This is the first post in our series of how companies sell. In this series, we will take a deep look at the tactics, tools, and techniques companies use in their sales process.
In this first post, we will take a look at a sales process at the simple end of the spectrum.
Jay Neely is a good friend of mine and runs Boston Startups Guide — a site for the local tech community offering resources like a directory of startups in Boston, categorized by industry, business model, and if they’re hiring.
The main revenue source for Jay’s website is the job board for Boston startups. Jay’s website gets a ton of traffic from people interested in Boston startups. Many of those people are looking at startups in the area because they are job hunting – it only made sense that Jay would attempt to monetize this website by creating a job board.
For a job board to work, you need two things: 1.) people looking for jobs and 2.) companies who pay you for job listings.
And that’s where the sales process starts. Jay needs to find startups in Boston who will pay for their openings listed on his job board.
Here is how Jay sells today.
1.) Finding an Ideal Customer Profile
Finding your ideal customer is the first part of any sales process. Part of the equation for Jay was simple – he was looking for a certain size company (“a startup”) in a certain region (“Boston”). Although this made it easy for Jay, there was still work to be done.
Jay needed to answer a few more questions in order to find his ideal customer profile. He needed to find out which startups were likely to pay to post jobs on job boards and he needed to know which people to contact at those companies.
Jay performed competitive analysis of which startups post job openings on LinkedIn. One thing he quickly noticed is that a company with many open positions is much more likely to pay LinkedIn to use their job boards. Jay used this insight to target companies with at least 5 currently open positions.
Through trial and error, Jay also found which people at a company he should contact. Jay sent emails to the people he thought he should send emails to. After sending numerous emails, Jay determined which people he should reach out to based on the replies that led to the most sales.
Jay eventually decided on a “tiered” approach. Jay has three job titles that he looks for in companies. First, he first looks for the director of recruiting. If he can’t find a director of recruiting, he looks for a head of HR. And if he couldn’t find the head of HR, he looks for the CEO.
2.) Finding Leads
Now that Jay knows exactly who he is looking for, it should be fairly easy for him to find companies that fit the profile.
Since Jay is on a tight budget with this project, he is not able to pay for contact lists, so he needs to find this data on his own.
The great part is that Jay’s website, BostonStartupsGuide.com already contains most of the startups in Boston. The challenge for Jay is to now find which companies are hiring at least 5 people, if they use similar job boards, and who to contact at these companies.
The resources that Jay used to find this data was LinkedIn and the company’s website (careers page specifically).
Jay manually put in the work to research how many open jobs the company currently has (from their website), if they pay for the LinkedIn job board, and who the correct person to contact is (from LinkedIn).
He compiled this data in a Google Doc.
Jay also needed to find contact information for those leads. I believe he used Rapportive to reverse engineer email addresses.
3.) Contacting Leads
This is where Jay struggled. Jay is not a salesman. If I were to categorize Jay, I would think of him as a social media consultant, an intellectual deep thinker, or a techie, but salesman is not a term I would use to describe Jay. Jay was originally put off by sending cold emails because he didn’t want to “spam anybody”. At first, Jay was sending as little as 2 emails a week – and they were only to people who he knew. Jay got a quick win and found two customers for his job board in the first few weeks – it was awesome!
It took a few conversations with Jay to get him to start sending more emails. I told Jay that if he genuinely thought he had a useful search that could help people, he was doing a service to the world by telling these companies about it.
In terms of email tracking, keeps it simple and sends emails directly from his Gmail account. He does use “Hubspot Sales Free” Chrome Extension to track email opens and clicks.
Jay uses a very personalized touch when sending email. He takes a large amount of time and care to research and craft a very personalized email each time to emails a prospect.
4.) Closing the Sale
The close isn’t particularly hard for Jay. His job board is a relatively low price point ($59, $99, $199 – not thousands or millions of dollars) and he usually gets a quick yes or no after a short email exchange.
Jay accepts payment on his website through Paypal. Usually, no additional person from the company is needed for purchase approval during this sales process.
This is how BostonStartupsGuide.com Sells
As you can see, this is not the most complex sales process. Jay doesn’t use many third party tools except for Google Docs. However, his sales process is well thought out and he does a great job targeting prospects and taking the time to craft highly personalized emails.
Commentary on Jay’s Sales Process
Let’s recap what Jay’s Ideal Customer Profile is:
-Is considered a “startup”
-Company is based on Boston
-Hiring at least 5 people currently
-Head of Recruiting > Head of HR > CEO
-Do They already pay for job boards?
This is great! Jay knows exactly who is Ideal Customer Profile is and having a narrowly defined list of what to look for should really help Jay find the prospects he needs to get in touch with.
This was a tedious task for Jay, but he needs to do the leg work here up front. He needs to understand the nuances of what to look for. Over time, he may consider using a virtual assistant for this task.
I love that Jay uses his own website data. This gives him a unique competitive advantage when contacting startups. He takes time to compile his data and has data about many of these companies that other sales organizations wish they had.
I think the personal touch Jay uses to contact leads is great. Its a great quality because it forces Jay to do a lot of research for every email he sends and it allows him to spend time crafting a few quality emails at a time.
I think Jay needs to improve the quantity of emails he sends. He can still do this with the amount of time he puts into prospect research. He needs to make sending cold emails more of a priority each day.
Tools Jay Uses:
One Final Thought
Jay is at the very early stages of his sales journey. The tools that he uses will evolve. The amount of emails he sends will evolve. The phrases he uses in his emails will evolve. He’s still at a very manual stage.
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