What I Learnt About How To Sell From Being Sold To

With a background in (advertising) sales and having backed over 40 startups now through Collider, I think I have a pretty good idea on how startups sell their products... especially on what not to do. So it was a real eye opener when I recently went on the search for some software for Collider operations. I needed something specific, which meant many of the companies offering a solution were likely in the early stages of developing it, and would therefore also mean they'd be on the early side of developing their sales pitches too.

I knew it would be fun.

The good stuff

Well, there were plenty of passionate and enthusiastic founders that you can't help but get excited about their products.

There was also an impressive can-do attitude, especially when the product needed tweaking for us.

The not so good stuff

But of course, I also saw things that with a better approach to the sales pitch, the outcome could have been entirely different.

These are things we teach Collider startups to do from day one, and whilst they seem pretty obvious in most cases, every company I spoke made the same mistakes.

1. Don't pitch – ask questions.

Many startups came into the meeting and just talked. Talked about their company, talked about what it could do, talked about why it was great. But what they forgot to do was ask me questions on what I was looking for, why did I want a product like this, what did I want it to do and why?

Learn their language and what success really looks like for them, so when it comes to pitching your product, you can relay back exactly what they're looking for.

2. Never do a standard demo.

It completely misses the point and undermines step one of any sales process – to firmly understand your customers needs. Then you can amplify it for them and replay back how your product could be their dream solution.

A standard demo won't do it.

3. Learn when to say no.

I asked for a lot, and in almost every case they said yes, they could do that, clearly without thinking about it.

It was only when I asked to know how many people were in their dev teams or how much cash they had that I understood how likely my needs were going to get onto their roadmap. Usually not at least until they'd raised their next round.

Focus on the customers that your product can help now, but use your meetings to understand what else you could do further down the line. Be honest.

4. Know how to close a deal.

Always ask my timeline for implementation, as that'll tell you how urgent it is. Is my mission critical (3 months), important but not urgent (6 months), or is it actually just a nice-to-have?

Ask if there is a budget, no matter what it is you're building, and then ask where would that money come from and who would sign it. Are you talking to the decision maker?

Whilst these simple changes will not guarantee success, they'll certainly help you better understand your customers' needs. That means getting your product to exactly where it can seriously help today, and help in the future, too.

Top tip lessons learnt from multiple accelerators

Having worked in accelerators for the past six years, I've seen a hell of a lot of startups, and I've learnt some top tip lessons from one to another. But even though the startup vertical has varied completely, I've quickly learnt the lessons are very similar. So similar, I thought I'd summarise...

Life at Collider

Collider has just had some huge changes, and with a programme that’s always on so we never have to turn promising startups away, I’m really excited to see what the future holds. Really, it’s the perfect time to join.

We’re also tackling the corporate innovation world in a very different way – rather than a consultancy based, tell-us-your-challenges-and-we’ll-scout-the startups-to-fix-them method — Collider is about relationships and growth.

Having most recently come from a cyber security accelerator where most of the startups tech, due to the nature of that industry, sat across many verticals, the idea that these MadTech companies are disrupting a very specific industry with very specific challenges creates its own unique obstacles.

We’re not just here to offer business support to startups, but to provide meaningful connections to customers who are crying out for innovative solutions. This industry is being disrupted based on the consumers needs, and not just because.

I’ve spent the past few years working out what makes a good startup, and what makes a great one. With applications open for the first cohort of 2018, let’s see what impressive MadTech businesses we can find.

How to become an angel investor

Becoming a successful angel investor should not just be reserved for a few. You'd be awesome at it.

And to prove just that, we gathered together a group of the seasoned and the new to hear from Collider’s multiple-time angel Richard Fearn, and Super Mentor who led Unruly’s exit, Marion Bernard.

And now we’re sharing it with you.

Enter a community, don't go it alone.

As an investor, you need to pick the right companies – obviously, so why risk everything to begin with when there's a whole ecosystem out there looking to help you.

