Yousuf Khan is a partner at Ridge Ventures. Prior to joining Ridge, he was the first CIO of Automation Anywhere, CIO and Vice President of Customer Success at cloud-based AI platform Moveworks, as well as CIO of Pure Storage, Qualys and Hult International Business School.
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Every company wants to be innovative, but innovation comes with its share of difficulties. One key challenge for early-stage companies that are disrupting a particular space or creating a new category is figuring out how to sell a unique product to customers who have never bought such a solution.
This is especially the case when a solution doesn’t have many reference points and its significance may not be obvious.
My view is simple — some buyers could use a walkthrough of the buying process. If you are building a singular product in a nascent market that necessitates forward-looking customers and want to drastically shorten sales cycles, I have a proposal: Create a buyer’s guide.
A buyer’s guide is essentially a prescriptive summary that provides an understandable overview of how a customer may buy your solution.
A buyer’s guide is essentially a prescriptive summary that provides an understandable overview of how a customer may buy your solution. What does your product actually do? Is it secure? How would you implement the technology? What does it replace, if anything? It should be short, simple and speak the customer’s language. It also acts as a sales-enabling tool. Sales teams, especially at smaller startups, can review the guide quarterly and analyze what is and isn’t working as the company goes to market.
Here is how to put together a buyer’s guide, including what to sort out before you type a single word.
Know your audience
From the start, it’s important to think about who the stakeholders are for your product’s buying cycle. One typical issue with early-stage startups is they meet with an enthusiastic buyer — a CIO, CTO or VP of product — but neglect to include the other stakeholders who should be part of the conversation. More importantly, a lot of companies don’t realize the impact of their product on a group or team that they would not typically sell to.
For example, target the security team as an early stakeholder, because they’re probably going to review your product. If the solution is focused toward, say, integration, then hone in on who would be owning the integration process on the buyer’s team.
If you’re selling a martech solution, on a business level, you have to consider a finance business partner for marketing. Think about the problems your customers face and also how others in their company relate to them.