Happy New Year and welcome back to #gxmxp! In this first post of 2020 – the last post of the Market Outreach phase – we’re going to work on creating and optimizing your Opportunity Framework.
To set the context, if you’ve been following #gxmxp, you’ve built your sales processes and figured out what technical tools you need. Once you start moving leads into opportunities and begin having actual conversations with potential customers you will need to be equipped with the right collateral toolbox. That’s what we refer to as your Opportunity Framework.
The purpose of an Opportunity Framework is to build out your minimum viable collateral.
There’s a lot of lead time when you’re creating your campaigns, doing outbound marketing, following up and scheduling conversations with people. This phase is about taking advantage of that lead time and building materials to prepare you for what will happen later in the sales process.
While sales collateral can come in many different mediums, it’s important as a time-strapped founder that you stay focused on building out minimum viable collateral that will satisfy the basic needs of your early customers.
Prospective customers at the early stages are going to take a brief look at your website. They will want to quickly spot a clear presentation about your business. Eventually, they will want you to demonstrate the promise of your technology.
Building collateral takes time and energy. You don’t want to be responsible for slowing down the sales process because you waited to build your collateral until someone requested your presentation.
We need to review back before we move forward. Gather up your Market Message Map, Unique Value Propositions and Unique Selling Propositions. Use these to determine the most important messaging statements for your ICP to include in your collateral.
All too often, a founder’s instinct is to overwhelm their audience with facts and information about every single feature, function and benefit of their technology. This tactic backfires because it dilutes your core value propositions and, in turn, makes it difficult for key stakeholders and prospective customers to lock in on how you are going to help them.
People have short attention spans. Your goal for developing all of your messaging is to work backwards from the question, “If I walked out of the room and my ICP had to pitch my business to their co-workers, what three things would I want them to say?”.
Focus on three main core points, and reiterate them in all of your collateral, no matter the medium. Just three things may not sound like a lot but you would be surprised how hard it is for people to remember even three facts about your business.
The “Rule of Three” is a well-known (and neuro-scientifically proven) method of engaging an audience. Search for it on Google if you want to dig into it further. One of our favorite sources to quickly review it – especially for creating engaging collateral – is this post from Copyblogger.
Be disciplined across all of your messaging and be sure to beat a tone over and over again to reinforce the concept of what you do for them. If you are consistent with your messaging it will be easier to build consensus with stakeholders and keep everybody focused on the “why” of the deal.
You’ll use these statements on your site, pitch deck and demo consistently. Don’t talk about a certain set of features on your website and then a totally different set in your sales pitch. That can create friction.
To stay as consistent as possible, all collateral should be built by the same person. If you don’t have an employee who can write copy, design a deck or build a website, this is a great opportunity to spend resources on somebody who can. Search sites like Fiverr or Upwork to find skilled workers or ask people in your network for referrals.
Your minimum viable collateral should include:
At this early stage, your website doesn’t need to say a lot, be hyper-responsive or look particularly beautiful. Your website does not need to be more than a digital pitch deck that piques the readers’ interest.
Remember, you are at the early stages of messaging validation, not customer scale. Your value propositions are going to change drastically in the coming 8-16 months so you should optimize your website (and your time) for substance, not style.
While your website doesn’t need to be beautiful, it does need clear, succinct messaging driven toward your exact ICP with emphasis towards the economic buyer.
Resist the urge to talk about everything that your technology does. Your website’s goal is to get people to be interested enough to want to have a conversation with you. The way you do that is to build a website with messaging that appears to be highly targeted towards their needs and world view.
Once you find yourself in an actual conversation, it’s time for your sales pitch and deck to shine. This means it’s finally time to talk all about yourself right? Nope!
Your “sales pitch” really starts with your conversational framework. In most sales scenarios, your first true conversation with a prospective customer will require that you validate that there is a business problem that you can solve and that there is BANT (here’s a good BANT primer from our friends at Propeller CRM). The best performing salespeople know this as the art of consultative selling where you listen more than you talk and when you do speak it’s usually in the form of a question.
Why is it important to start your sales pitch with questions and consultation? Two reasons:
Every pitch you make should be customized to the individual you are speaking with. The only way to do that is to start the conversation off by exploring how you can help them.
The pitch deck should be almost the exact same copy as your website (i.e., messaging consistency), but just slightly longer and more detailed.
Include more information about you, what makes you credible, stats about your business, a visual outline of how your product works with a timeline of steps to get started and maybe a basic pricing slide. Along the way you may want to include screenshots of your technology but hold off from doing a full blown demo.
Remember, in the early stages your pitch deck is just a visual compliment for you to verbally communicate about your business. Until you have your messaging down, you’ll want to avoid sending your pitch deck to people. Besides, that’s what your website is for!
Counter to conventional wisdom, one of the last things you will want to show people is a demo. The demo is all about you and what you do.
Before you ever show a demo you want to make sure that your ICP fully understands the business impact of your technology so that they can easily put the full picture together.
People don’t need to see the actual features and functions of your product. All a demo needs to do at this stage is to show the high-level vision and workflow. Especially if your tech is not at the point of consistently performing tasks; avoid any demo that can create a negative association with it.
Your demo should be highly choreographed. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re jumping between screens and tabs or showing a potential customer something that doesn’t work. Know exactly what you’re going to show and in which order, keep it relatively short (about 10-15 minutes), and tailor it to every conversation.
If you’re going through the same script every time with a demo, your brain will just go into autopilot, and the person on the other end will recognize that. Customize the demo based on what you already know about who you’re talking to. Start with the features they care about and then work your way down to the other parts of it.
The last word on demos is to remain flexible about what a demo can be. A demo can be everything from a series of screenshots to a full blown field test. Whatever the case may be the golden rule to remember is to protect your product at all costs by avoiding situations where it might leave a negative impression.
At this stage of the MXP, you’re not looking to scale but test, validate and iterate until you demonstrate that scale is possible.
Change is going to be one of the few constants that you can depend on in the coming months. Be aware of the time, capital and resources it takes to build any collateral and ask yourself if something needs to be perfect or just an MVP.
In any case, everything you develop should be done in a manner that enables you to easily reformat and iterate as you learn. In just your first 5-10 conversations, you’re going to get feedback and insights that will significantly alter some of your fundamental concepts.
You will know that your message is resonating when you start receiving consistent feedback about your website, pitch and demo, and all stages of your pipeline begin to flow with some level of predictability.
That’s the green light to start pouring more resources into other pieces of collateral to augment your efforts. Just remember to message everything consistently.
The next section of #gxmxp will cover what to do once conversations have already started and how to start managing and closing opportunities. Before you advance to that step, make sure all of your systems that you’ve built are ready to launch and that you’ve refined every step.
Take a week or two and test everything, have a few more conversations, and put some fake leads through your funnel. If there are any low-hanging-fruit improvements that you can address, now is the time to do it.
Now is also a good time to review your Market Milestone exercise. Does the market milestone you set still make sense given your resources and what you’ve learned about the stages of your funnel?
Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to move on to the next (and final) chapter of #gxmxp – Market Results.