As Richard said, accelerators can solve problems before said problems kill a business. That's for sure a comfort to investors.

Your time is more valuable than your money.

If you're looking to invest, you'll likely have some pretty useful skills – so why not share them? Work out how you can add value to your companies, which actually might not be what you think.

Get good at being patient.

Once you invest, don't expect it to pay for itself within a year or two (or even five). You're playing the long game, so make sure you follow the company through from the start.

It's not just about investing for returns.

Really, there’s so much more than that. Make sure you allow yourself to enjoy the journey as you'll be surrounded by some of the most innovate startups and investors. It's quite infectious, really.

Check your record.

Learn the lessons from your track record; and if you haven’t got one, learn from those that do.

Amplify you.Position yourself in the market as you would with anything else.

Position yourself in the market as you would with anything else. Amplify what you can bring to get on the cap tables you want to be on. Amplify your value.

It really isn't just about your money, and the best startups will know that. They'll be looking at your connections, too.

It’s about your exit too.

Do your best to work out where you might like to follow on, and what would have to happen for you to not. Remember, you’ll likely get most of your money from just one or two exits.

Get up to £100k to fund your startup from the Collider accelerator

Collider is looking for the very best startups to join our next accelerator programme. We exist to shape the future of marketing and sales technology, and with over five years' experience, we know this space like the back of our hands. Get funded by the Collider Accelerator and apply today.

What's on offer

Cash We offer two levels of investment – £35,000 net (£50,000 in total) for early stage companies, and £70,000 net (£100,000 in total) for later stage (companies with some proof of value with commercial traction or prior fundraising). All of our investment comes directly from angels with incredible industry specific experience.

Coaching A three month programme and lifetime support to help you scale with speed.

Connections Meet the leaders in this industry, including the most relevant, senior team members from top corporates.

Community Our startups, scaleups, corporates, investors and mentors become your community too.

https://vimeo.com/234639816

What we're looking for

• Marketing and sales technology that's B2B focussed - that's B2B or B2B2C technology that helps corporates find, understand, engage, sell to or retain customers

• Early stage businesses with an MVP or later stage businesses with some proof of value - be that commercial traction or prior fundraising. We invest in startups with SEIS or EIS

• Impressive teams with personality - with a minimum of two co-founders.

Apply now!

5 Ways To Increase Your Chances Of Getting Into The Collider Accelerator

In fact, this works for VC’s, angels and new clients too. So, if you’ve got an incredible business, we want to hear about it, and we want to remember you above the rest. You can apply right here.

1. Get a warm introduction.

Have a read about the people who work at Collider – stalk us, it’s okay. Have a nosey on Linkedin and see if you have any connections in common, and get yourself an introduction. If nothing turns up here, have a look through Crunchbase or Angel List and see if you know anyone we’re associated with – perhaps an investor or an alumni startup? If you’re in the industry, it’s likely you’ll be connected to someone, just do your homework.

2. Come meet us.

We’re always at industry events, whether that’s at a booth, on a panel or offering mentoring sessions, and we also offer office hours. We’ll be impressed if you really go out of your way to get in contact with us.

3. Have a top notch application.

There are quite a few websites around to help you structure your ideas, presentation, one pagers, business canvas and to find and calculate the size of the market, among other things. Here’s a good one, and another, and another.

4. READ the application form.

Your time is precious, so make sure your idea fits what we’re looking for – a B2B solution to help corporates find, understand, engage with, retain and sell more to consumers. You’d be surprised how many applications we have that are in a completely different space. Spray and pray does not work here.

5. Be clear and concise.

Ask someone to read your application and explain the following to you:

• Problem you are solving and to whom • Size of the market and its opportunity • Traction and progress so far • Team (current investors, board members, advisors, etc) • Your unfair, competitive advantage • Go to market strategy

If they can explain the above, you are in the right path. If not, you will need to work more in your proposal.