There are many pathways to a no-code sale,
some better than others.
If you had to get somewhere quickly, would you want your 90 year old great grandparents to drive? Of course not. But why then do we let customers, who are just looking for a reason to slow down, drive the sales process? An intentional sales strategy is a powerful tool to go faster.
The fact is that customers tend to want to slow things down, to poke holes in things, to find reasons to say “no”. It’s a natural risk avoidance response exhibited by people who are professionally inundated with vendors trying to separate them from their budget. It’s a defense mechanism, and the customer can be very crafty at delaying or reducing corresponding sales cycles. We as sales people then need to be equally crafty, and willing to courageously frame the selling strategy to drive the process more quickly.
And before you react that in fact the customer is the one with all the power and that it’s not wise to challenge that power, consider carefully what leverage you may actually have. In fact, your leverage is determined after the first couple sales calls if it emerges that “they want what we have”. Do they? If so, then you have leverage.
Once you’ve established whether they need what you are offering, and with the agility, cost and control benefits of no-code, they usually do, then it is up to you to set the sales strategy that will maximize your sales results. It’s your turn to be crafty.
For this discussion, let’s consider a single enterprise that has a wide range of the most common problems (large backlog, low resources, dated technologies, hiring troubles, shadow IT explosion, etc) and let’s recognize that the customer has a need for, and is capable of buying large and multi-project deployments over multiple years.
For this discussion let’s also consider a selling strategy to be the choice of what you are going to offer your customer. Here are the four most common offerings or selling strategies for no-code solutions:
- Strategy #1: Try before you buy
- Strategy #2: Proof of concept
- Strategy #3: Single Deployment
- Strategy #4: Multi-Project/Large Deployment
So, our question then is simply “Which strategy get’s us to the end goal of multiple projects over multiple years as quickly and efficiently as possible?” What are the pros and cons of each strategy? How do you enact that strategy? Let’s discuss each one.
Strategy 1: Try before you buy
What is it? In this strategy, you simply turn your customer loose with a demo environment.
Pros? The pros to this strategy are simply that there is very little reason for the customer to say “no” to taking this next step. There is no cost involved, it appeals to their curiosity, and there is no real obligation or commitment.
Cons? There are many cons to this approach. All the con’s center around the fact that you are allowing the customer to take control of the buying cycle and to open Pandora’s box. You are also expanding the audience of individuals who can participate in the buying decision, and not all of those new audience members are friendly. In practice though you are putting the hopes of your sale in the hands of people who (a) may not have time to “play around” with the tools, (b) may not wish to accept any formal training, and (c) may have a professional bias towards some other solution. All the reasons an organization ever had to say “no” you will now be giving them a stage and a voice. Any political bias in the target organization will be able to manifest itself against your sale, frequently having nothing to do with the quality of the product you are selling.
In practice? In practice, the try before you buy approach doesn’t work too well for the all the reasons mentioned. Don’t take CitizenDeveloper’s word for it; just look at the number of low-code and no-code platforms that offer free trials; although the number is growing, it has historically been a very low percentage. There is a reason for this.
But if your customer insists? If your customer insists on a free trial, then at the very least you should insist on staging the trial properly. We recommend (a) they provide some actual business requirements that they need a solution for, (b) they assign a senior technical resource to the project, one with a positive attitude and an aptitude for fast learning, (c) you host a kickoff training session where their assigned developer get’s 2-4 hours of hands on training in furtherance of those business requirements, (d) you provide near-daily standups with that developer, and (e) you time box the period to be as small as possible…as little as 2 weeks, at which point the trial is shut down, and finally (f) as a part of the trial beginning a post-trial meeting is set for immediately at the end of the trial to discuss next steps.
But really though, we encourage you to embrace one of these other sales strategies, even if it’s just the proof of concept or single deployment strategy.
Strategy #2: Proof of Concept (PoC)
What is it? This strategy involves you providing professional services to achieve some smaller, pre-set goal, with the objective to demonstrate how a “properly trained services function” can rapidly deliver the results promised during earlier sales meetings. It’s basically a “proof that we can do what we said we could do” situation.
