As a B2B startup, finding your initial customers will be one of the biggest challenges you face. Or, if you already have a handful of clients, figuring out how to grow your customer base can be just as difficult.
Those of us working in the B2B space can have a particularly tough time finding new customers. The B2B sales process, after all, is usually much more complex than just a simple transaction. This means that there are a number of additional factors you need to consider when going after sales targets.
Can the people you’re going after even afford your product, for example? Given that the B2B buying process can last weeks (or even months), are you spending too much time going after customers that will eventually walk away upon seeing the price tag? Furthermore, if you do end up selling software to a huge company, does your startup have the resources necessary to provide good service? Will you be able to train their employees, make sure their using it properly and be on site to fix any problems that arise?
Although questions like these make it difficult to find the right companies, there are a number of methods you can use to identify, locate and get meetings with future clients. Here are a few tips on finding more B2B customers this year.
Stay Away from Lead Databases Early On
I see too many startups wasting resources on databases and lead software before they're ready. Sales tools, while tempting to buy, are going to cost you a lot of money and don’t help you understand the inner workings of your sales process. Because databases deal with such vast amounts of information, they are flooded with bad data and will leave you spending valuable time on the wrong people. To really build a predictable sales engine, you want to put automation aside and focus on a prospect-centered approach to selling.
Right now, all you need is a few (or a few more) customers. Keep it simple to start.
You don’t have time to work through a hundred names every week, so limiting yourself to a group you can keep track of will make your life easier.
Get Your ICP Down
The key to any successful B2B startup is a solid ICP. It can’t be stressed enough. If you can prove that your product increases the revenue of a certain business in a certain industry, you’ll be in a good spot. If I’m the VP of Marketing at a large software company, for example, and I find out that my competitors are using a new product that’s sending their productivity through the roof…I’m probably going to think about getting that product for my team.
Once you understand who your customer is, therefore, you can go after all of the other companies like them. If you can compile a list of companies that are all in the same industry, all around the same size and with similar budgets, getting new customers is going to be a lot easier.
Find Customers on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great resource for finding new customers. If you have a list of target companies, after all, LinkedIn provides you with a list of nearly everyone that works at that company. All you have to do is search.
The “Skills” feature is a great and often overlooked aspect of LinkedIn. Essentially, this feature gives you a database of people who may be interested in your product. If I’m selling data presentation software, to throw out an example, I can find everyone who’s listed data presentation as a skill on their LinkedIn profile. Of course, this will probably be a ton of people, but I can sift through them, find out where they work and start trying to reach out. Even more, you can start to map out each organization, figure out who works for who and work to target the people who need your product most at each company.
Obviously, a solid ICP is necessary to do this properly. As you browse through LinkedIn profiles, collecting names of people and companies, you should start qualifying these leads. Ask yourself things like, “Do they have the budget for our product?” and “Is this the right sized company for us?”.
Remember, while making sales is great and making five is even better, you’re doing nothing for your business long-term if those companies don’t have certain characteristics in common. Outlining your ICP and keeping it in mind as you prospect clients will help you to get more customers over the course of this year.