Qualifying Sales Leads for Technology Startups

If you are in the B2B Sales function of technology startup your role is one of the most critical for   startup’s survival. You are supposed  to pump in revenue in challenging situation to keep the startup going.

Typical startup challenges include::

– The product is in beta or slightly beyond beta, however, nowhere as evolved as competitor’s product your startup wants to dislodge.

– Your target customers have been doing business a certain way and are not willing to change.

Product-Market fit seems like a myth- you experiment based on assumptions and experience.

Given these challenges and the lack of resources it is critical to qualify leads early to maximize results. If you qualify leads early you know where to focus your energies and who to avoid.

What can a startup sales guy do to maximize results? How does the process of qualification work? The remaining of this post is about qualifying prospects early in the sales cycle.. perhaps in the first meeting.

‘Qualifying Leads’ is a misnomer, for the foot soldier is should actually be called “Rejecting Distractions’. Here are 3 questions you should try to get answers for in your first meeting with a prospect to minimize distractions:

1. Is the person you speaking with a user of your product, the decision maker, the influencer or a pain in the neck?

If the person is potential user of your product try to set up a demo as the next follow up item. If the person is the decision maker talk about the current solution they are using, the budget , how your solution could help them save over the next few years.  Talk about how you plan to disrupt the market, about your cool technology to the influencers.

‘Pain in the neck’ people are the ones that don’t believe in change, they would want to keep doing things the way it is being done. For example, if your startup solves the problem of an enterprise by moving certain function to cloud, these people would believe that Internet is doomed or evil. The best you could do is avoid direct pitching to the naysayers. Pitch to the influencers and decision makers instead.

2. Does the organization have the budget?

Your solution may be great, however, if the organization does not have budget this year there’s no point wasting time. Add such organizations to the ‘monthly newsletter mailing list’ to keep in touch and DO NOT waste your time trying to pitch.

The decision makers are the best people to discuss budgets. Users and influencers are either over-optimistic or over-pessimistic about the budget and purchase mandate.

3. Will they buy or are they looking for free products?

Customers try to bully startups into Win-Lose deals. Customer wins and the startup loses. They can do this because they know startups are eager to get their first few customers and they are correct to that extent. Startups need to work with early adopters to build their product, test the product market fit, develop channel and distribution. However, as a startup you need to ensure you are getting into deals where you will make money.

As the person front ending sales you need to make sure that the customer pay.  You can reasonably guess if the customer is looking for free lunch from the questions they have about the product features.

Customers that do  not intend to pay will quiz you about the features your product has or does not have. Do you have this feature? When do you think you can add that feature?  We definitely need those feature to consider your product etc..

Customers that are willing to try and pay for your product will ask for benefits. Will this feature help me reduce my effort by 30%? Will this feature help my team collaborate better? and so forth.

You should spend you time, energy and resources on customers that quiz you about the benefits and not customers that have a laundry list of features.

To sum it up, try to reduce distractions early in the sales cycle and focus energies on evangelists and early adopters.

Happy Selling!