Wednesday , October 28 2020

Ask HN: How do B2B startups sell to corporations ?, Hacker News



Never underestimate the capability and connections of a good sales person.

There are lots of ways to waste money on sales, but if you are careful to avoid them, a single experienced professional sales person can work wonders, even for a startup that is still a few pivots away from its final shape.

This may not be the most HN-compatible opinion, and there are certainly many additional ways to sell to big companies, but I worry that a lot of founders, especially technical ones, overlook staffing sales until later than they should.




I too am working on a chatbot startup, that’s b2b: /

The path I’m working:

1. Identify a clear problem / use case

2. Determine inside of a corporation who makes purchasing decisions to solve said problem / use case

3. Search LinkedIn for contacts at companies that fit into that role

4. Reach out over LinkedIn and / or use system such as to connect over emails

5. Goal is a video demo / discussion, pitch the product and show them how you think it can help

6. If you make a connection, ask if they know others that may be interested

7). Attend trade shows for your segment if possible

Main thing is follow up, follow up, follow up. Sometimes on my 3rd or 4th follow up I’ll get a hit. Ask questions about their business and be as clear as possible. Conversions should be anywhere from 1% – 20% depending on the market segment (I’m not sure what yours is).



We sell to a very narrow segment. I’ve got Google alerts for loads of phrases and trade show names. We try to attend as many shows as we can. Sometimes with a booth, mostly without … just rocking our own gear and handing out cards. Some have a cheap way to add your logo somewhere to get awareness going.

Once you get a fish on, you’ll need a professional sales person to carry the deal forward. Meeting, review, reply, next meeting, follow-up, etc.

Cold prospecting from directories and trade-orgs is another channel. Call, call, call. Then call some more.

And keep pumping the newsletter, opt-in only, keep content fresh.



This is the way to go. People will know they are taking a calculated risk with a startup, if you get to know their industry you will gain a better intuition about their use cases (and in particular ones they haven’t thought of yet).

Definitely avoid highly regulated verticals at first as they will drown you with security / governance requirements before you even get to their lawyers. Meanwhile get to know these frameworks and what will be expected of you if you want to approach them in the future.

From a feature-set perspective, any large company is going to want to see management interfaces with single sign-on, at least basic roles (read only, billing, ops). Customer should also be able to do everything via API that they can via UI. You should have good audit logs and be able to push them or let the customer come get them. If your architecture supports it, most large customers would like the option for a dedicated tenant instance.

Good luck!



Go on LinkedIn, find contacts, email / call them to explain why your product would help them and their business, set up a demo over video chat. Pitch them your product, why it would benefit them and try to secure a deal.

After you’ve got some sales under your belt, sponsor a booth at a tradeshow relevant to your market. Demo your product in-person, collect leads and follow up for more sales. Rinse and repeat.


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