Earlier this year I came up with a simple framework for starting sales conversations, which we’ve used successfully as part of our target account prospecting initiatives.  I thought I’d share and as always, comments and refinements are appreciated.

3 R’s for Starting Sales Conversations

1) Relationship (You know someone)

- They can book a meeting or make an intro for you
- You can name drop, use the relationship to get the attention of the person you want to get to

2) Recency (Recent Activity/Interaction)

-You met them (or someone from their org) at a tradeshow/event, or they were at least there

3) Relevance (Real Intelligence)

- You know they have a project
- There was recently something relevant in news that can be referenced
- There is something relevant in their LinkedIn profile that can be referenced

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Dealing With “Out of Market” Leads

Regardless of how well you target your messaging and pre-qualify your leads, you can always do better.  In addition, you will always get some leads that slip through that are “out of market”, or that are clearly not looking for what you have to offer.

What do you do in those cases? I’ve seen a number of approaches. Some just flag the lead as “dead”, or “junk” and never look at them again.  Some send them an automated follow up email that attempts to clarify what their product or service is, and invites them to respond if they are in fact truly interested.  Your approach really depends on your business/market/product.

What if You Could Provide a Bit More Value?

What if when you receive a lead that is clearly out of market, you could clarify your product or service AND point them in the right direction if they are really looking for something else? Then, you could also ask them to refer your product or service to someone they know that may have a need for it.   Maybe even include a special offer, and some kind of incentive to refer someone?

This could be done in a two step approach – clarify first, then upon response send them in the right direction, or all in one step.

For example:

Thanks for your interest in ABC Pizza Management Software.  ABC Pizza Management is the only business management solution developed specifically for Pizza shop owners.

Based on the information you’ve provided, it looks like you are looking for a CRM solution for your Pet Store.  While our software is flexible, ABC Software is built specifically for Pizza shop owners and may not be the best fit for you.   A few possible solutions that you may want to take a look at are:

- Pet Shop Pro (
- Pet Store Control Suite (

By the way, if you know any Pizza shop owners, please let me know or send them my way.  Here’s a link that you can direct them to, and if they become a customer, I’ll even send you 50% of their first months usage fees!

I hope I’ve been helpful, and all the best.

Again, how well this will work and how easily it will scale depends on your business/market/product.   It also doesn’t need to be an email, as this could potentially work really well over the phone.  Think about the impression you’d leave by going out of your way to meet that person’s need in an unexpected way.

Additional Value To Be Derived

One thing to also keep in mind is that over time, you will probably see some sort of trend with regards to the misunderstandings about your product.  This should:

  1. Tip you off as to how you can improve your messaging
  2. Enable you to scale the above approach, by helping you identify the handful of solutions that you suggest on a regular basis.
  3. Give you insight into potential partnerships (depending on the volume), even if only as a referral agent.

Why not give it a try for a period of time, and compare it against your current approach?

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Golden Fox Restaurant is a fairly new restaurant located in downtown Troy, NY.

Myself and a friend went there to eat the day after its opening, and we both ordered a veal and crab dish. When our dinner arrived, the dish was excellent, though we had expected that there would be actual lumps of crab in the dish, not just a sauce made with crab.

When our waiter stopped back to check on us, we asked him if the dish was supposed to have crab in it. He knew exactly how the dish was prepared, and explained that the dish was made with crab in the sauce. Then, he asked if we had expected that there would be actual lumps of crab in the dish. When we said yes, he immediately said he would have the chef make up some crab in the sauce and bring it out to us. We told him it was ok, but he insisted.

When the crab meat arrived, it was a huge portion, almost enough for another entree on its own. After giving us some time our waiter checked back in, and asked us how we liked the dish with the crab meat added to it. We told him that it was excellent, and that it really made the dish. He was genuinely interested, and he said that he would talk to the chef, and ask him to make it that way from now on.

When we left, I took the unfinished portion of my meal with me. They wrapped it in a black carryout box, and wrote the name of the entree on the box in gold letters.

There were two things that came to mind in this experience for me:

1) Go out of your way to really please a customer (or prospective customer) and make them feel special. They will remember it and tell others about it.

I’m telling you about this experience, and they did make us feel special. I’ve been back multiple times since then as well.

2) When your interaction with a customer is over, somehow make them walk away with something that is unique, and causes them to remember you/your brand.

The black box with the name of the entree written on it in gold was somewhat unique, but more so it connected with their brand.

In addition to writing the entree on the box, one could take it a step further, and write the date (that way the customer doesn’t need to wonder how long it’s been in the fridge), a “thank you” with the waiter’s/waitress’ signature, and/or reheating directions. Maybe even include some vouchers for the customer to give to a friend.

