (IDC – ideal customer profile) is a technology company that successfully sells in their home market, did already expand their business into another market and is now looking for the smartest way to work the B2B German market. In other words, they have a product-market fit and already found a repeatable sales model.

Adapting all that to the German specifics is our strengths. But…

…from time to time we also work with clients that don’t even know if they have a product/market fit. They did sell their products several times but didn’t develop a repeatable sales model around those customers yet.

What does that typically mean?

It typically means this type of company has only been selling to early adopters thus far.

An early adopter doesn’t need a perfect sales pitch, doesn’t need a clear value proposition, and doesn’t need ROI calculators or fancy sales collateral. They proactively do the work of “buying” instead of the vendor doing his job of “selling.” 

And exactly here’s the catch! Engaging with early adopters is important for your business but also misleading if you are not aware that they are early adopters.

In 95% of cases I’ve seen, the founders themselves sell to early adopters. They talk within their business networks, get meetings, get demos and eventually get some deals closed. Nobody knows exactly why but everyone’s confident that it is because of the great product. Yes, maybe.

And then what happens?

Usually after you sell to early adopters, this flow results:

  • “OK, it’s not that hard to get meetings with prospects. Our founders did it.”
  • “Good prospects are great. They understand the value prop after the demo. They want to sign!”
  • “Bad prospects, though, they don’t get it at all…”
  • “This prospects stuff is hard, and our founder/CEO is too busy to focus on it.”
  • “It feels like with the adopters running out, more of our meetings are bad prospects.”
  • “Well, the CEO definitely can’t be meeting with bad prospects.”
  • “We need a change.”

It is time for:

  1. Hiring a seasoned sales manager that can repeat in his full-time what the founders did so well or
  2. Come to the conclusion that the home market isn’t such a good fit for the product. Let’s expand internationally.

That is where we come into the picture. Companies call us for market expansion into Central Europe.

Wait, are we about to take steps back?

For those kind of companies it means we at Bizxpand need to go back to the start and instead of scaling the international sales (remember, that is why they called us), we have to do the customer development process because the founders didn’t do it themselves. Instead, the founders sold to early adopters and thought they were being successful. They weren’t. Early adopters are, by definition, good prospects. But now we’re going mainstream and we need to think about:

  • What problem does the product solve?
  • Who has that problem most of all? Is it really a pain?
  • What is the prospect’s status quo and what other alternatives do they have to solve that problem?
  • What 2-3 features do customers like most about the product?
  • What sales messages (positioning, differentiators, etc.) and what different kind of sales collateral is needed to successfully engage with prospects at all their stages?

Pah, sounds like two steps back, right? Yes, for sure it is.

Meanwhile we’ve developed our own customer development process with some shortcuts to do this as efficiently and effectively as possible.

It doesn’t matter if you do this on your own — or if you can outsource the customer development process — but you have to do it before you can scale your sales.

Otherwise only early adopters will buy from you and that is not a profitable business.

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