Guillaume LerougeDirector of Marketing & Sales at XWiki SAS
Bio

Expert on all things related to sales & marketing, with a focus on B2B SaaS companies. I have published several presentations on this topic: http://slideshare.net/GuillaumeLerouge1



Recent Answers


Reading this, I was reminded of the story of how 37signals spun off Highrise (that was before they renames themselves Basecamp): https://signalvnoise.com/posts/3770-big-news-for-highrise => what made it easier for them was that they already had an established revenue channel that allowed them to fund the business.

In your case, I see 2 main options that you could look at:

1/ Try to find someone who would be willing to invest their own time and money to grow the business. You'll need to make it very clear to that person how they will recoup their investment.

2/ Look for a student who would be willing to tackle the challenge as part of an internship. This would still require quite a bit of supervision though.

In any case, I have to say that both options are very risky in terms of your chances of success. My question would be, why are you trying to start both companies at the same time? Wouldn't you be better off keeping this one under the radar for now, and get back to work on it later on?


I think Dave is right: first, you need to retro-specify your current system in order to identify what it the business logic that you want to retain. Even though it might be old and clunky, your current system probably embeds a lot of experience and best practices that were developed by your company over the years.

Once you have a clear picture of where you stand, the next step will be to identify what are the features you can improve (or maybe even remove altogether). Ideally, you would also identify the underlying processes and look for new solutions to them.

Let's take a specific example: business expenses. For a long time, people were expected to gather their receipts, fill in an Excel file with the amounts matching those receipts, printing that file, getting it approved and signed, and would be paid at the end of the month with their salary. All this can be replaced by a solution such as Expensify which allows you to take picture of receipts and manage everything online from there.

In summary, what I'd do would be to identify your core processes, then the key requirements for each process. Then I'd look for either a solution that includes most of what you need, or for SaaS applications of record that are interoperable and can help you manage each individual process seamlessly.


My first question would be, have all your users paid the $70 upfront, or is there a chance that some of them might cancel and get refunds? In order to make sure your economics make sense, you need to take churn into account and it's not 100% clear to me whether this is the case.

Assuming that you do have churn under control (and therefore that your product does have a clear benefit that a fraction of your users are willing to pay for on a repeatable basis), my next step would be to assess market size. The spectrum ranges from 19 people (your current users) to 1b+. What you could do would be to try and run a slightly larger campaign and see if the numbers still add up, ideally spending no more than the proceeds of your previous campaign.

If things work out well, you might even make this a self-funded business, in which case you wouldn't even need to search for an investor ;-)


I had a chance to discuss with the creators of Mayocat Shop a couple weeks ago. Their goal is to build an open source marketplace solution, which sounds a lot like what you're looking for. You can find out more about their solution here: http://www.mayocat.org/


Based on past experience, finding someone you can trust for a complex and demanding position is very hard. The difficulty is compounded when trying to do this remotely or for a job that requires skills you don't have. In this case, it looks like you're trying to do both at the same time, which is unlikely to work.

What I'd suggest instead would be to find someone from your target region who could start working from your head office (ideally someone who wants to punch above their weight class), helping you open the market. You'll learn a lot of things, and if they're good enough you'll be able to offer them the position down the road, once they've proved themselves.


Based on personal experience, what I've found is that it's very difficult to start selling your product through channel partners if you have done very little direct sales. In order to put their credibility on the line, potential channel partners will want to feel convinced of the value your solution can bring their customers.

The best way to do this is to be able to demonstrate existing implementations, ideally with a clear before/after ROI calculation. So I'd say that you should go and close a couple sales yourself before trying to go through channel partners. This will also give you useful feedback about how best to position your product, which you can later use in your channel marketing materials.


If you're looking for hands-on help with your marketing & sales efforts, I think joining an incubator would be a better fit than looking for angel funds. Angels tend to be less involved in the day-to-day operations of their portfolio companies.

Some incubators have a dedicated team that can help you with sales & marketing initiatives. For instance in Europe you have eFounders that brands itself as a startup studio, providing lots of services. However, this can come with steep ownership expectations (sometimes up to 50%+ of your company).


I think you need to do a couple sales by yourself before thinking about outsourcing the work. Let's take a hypothetical example: you hire someone, she goes out and tries to sell your solution but fails. She gets back to you saying that your product isn't any good. How will you know whether that's the truth or whether she was a bad sales person to begin with?

This is why I would strongly advise you to try and close some sales by yourself first. In addition to this, going through this process will help you refine your marketing & sales messages and make sure they fit your target audience. This is invaluable feedback that you probably want to get first hand.

As for finding the time to do it, I'd suggest doing it in the evenings, or maybe taking unpaid holidays from time to time in order to work on your project.


I have worked on small-to-medium RFPs myself, as well as with clients who answer very large ones. What I've found over time is that you're very often going to re-use existing content and assets between tenders, though most companies don't really act on this fact.

One thing I've found very useful is to build a database of RFP responses that is as comprehensive as possible, including information such as the name of the client, their industry, the size of the contract, the services they were looking for, the status (was it a win or a loss?) as well as the contents of the response itself.

This way, when answering a new RFP it's easy to sift through existing ones and retrieve relevant content and information that can be used in your answer. This can significantly cut the time needed to respond to a RFP. It's also an invaluable source of information for new sales hires, helping them get up to speed much faster.


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