Category Archives: Startups

6 Tips for Selling to Big Business

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by entrepreneur Aydin Mirzaee (LinkedIn, ), who is a cofounder and the Co-CEO of Chide.it creators of  FluidSurveys.com and ReviewRoom

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When founding a startup, everyone involved gets used to being told “no”. They are told no for their ideas, no for funding and no for sales. There are two ways to react to no, either get discouraged and give up, or realize that eventually there will be a “yes” and continue working towards that end goal.

The successful startups are those that both persevere through discouragement and try something different

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” – Richard Branson

Stepping out of a comfort zone and doing things that others might not, is the thing that can lead to success.

This was the case when I founded FluidSurveys.com. FluidSurveys.com is an online survey and form building tool. Back in 2008 when we launched, there were already thousands of survey tools available on the market, including a well-known and well financed market leader, SurveyMonkey. It was the focus on selling to large organizations in the early days that has led to FluidSurveys.com becoming one of the top survey providers in Canada and it’s adoption by customers in large organization in over 50 countries including governments, educational institutions and Fortune 500 companies. These are my six tips on selling to large organizations.

1. Get Customer Testimonials Early On

Most of the time, large organizations are skeptical about buying from a startup for a number of reasons. Validation is the best way to get around this issue. Getting positive testimonials from beta customers who were involved in the product development phase and presenting it to large potential clients is an excellent way to validate the product and the company.

2. Try a Pilot Project

Pilot projects are popular with large organizations. FluidSurveys regularly performs pilot projects with large organization and has had successful sales as a result. “Get the targeted organization on a reduced rate pilot project and have them use your product for 6 months to a year. After that, why wouldn’t they buy from us instead of the competition? They are already familiar with us and our work at that point.”

Essentially you want to have the company use you on a smaller scale first, which is a small step towards the goal of establishing a strong relationship. From there, they are comfortable with the product and they will be able to move to using the product on a large scale, and the big steps will be much easier.

3. Understand the Buying Process

With large organizations, the product user will not necessarily be the purchaser. In Business-to-Business sales especially, there are almost always several people to consider in the buying process:  initiators, users, influencers, gatekeepers, and deciders.

When contacting a company, try to understand who your main contact is. While they may not be the decision maker, they could play an incredibly important role in whether or not your product is purchased.

Another important point to consider is the buying timeline your customer may be on. Consider if they will be more likely to purchase at a particular time of year and how long the process may take.

4. Pitch to as Many People as You Can

As a general rule, the product should not be pitched to just one person. Because there are a number of people involved in making decisions, if they can hear the pitch from you, you can be confident they received the right information

Tip: Avoid talking about price until the key purchasers are present. Rough numbers are fine but the final quote should be given after the full presentation.

I would often have to speak to not only the people within the company that make the buying decisions, but also the managers of the IT department. The reason for this is because large organizations are interested in central management: the ability to control the product themselves instead of having you come into the company. The IT department was an influencer in the buying decision since they had expertise with software products.

5. Consider Tiered Pricing

The way that the product is priced is another key component in landing sales with large organizations. The concern is always pricing too high vs. too low. If you’re priced too high, you might lose a bid to the competition. If you’re priced too low, prospects may not value the product. So what do you do?

Here the advice is to implement tiered pricing. Tiered pricing tends to work best for large organizations because their requirements may vary. For example, access for the first 100 users may cost $200/year and the next 100 users may cost $150/year. This is applicable to all sorts of products, not only software. You have to give the impression that you are not coming up with pricing on the spot and keep in mind that large organizations need all the numbers to plan for budgetary concerns. Prepare this information before you initiate a conversation with a potential client.

6. Address the Bankruptcy Concern

One last hurdle for startups to jump is the bankruptcy concern. Large organizations tend to worry about what would happen to their data in the event that the startup should go bankrupt, or has other financial issues. The best way to reassure these enterprises is to have good measures in place in the event that bankruptcy does happen, and be able to easily explain them to large organizations.

The most favorable way to alleviate these concerns from organizations is to give them the ability to download all of their data at any time or keep all of the data (and possibly the software itself) with a 3rd party (this is called escrow). The agreement and the conditions for the release of that data would then depend on the end situation.

