It’s never remotely easy until you have a steady stream of leads and a decent 1.0 revenue team.
But here are some things that can help in the early days even before then:
- Always hire at least 2 reps to start. If you just hire 1, you won’t really know what is working, and not working, and why.
- Don’t expect a sales magician. You ideally need to close the first 10–20 customers yourself, and then hire sales folks to help. Don’t expect magic. Instead, just expect some leverage as you continue doing founder-led sales. Stepping out of sales, or expecting some rep you just hired to magically take over sales from you, doesn’t work. More here.
- Have everyone in the company do customer support. At least once a month. This is generally subtly transformational. Everyone will understand feature gaps and priorities much better if every engineer and every salesperson also has to do support calls and tickets.
- Talk to as many customers as you can by Zoom / voice, and a bunch each month in person. Even if they are $5 a month. You will learn so much. For each customer of a certain type you close, there are another 10–1000 just like them out there. But if you don’t talk to them, you won’t see the pattern. At least, not as quickly.
- Begin drip marketing as soon as you have any sign-ups at all. You have to market to folks that don’t buy today. If they somehow found your tiny start-up no one has ever heard of, there is a decent chance they may buy later. More here.
- Content marketing almost always works. It’s just slow. Write about your Unique Value Proposition. SEO almost always works at least a tiny bit. So write 10 blogs posts about how your product truly changes the game. Probably a few prospects will find it.
- Booths and attending events are hard to get quality leads from unless you know what you are doing — but try the top ones at least. Because real, live buyers are there. Lots of them. The biggest events in your space (Dreamforce, RSA, SaaStr Annual, Money 20/20, whatever) will be full of buyers. And so if you do it right — leads. Show up. If your price point is say $20k+ or higher, even just a couple of good leads can easily be ROI positive. Enterprise buyers especially go to top events to meet new vendors, and potentially, buy their products. That’s unique.
- Make your product as viral as possible. Viral coefficients are often low in SaaS, but that just means it takes longer. It’s still a great investment. Invest in your long tail. Keep a Free edition if it’s still a good product. Find ways for your users to share the product across other users at their company and/or at other companies. If you do a Free Trial, make it truly great, without onboarding, if possible. Yes, we’d all love 100% viral acquisition. But even 10%-20% over time is a big boost. And it’s something you can do. That’s something folks miss. Even a lightly viral product has a real impact on acquisition over time.
- Pick up the phone. Do this. It always works. Chat is great. But also put a phone number on your marketing site. And pick up the phone when they call. The odds a deal closes go up when a prospect has the option of talking to someone. More here.
- Do more for your existing customers. Every month. OK this sounds super basic, but it’s something so many founders miss. We spend 90%+ of our time chasing new customers, and so much of our limited feature budget goes there, too. But every month, take a pause, and ask if you’ve added more value for your existing customers. Add more perceived and real value each month, each quarter, for the exact same price — and your customers will be inclined to stay. That’s why they pick a startup to partner with, in part. They’re betting not just on that great 10x feature today — but on a stream of innovation to come.
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic post)