How can you apply these principles to your interactions with customers and prospective customers? How do you?

Keep up the great work Golden Fox!

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Sinclair Schuller posted a great article over at SaaSBlogs entitled: How can a SaaS ISV drive down sales and marketing costs? It’s an excellent post, and well worth the read as a precursor to this post.

One of the key assessments that Sinclair makes early on in his post, is the fact that many ISVs are not exploiting the potential of the SaaS delivery method. I totally agree. I think that many ISVs have yet to even come close to leveraging the value that the SaaS delivery method affords them.

SaaS as a delivery method provides ISV’s with a foundation for innovation throughout their entire business. It provides ISVs with multiple advantages and ways to differentiate and add substantial value to their business, not just their product offerings. Using the SaaS delivery method simply to deliver Regular Old Functionality (ROF) is a very sophomoric approach in my opinion.

Ben Kepes touchs on this topic here as well.

The first and probably greatest advantage is that SaaS ISVs have a network of users using the same product, all in the same place. Leveraging that network of users in multiple ways is one of the clearest ways in which SaaS ISVs can reduce their sales and marketing costs, yet many fail to do so.

So how can SaaS ISVs leverage that network? Im glad you asked :-)

SaaS ISVs must create ways for their users to gain value from each other.

To have a SaaS offering and not provide ways for users to gain value from being in close proximity with other users at all times is like a conference, or user group meeting, or a community planning meeting packed with people that are all interested in the same things and all have valuable insights and experiences to share with one another, yet they are physically unable to speak or communicate with one another.

It makes no sense at all.

The value that each tenant of a SaaS application brings to the whole, should be realized by all others in some way, shape, or form. This is something that the SaaS ISV must make possible. This could be through direct communication with one another, by the application functionality improving based on the participation of it’s users, through benchmarks, sharing of data, etc. There are hosts of ways this can be done.

Here are some specific examples:

Aggregate Benchmarks – Sinclair uses the example of a ticketing system providing users with benchmarks related to most reliable hardware, etc. Allowing your users to define the metrics that are valuable to them, and then providing them with those benchmarks and statistics is one great example of leveraging the value of your tenant network.

To take this a step further, ISVs should put in place ways to connect users that are top performers in certain areas, with those that are looking to improve. This could be done via monthly webcasts where top performers talk about their processes and answer questions from other users, or through a blog or simple online discussion board/forum.

Depending on the type of application, ISVs could even enable users/tenants to interact with one another directly, from within the application. That way, if a particular user has a question while they are working in the application, they could find the tenant most knowledgeable based on the benchmarks, and ask them directly.

Sharing Data/Work – The ability to share data/work with other users/tenants is something that provides added value to users, especially in any service based industry where companies work with multiple partners.

A more abstract thought along these lines…

The ability to spread certain work/tasks across the entire tenant/user base, or for the system itself to recognize when the same tasks are being done by multiple users at the same time (or were done recently), and somehow aggregate that effort into something that could be applied globally could have substantial impact in certain verticals. Almost like a living, realtime knowledgebase.

Sharing of Configurations/Add-Ons/Customizations – Giving users the ability to share their customizations, configurations, add-ons and extensions, all from within the application itself is another value add that SaaS ISV’s can provide. Templates that have been created, themes, custom integrations, etc. All of these things leverage the network, and add significant value to an ISV’s core offering.

So how do these things equate to savings in sales and marketing spend?

Sinclair touches on one way – if you can build into your application lasting reasons for your users to have a vested interest in the growth of your userbase (such as many of the above examples), to want others to use your application as well, you can catalyze the most powerful and least expensive form of marketing – Word Of Mouth.

Sinclair’s graph outlines this concept very well.

Two additional ways that SaaS ISV’s can leverage the SaaS delivery method to lessen their Sales and Marketing expenses are:

1) Build a system for analyzing usage data, in order to produce custom, personalized marketing messaging.

For instance, data regarding a customer’s number of users, the functionality those users utilize most, the add-ons or features your customers do not have, etc. This information can be utilized to produce highly personalized and targeted marketing and service from within your application. I venture to say that many of the next generation SaaS apps will have a layer that is so tightly woven into the ISV’s CRM and support systems, that marketing and support/training will be far more efficient and targeted then ever before.

2) Make it simple for users to test out and add features and extensions from within the application.

Your users should be able to pick and choose what features they want to use at any given time, and just start using them. By allowing users to see what additional features are available to them, and even recommending them to them from time to time, based on the data you have compiled about their usage patterns, etc, you remove multiple barriers and hindrances to up sales.

I’ll try and post some additional thoughts on this topic, with some more detailed analysis.

I’d love to hear from some others regarding your experiences and ideas.

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