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How we do business (and land the sale)

Jonathan Goodwin on

Use these tips to improve your business process.

We don’t carry briefcases, we don’t go door-to-door, but we do carry business cards.

Our team is mostly a bunch of nerds who like slinging code and pushing commits to Github, but they need business to keep flowing their way, lest the keyboards stop clacking and the lights go out. To keep our team busy (and out of trouble), we developed a business/sales process that’s proven to be very effective and reasonably sustainable.

Sales doesn’t require a lot of talent, but it does need planning and a little sweat. Probably some thick skin, too. Biz dev is a slow burn; it’ll take some time and probably a heap of rejection, but it will eventually work out and business will start to flow in the right direction.

The key components of our strategy are simple: friendliness, speed, and diligence. With these three ingredients, we’ve concocted a workable approach that is turning up a lot of solid business.

A handshake to start the business

Be a pal

Sure, we built our reputation on working hard and being good at what we do, but also by helping folks out, making friends, and generally being great to work with. Nowadays, the most innovative and talented person in the room won’t really succeed if no one wants to talk to him/her. In my experience, an ounce of friendliness can be worth a pound of sheer talent (maybe not that much, but still).

Not only do we try to keep things light in meetings by cracking jokes and smiling, we apply this mindset end to end. At every time, we strive to offer a helping hand first. If we think someone would be better served by a different tool or even hiring someone else, we’re happy to provide our insights in those situations. We’re total adherents of karma, at least in the tech community. That guy we pointed in the other direction a few years ago? He might come back with a fresh opportunity for us and plenty of funding to make it happen. That lady we helped understand using FalcorJS to reduce network load on Intercom? She may be the CEO of a company interested in cutting improving their system speeds and needing a consultation.

Interactions and relationships may not always yield business prospects, however indirectly. Regardless, you can bet we still have meetings with folks doing interesting things. Doing so keeps us sharp and aware of the currents of the community.

It serves us little to act selfishly. Remember: friendships last longer than contracts.

Make friends in your business meetings.

Our dedication to making connections directly led establishing our events and the communities they formed. You should join us at our next Hacker News Meetup in Shanghai or Berlin and get to know some of our great friends.

Shhh, the customer is speaking now

In meetings, both with friends and clients, the first thing we do after greetings and intros is shut the heck up. One of the most important attributes to a successful salesperson is a strong listening ear, not a glib mouth. Humility tends to go a bit farther than charisma, even farther when paired with it. Not only do you gain all of the information the customer is willing to share, but you might earn some respect or favor for not being a domineering chatterbox and the customer might let something slip that’ll prove advantageous. Imagine what would make you feel good about a meeting and emulate those behaviors; they’ll go a long way.

We don’t throw curveballs

The best sales pitch shouldn’t sound or feel like one. Our business development (BD) guys apply a soft touch with their pitches, not talking too much and explaining what we do simply and humbly, without gimmicks or glamor. If someone wants to know more about us and our work, they’ll either ask us or check out our website, so we avoid being boring and wasting time. A bored or annoyed customer doesn’t convert well, which means brevity and humility are essential in our meetings.

We don’t try to know everything, either. Bragging looks bad, especially if you’re caught, and we don’t need to wow anybody more than what we’re worth. Shoot straight and be honest and realistic, even if it costs you the deal. Clients worth their salt will value integrity over empty showmanship.

Oh, yeah. We’re trying to do cool, interesting things that matter. We’re not trying to make the world a better place.

Stop making the world a better place.

Freaky fast follow-through

Relationships are organic, just like us: they age and wither and become useless without proper exercise. Shortly after we leave a meeting, we’re typing out an email on our phones (in the elevator!), summarizing the high points of the discussion and laying out next steps for the engagement. It’s crucial to reply fast and get any deliverables sent promptly. Not only does it keep the conversation flowing, it can impress the customer and improve the company’s reputation. Our developers move incredibly fast, so our BD team needs to keep up with them, even if it means breaking a sweat.

Sales teams need to move fast to impress clients

Pursue a painless proposal process

Alright! Someone sent us an RFP or wants to work with us, which means it’s business time! Put on some socks and get to work on that proposal.

Our tech guys are usually swamped with work from their ongoing projects, so they’re availability is usually spare at best. Part of the BD team’s job involves getting the proposals sent, but also owning the process and making it the simplest possible for our nerds, so they can get back to building more cool sh*t. We lay out the premises for the engagement succinctly, summarize relevant info for the project, and handle any wording necessities, then press send as soon as it’s ready for the client.

If the client comes back with any questions or clarifications, we find the answer and get it to them swiftly, to ensure that nothing gets in the way of our chances for being selected.

Boom. Sign the contract and get to work.

When we have the good fortune to land a bid, we keep the wheels spinning fast and get a contract signed ASAP. The sooner work begins, the sooner the project wraps and we can look for the next one, growing our team and our reputation along the way.

You got the contract, now crush it!

Sounds easy, right? It is!

Biz dev takes a lot of elbow grease and some luck, to be honest. However, once it starts to work, business will start pouring in like a waterfall. As you nail down your business processes and start making some serious cash, don’t neglect your growth and be sure to invest in your team’s abilities and consider expanding to meet demand as needed, while still leaving yourself plenty of runway (we try to have at least a year).

I hope you find this article helpful for clarifying your business and sales processes! It certainly took some doing to figure out all of this. Shoot me a tweet (@TallGoods or @wiredcraft) with your thoughts and questions or to share any resources you might like. I’m always looking to read interesting and useful things to help land the sale!