Pros? If staged properly, a proof of concept is demonstrably better than strategy #1 simply because you retain control of the variables of the sale. First, you get to work with a real project that the customer has previously committed to pay for after this PoC is successful (see “staging” below). You know your team will do an amazing job, and that your customer will be excited to see those results, so your chances of a conversion are high when staged properly. And of course; PoC’s are frequently “paid”, which gets you a sale even if just a smaller one.
Cons? There are two notable drawbacks to this strategy. The first happens when you don’t stage the PoC properly. In other words, the PoC isn’t paid and you didn’t pre-secure the commitment to move the project forward once the PoC meets its stated objectives. This scenario leads to the second drawback, which is that the customer now has a much deeper understanding of their leverage, and you’ve already shown you are willing to be “nickel and dimed” to some extent. The transition period between a PoC and a full paid engagement is a ripe time for the customer to extract value from the deal. We’ve seen customers attempt to extort significant additional free labor from a PoC even after delivering applications that were deployed into production!
How to Stage a Successful PoC? If you are going to agree to a PoC, it is important to contractually ensure that (a) the PoC is “paid”, (b) there are a clearly defined set of objectives for the PoC including delivery time frames, and (c) there is a contractual agreement to move forward with the full project if the PoC meets the stated objectives.
In Practice? In practice, a properly staged PoC is a perfectly acceptable, albeit lower value selling strategy. However, if a customer is not willing to stage the PoC as described above, assume at least a 50% chance the customer is non-serious and the broader project will not go through. Think of it this way; if the customer need, budget and timeframe is real, and if you are willing to put your money where your mouth is to prove your sales claims, then why wouldn’t the customer be willing to give you concessions in order to get that proof? The proper staging is an excellent qualifier for you, and it’s a very fair risk mitigation strategy for them. And experience bears this out. If they aren’t willing to let you properly stage the PoC they may not be a serious opportunity.
Strategy 3: Single Deployment
What is it? This is the most common approach where you sell a single project. If that project goes well, it’s generally understood that “there will (may?) be many follow-on projects”. This is the hope. “Crank out a first successful project, and we will soon get many more projects afterward”.
Pros? There are two large pro’s here; first, you get a real contract. And second, you get a real contract. Strategy 3 isn’t your best selling strategy, but it’s not one to walk away from either.
Cons? There is primarily only one major con to this strategy; it’s not strategy #4. Regardless of what a customer will say, there is frequently a wide gulf between strategy 3 (securing a single sale) and strategy 4 (securing a large/combo sale). During the time of a single project, people can change, budgets can change, IT directives can change…so much can change. When you agree to any strategy other than strategy 4, you are introducing a variable into your bigger sales process; “time”. If you already had the customer on the hook for what you are offering, then time is not your friend.
Strategy #4: Large/Combo sale
What is it? It is not uncommon for a customer to talk about “the many projects that they have which your no-code solution could solve”. Strategy #4 is about going after a large bucket of these needs all under a single contract. This is the big league’s of selling, and definitely requires some intentional selling strategy.
Pros? You secure a much bigger contract, and frequently Strategy #4 is the only path to locking down the full set of work which the customer has available. The other strategies introduce too many variables, and time is not your friend.
Cons? In order to sell strategy #4, you have to be creative. Why would a buyer buy something big from you when they know you will sell them the same thing to them in bite sized pieces? They won’t, unless you can offer something that makes the big bite look more appealing.
In practice? It is hard to tell a customer that you aren’t interested in selling them a smaller bite if they are asking for one…and all customers first ask for the smaller bite first. However, you have a high degree of leverage at this moment in time because they need what you have, and you haven’t given them a buying path yet. Despite what all the customer entices you with in order to give them the small bite first, it is quite common that the person buying the smaller bite from you won’t even be around anymore when it’s time to take the next bite. Things change, and time is your enemy. So if you want to take the variable of time off the table, and if you want to make the bigger sale to a customer who knows you are willing to sell something smaller, then you simply have to use your leverage right now, while you have it, and you need to put something on the table that makes the big bite seem more appetizing than the smaller one. There are all manner of approaches you can use, but the bottom line is that with the stroke of a pen you are willing to take many big headaches off the table for your customer. What is the value of peace of mind? We will give some specific examples of well structured “big bite” strategy #4’s in a future Sales Accelerator newsletter, but it’s always a creative exercise – so feel free to be creative. If you have a big bite opportunity on the table, feel free to reach out to us, we’d be happy to strategize with you.