August 2, 2012
You may be an entrepreneur because you can’t stand being confined to a jacket and tie every day. But selling products to big corporations often means dealing with the same bureaucracy you desperately tried to avoid.
This was certainly the case for HealPay, an Ann Arbor startup. HealPay sells software called Settlementapp to debt collectors, banks, and other companies owed money (i.e., a huge market these days) that helps customers pick a repayment plan and customizes their options based on location, demographics, and even what computer they use.
With the following tips in mind, HealPay has had smoother sailing than you would expect.
Know your audience. In the beginning, cofounder Erick Bzovi found himself feeling like an outsider in a sea of suits and gray hair.
“One thing that really sucks about the banking world – to use a cliche, but it’s true – is the whole ‘old boy’ network,” says Bzovi. “Sometimes they don’t take you seriously, or they almost try to take advantage of you or try to make it seem like they have the upper hand – and they do, they have the buying power – but it’s very difficult to win their relationship and to get their trust.”
So he and his cofounder, Lance Carlson, started wearing suits and searching for mutual connections on LinkedIn to establish that trust.
Evolve your sales process. HealPay was lucky enough to do a test run with one of their angel investors’ companies. That gave them some credibility when they started going door-to-door to sign up new customers, which took two months. “Start regional – I’m a big believer in this groundswell approach,” says Bzovi, who has 12 local customers. “Sales really hasn’t been an issue.”
If you’re not showing up in person, Bzovi recommends the “PEE” strategy – phone, email, email – for getting a prospective client’s attention.
But most importantly, he says, figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, and adapt – your product isn’t the only thing that should be evolving and changing.
Set expectations. When HealPay realized that getting a customer actually using the software could take as long as signing the agreement did, they had to figure out how to speed things along. One way was a checklist with all the steps from building to integrating data to testing and launching. And Bzovi now tries to set a launch date as soon as the contract is signed. On top of that, he schedules quick, frequent meetings with HealPay’s clients to give and get feedback.
In a nutshell, it’s all about communication: speak your customers’ language and make sure everyone is on the same page.
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