Startups often face the same chicken-and-egg conundrum: they might have a great idea but aren’t yet able to prove there’s a market for a particular product or service. There’s no way to know for sure until you have something in the market, so many of them have adopted something that sales professionals could make their own: a minimum viable product.
First described as part of the “lean startup” approach by Frank Robinson, Eric Reis and Steve Blank, the minimum viable product is best understood as follows:
A core component of Lean Startup methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible. Once the MVP is established, a startup can work on tuning the engine. This will involve measurement and learning and must include actionable metrics that can demonstrate cause and effect question.
You don’t have to work in a startup to see why MVPs are such an important tactic. It essentially means entrepreneurs can avoid wasting time on a product that will never fully take off while continuing to experiment in thoughtful ways that give them other avenues to pursue.
For sales teams, strategy is often analogous to product design. You want something so rock-solid that will offer a guarantee of success. The reality, of course, is much different. Clients ask questions you weren’t expecting. The touch points by which you reach them evolve or disappear. The purchase cycle gets longer.
That’s why sales managers might want to take a page from the lean startup movement by developing a sort of “minimum viable sales strategy.” In other words, a plan to achieve your quotas and close more deals, but with the knowledge that it will be subject to change and that those changes will bring near-immediate refinements.
The Building Blocks Of A Minimum Viable Sales Strategy
Some ways to start the process might include the following:
The Minimum Viable Sales Strategy In Action
Once you know when to use a minimum viable sales strategy, it’s time to think about what the elements will look like. For instance, sometimes the key decision maker in the B2B space may change from one individual or team to another. Or you may be attempting to build clientele within an unfamiliar segment. The expectations in terms of number of deals or deal size may be low, but the opportunity could be big. What is the fastest, easiest way to start selling without locking into an approach that’s hard to change? Here are some tips:
1. Use the data you have and extrapolate: If you’re an experienced CRM user, you’ll already have plenty of information on how your current customer set behaves. Spend some time at the outset looking at that information and contrast it with your perceptions about the spending patterns and processes of your new target. This is about making an educated guess, but the good thing is that CRM makes you much more likely to be right.
2. Cover more ground via digital channels: It might not be the best use of resources to have people on the road or cold-calling when there are still so many question marks around a customer set or particular market. This is where you might want to prioritize social selling, using online customer communities or mobile apps to reach decision makers even if they are located far away.
3. Bring analytics to each selling moment: Many companies still think of analytics as something they do after they are sitting on a lot of details about various customers or transactions. A minimum viable sales strategy means conducting mini post-mortems on a much more regular basis, identifying trends and changing up approaches as though you were editing a document.
If you take this philosophy far enough, the minimum viable sales strategy never really goes away. Elements of it may become your best practices, but there should always be a part of your team that combines experimentation and continuous improvement to stay competitive.
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