One of the most important metrics for a SaaS business is the sales cycle and the best way to decrease it is through a sales ready product that will scale B2B sales. Automating as much of the human labor in the sales cycle is one of the largest areas of leverage for your business. This is more than asking your sales team to be more efficient, this is: i) creating cross-team goals across product, marketing, and sales, ii) measuring and iterating on the sales cycle, and iii) automating as much of the sales cycle as possible.
How to think about a Sales Ready Product:
One should create a sales ready product after creating a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is an early iteration of product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and to provide feedback for future product development. After releasing an MVP, do things that don’t scale. That means intensely focusing on selling the product with as much human glue as necessary to learn what works with what customer segments. Then, start working on a sales ready product that incorporates learnings on how stakeholders learn about, test, decide whether or not to buy, integrate the product, and ultimately use it. This could involve creating an automated billing solution, an easier method of signing up for the service, a more accessible way to understand product features, etc. The intent is to facilitate an enjoyable experience that shows potential customers just enough to convert and no more.
A good place to start is to write out the current customer journey through the lens of the sales and marketing funnel:
- Outbound \ inbound lead gen
- Marketing: How do people become aware of and interested in the product?
- Product: How do those leads learn about the product and company?
- Marketing: What collateral is shared to educate a lead on the product to qualify them?
- Opportunity stages
- Marketing: What collateral is provided to customers?
- Product: Does the sales team demo the product or do customers get access to demo?
- Product: Is there a POC? How is the POC validated from the customers’ perspective?
- Product: How do other customer stakeholders indirectly engage to learn about the product in ways that are relevant to their job? Technical documentation? Product comparisons on the website?
- Purchasing & Integration
- Product: What is the integration process for your customers?
The time it takes for a customer to go from the first step of this process to the last is one of the most important metrics to watch for a SaaS product. A ton has been written on what the sales team should do to decrease this cycle time. My favorite book on the topic is Predictable Revenue and I highly recommend having your VP of Sales read it. Yet when you look at the sales and marketing process so much is dependent on the product. It would be a lost opportunity to think it is only on the shoulders of the sales team to decrease the sales cycle.
Building – Sales Ready Product:
Ideally, you already have user personas, target customers, and a sales process mapped out. If not, do not overthink it. Write out a 30% draft with the sales, marketing, and product leads. What type of customer buys your product? What jobs do users want to accomplish with your product? How do your customers and users become aware of, learn about, test, and integrate your product?
Even having that 30% draft will start to improve on what you have today. After writing it out, figure out what can be productized that will yield the most amount of growth for the company. Focus on growth and do not let yourself get stuck in a mentality that sales will be driven by people. As a thought exercise, ask what it would look like to double monthly sales for one segment. As an example, Slack and x.ai have focused the sales cycle on the users themselves. Instead of trying to go through a complicated sales process tops down their websites have been focused on bottoms-up sales to the users. Their websites are focused on showing users the minimum they want to know before converting to a customer or, at least, testing the product.
Both of these products have a simpler integration and can be adopted by individuals bottoms up. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that your product can’t also be adopted in a similar fashion for some segments. For instance, choosing Google cloud for large organizations is a big decision yet for many customers the entire sales cycle is automated.
Offering an online signup is one potential part of creating a sales ready product. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense for your product or stage of development. If not, think about what other areas increase growth:
- Is there a way for an exponential amount of people to experience the product in some way?
- Is there a tool that would drastically increase integrations?
- How do people test your product against their criteria? For that matter, what are the purchasing criteria and can you create collateral or tool to demonstrate how your product meet that criteria in a more enjoyable automated way?
At Body Labs, we developed AI to estimate a user’s 3D body shape measurements. One could upload a photo of themselves and get back their inseam measurement, sleeve length, etc automatically. Every single potential B2B customer wanted to see how accurate this was for themselves. Regardless of what report we created, they wanted to test it in at least 10-20 people. So we created a tool that allowed anybody to easily test the accuracy of our AI drastically reducing all email, excel sheets, etc. This shaved off 2-3 weeks from our sales cycle, improved the buying experience, made testing product exponentially more accessible, and provided more consistent feedback back to the engineering team. This was a great easy win for us and just one example of how creating a sales ready product will scale B2B sales.
Scale B2B Sales:
The greatest amount of leverage you can have in scaling B2B sales is to automate as much of the buyers’ journey as possible with a sales ready product. It will automate tasks that were once human and this has enormous power. More than saving on hours in the day for someone in sales and marketing, it will:
Increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the sales team:
- Decrease sales cycle time and increase conversions.
- Recruit more capable employees. Top notch sales people love getting high commissions and that means working with products that sell.
- Decrease the time it takes to train new employees. This is huge especially while ramping a team.
Align engineering to what will drive the growth of the business.
- Empower the organization with data of what is working and not working.
- Align user personas and product learnings to what customers who buy and don’t buy your product are saying.
- Develop fully automated sales conversions removing the needs for sales in some segments or all together.
Creating a sales ready product to scale B2B sales should yield results from the get-go. Keep in mind though it is not a destination but rather a journey, a mindset, and culture. It will require iteration and sustained focus. It is also well worth it. I can’t think of one B2B product that has reached market leadership that does not have a sales ready product. Can you?
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