What does it take to grow to a billion-dollar B2B company these days? BSC’s Christoph Raethke had an illustrious trio of guests with their own answers. Incidentally, they all happen to run EUR 100m+ companies themselves: Gero Decker, co-founder of business process champion Signavio, Stephan Schambach – when he says, “I co-invented e-commerce”, he isn’t kidding -, and Simyo’s CEO Nicolas Biagosch giving his view as a potential B2B customer.
Based on my notes, here are the definitive 12 steps it takes to start a B2B behemoth, chopped up into three easily digestible parts.
First up, Nicolas had a short-list to get you into the right mindset when dealing with (potential) corporate customers:
1) Risk perception is the one difference between the entrepreneur and the manager.
A manager is hired to do one thing: manage other people’s money. In consequence, the one thing that will get a manager fired like nothing else is failure to do that properly, so the elephant in the room is this question: “As a manager, what is my risk of failure with this product/service?”
As the entrepreneur, your job is to prove to the manager that not only will she not get fired for buying from you, she will also get more power, be more liked and receive more positive attention herself. (Yes, this is pure boardroom politics. Deal with it.)
2) Wasting time is the same as wasting money
You may think a buying decision is made purely on features and pricing, and therefore you pitch by pointing out how magically awesome your product is and how much you like your customer. Guess what: The manager heard that same story from everyone else that week and has a budget so big that she doesn’t even have to worry too much about pricing if the product is worth it. Yet, she is also smart enough to see how many of her resources would get tied up if she actually implemented your product and you haven’t given her any indication of value to compare this to.
So, instead be concise: State hard figures for revenue growth or cut costs. If you don’t mention these in your first three sentences, you will most likely be out.
3) You win by helping your customer be better at their job.
To be right about facts and figures, you need to know your customer, her company and her industry: What is her boss looking to achieve? What challenges is the industry facing as a whole? Do your customer’s job for them and make it easy for them to become evangelists for your product or service.
4) Bonus: The email you need to start writing right now.
- State why you are contacting the manager and why they should listen to you. Add numbers.
- Point out the risk that is associated with buying your solution.
- Referring to this risk, write out the question that they are most likely to ask and answer it.
- Really: Add numbers.
The way I would phrase it based on Nicolas’ advice:
it was a pleasure meeting you at the Berlin Startup Academy.
I understand you are looking for better ways regarding user monetization at Facebook. At Acme, we have found our customers see an average increase in time spent on page of 2h per user, and CTRs improved by 12% within eight weeks of implementing our Lolcat generator.
How is this affecting the user retention rate, and how long does integration take? Our biggest customer, Walmart, has seen an uptake of 2% on active users per month, while implementation of our solution took less than 5 minutes on their part.
I would love to stop over for a detailed talk on Tuesday or Wednesday two weeks out to discuss this further.
In the next part, we’ll hear from Stephan on the right setup for our B2B giant-to-be.
*dramatization. May not be accurate.