In the end

The key is to be able to answer every question that big customers have. Better yet, covering their concerns before they even ask is a sales tactic that demonstrates your previous experience in working with other large organizations.

These sales tips for selling to large organizations have helped FluidSurveys.com more than double in staff, users and revenue in the past 6 months. Selling to large organizations is the key factor that I attribute to our current product and corporate success.

A Conversation with Brad Feld

 

Oct 30, 2012 A Conversation with Brad Feld on Startup Communities

We’re excited to be hosting a conversation with Brad Feld tonight in Toronto. There is still time to grab tickets before the event. The conversation is based around Brad’s Boulder Thesis and specifically how we as individuals, entrepreneurs can participate in meaningful ways to make Toronto a strong startup ecosystem. If you are interested in emerging technology, or emerging business model companies in the Greater Toronto Area this is an excellent chance to learn about how Foundry Group and Brad Feld build a vibrant startup community in Boulder, CO.

PS Hope to see you tonight.

Sponsors

Tickets

Rush Week

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The next week has a set of crazy awesome events for  startups, founders, marketers, community builders and the like in Toronto. (Check out a fuller list of events at Toronto Startup Fall Event List 2012). Personally it looks like I will be attending JoltCo Demo Day, Royal Canadian Mint Challenge Awards Ceremony and A Conversation with Brad Feld about Startup Communities. If you’re interested in understanding Toronto’s startup landscape and participating, you could consider this rush week without the complete stupidity.

It feels like a crazy two weeks. I was in Halifax for HPX Digital last week. I skipped Hacking Health this weekend (Thing 1 learned to ride her bike this weekend, so it was totally worth skipping this event). This doesn’t event take into consideration that I’m going to see New Order on Oct 23 and there is a second show on Oct 24 with tickets still available.

Oct 23 – JoltCo Demo Day
Looks like an amazing cohort of startups presenting. Includes eProf, GreenGauge Mobile, ShelfLife, SlingRide, tout.it, Venngage. I’m excited to see the pitches/presentations and the progress that each of these teams has made. 
Oct 25 – Royal Canadian Mint Challenge Awards
What can I say I’m a judge…But seriously this event has an amazing lineup. David Wolman and some other big thinkers in commerce, currency and the future of money. The Royal Canadian Mint has done a great job.
Oct 25 – AndroidTO
This is a great lineup. Boris Chan of XtremeLabs who is on our 2011 Hot Sh!t ListMike Beltzner of Wattpad; Oleg Kosteur of Pair – back after raising $4.3MM, etc. If you are building on Android and in Toronto. Get tickets to this event!
Oct 25 – Startup Grind Toronto
A fireside chat with Nikhil Kalghatgi, an NYC-based VC with Softbank Capital, whose portfolio includes Huffington Post, Zynga (back when the model was working), Gilt Groupe and Buddy Media.
Oct 26 – TEDxToronto
Always inspiring talks this year includes Steve Page formerly of the Bare Naked Ladies, Dr. Joseph Cafazoo of eHealth Innovation, Sonya JF Barnett and Heather Jarvis of Slut Walk (ok not purely startup but it should be interesting)
Oct 29 – HackerNest Social
A fun, laid back social event to connect with developers, designers, marketers, and others. Hosted by ex-Extreme Labs participant Shaharris Beh (LinkedIn) and others.
Oct 30 – A Conversation with Brad Feld on the Starutp Community in Toronto
We’re hosting this event. Do you love or hate the Toronto startup community? Lots of people talk crap, but this is an opportunity to participate in a conversation with Brad Feld. Brad wrote the “Boulder Thesis” about growing, building and sustaining an entrepreneurial community in Boulder, CO. Join us and help make Toronto a better place for startups.
NOv 1 – Startup Ping Pong TO
Ping Pong, startups, do I need to say any more? Get your tickets! And come out and hustle.

Community is the platform on which all of our individual actions stand.

There are a lot of great events happening in the next 7 days. My advice is pick one or two events to attend and participate. A long time ago, Mark Kuznicki quoted me as saying “The Community is the Platform” and others have elaborated. My advice is get out there and participate.