By James Dawson, Founder and CEO, Humble Technology
For many fintechs, sales is a dirty word. They are more focused on product development and fundraising than engaging with their customers and clients to deliver solutions. But a sales team, comprising sales ops and sales support, is an expensive resource. And if fintechs are not maximizing the value they are getting from this resource, then they are wasting their shareholders’ money.
Selling a fintech product, such as a software package, or SaaS offering, to a bank or enterprise client requires one thing above all else: focus. The product needs to be focused on real client needs, which stems from a strict focus on potential client type. Defining the product and the market with as much focus as possible, means fewer, but better leads.
Ideally, potential clients should have similar tech stacks to each other, so the integration points are similar. They should be dealing with similar pain points, so the value proposition of the product is similar. They should largely have similar legal and procurement hurdles. Basically, clients should talk the same language as each other: there is no point going after banks with a product developed for insurers or buy-side clients.
Fintechs need to be crisp in their understanding of the perfect customer and the perfect sale. These must be customers that highly value the fintech product, which suits their needs exactly, with little need for augmentation. The key here is that selling to everyone is selling to no one.
If fintechs have many kinds of buyers — with many different kinds of problems — the entire organisation will be bogged down trying to adapt the software, doing multiple, complex and varied POCs, with many different kinds of legal agreements. This lack of focus has ruined many an aspirational fintech in the 6–36 months it takes to sell to large financial firms.
In my 20 years’ experience of building and running sales teams for enterprise and B2B fintechs, the sales process has evolved considerably. The challenges for today’s fintechs are relevance, professionalism, and urgency. Arguably, with so much investor interest in the sector, there is a sense that valuations and fundraising are more important than top line growth. This is a mistake. Revenues derived from real solutions to real partnerships are the most valuable asset any fintech can have. Fintechs should be approaching these with the same level of professionalism and urgency as they do new rounds of funding.
The four-pillar sales strategy
It starts with having an inbound marketing capability, which lets your potential clients come to you. No one wants to be cold called, and no one wants to cold call. To prevent the sales pipeline being clogged with leads that are unlikely to close and that waste the sales team’s valuable time, marketing should be directly targeted for this audience and religiously ignore anything else — it is a distraction. Sales and marketing must be aligned.
Use account-based marketing to focus on the accounts and actions every day that are most likely to move deals progressively through the pipeline. This requires a rigorous qualification strategy. Use tools like MEDDIC to make sure your leads are as qualified as possible, automate the CRM and make sure the sales leader acts as a coach to the whole team and is not selling. This creates an effective and efficient sales process.
Once the qualified leads are in the hands of the sales team, the focus must shift to value. Value selling is the only way. Stop talking about products and features and gadgets and gimmicks. It is all about empathy and a deep understanding of the customer pain points and their business solutions. Once the sale is complete, the fourth pillar is customer centricity. It is so much easier to keep customers than get new ones. Moreover, satisfied customers become part of your sales force and help evangelize your product.
These are four pillars of an effective go to market sales strategy: pipeline generation, qualification, value selling and customer centricity. Done effectively they can compress the pipeline, accelerate the sales cycle, and then turn an average sales team into an elite unit.
Although sales execution and discipline is key, it is day to day sales innovation that makes a huge difference. Use innovative approaches to sales by adding value to get deals moving through the pipeline. To add value to your customers’ business, challenge their assumptions and their models, show them what innovative competitors are doing and always try to give them market insights.
In future blogs I will be going into each of these issues in much greater depth as well as other issues including recruitment, RFP and procurement hurdles, avoiding discounting, and specific sales strategies for specific client types, such as global banks. I would welcome any feedback.
James Dawson is the Founder and CEO of Humble Technology a consultancy that works with leading global B2B fintechs, making their sales as effective as possible. James has a 20-year track record of leading and developing effective sales strategies for leading global financial technology firms.