Most early enterprise products are buggy, lack features, and do not perform exactly as advertised. But, that early adopter, that person who becomes your first real customer, really wants to believe that this buggy, almost-working software well do everything that they have been told it will do. Hence, they are trusting, and sometimes, betting their career on the person selling the product. They are betting that she will make this idea a reality. They are trusting that her company will deliver on its promises.
Hence, it’s important to realize when trying to capture your first couple of deals, any action that impacts the trust that has been built up between your sales person and the prospect, can kill the deal. Trust, is your #1 product feature. And many times, in spite of the product, it will carry the deal.
In a startup, for many reasons, everyone is highly anxious and wants to get that first deal or two signed. And it seems that everyone wants to manage the account, negotiate the deal, and close it. Especially the CEO. They desperately want the deal to happen and this anxious and sometimes miss guided behavior can damage the trust between a new prospect and the person working the deal. More importantly, prospects, like sharks, can smell blood in the water and sense this fear. And when a prospect senses this from others that jump the account, they will retreat from a deal in a nao-second. I have seen it where a young new CEO is so nervous and unskilled at enterprise sells, that he feels out of control and then backdoors his sales gal in the account causing the prospect to question the company’s product, its ability to deliver, etc.
Major deals have a life of their own. There are many players and influencers in an enterprise sale. Having others on your team jump in at the wrong time and engage the wrong person, or the right person at the wrong time can dismantle a deal in seconds. Early deals are done not only on the strength of the technology idea, but more so on the strength of the trust that the person managing the deal has brought to it. Trust is the key feature of any early stage product. Without it, most deals would not get done.
Think about it for a second, why would any sane middle manager or vice president risk her career on a new product that is not fully baked. Trust is what makes it happen. The trust built up by the person doing the deal will carry the day.
As the CEO of a startup, to keep yourself sane and from disrupting an active deal, develop a clear communication channel with your deal person and have more than one deal in the funnel. Also, remember, deals have their ups and downs before they close. Most require many meetings, contacts, etc. before they close. Some go dormant for a while. Stay engaged, listen to what is going on in the account, and realize that deals get closed at this stage not purely because of your great tech, but also because of the great tech sales gal and the trust that she has developed between herself and the client and the potential of the product.