Small businesses are the lifeblood of the global economy, driving innovation, employment, revenue growth and productivity.
They’re also some of the most underserved places in the market for solutions providers.
Throughout my years in sales, including at a couple of the biggest names in tech, I’ve seen this: Everyone wants to solve for “enterprise” – meaning large companies; the giants.
I don’t. A big part of what I love about Pipedrive is that we’re very intentional about this.
1. Designing your product for small business
Pipedrive is designed to be the best possible system for small and medium-sized businesses to track sales efforts throughout the pipeline, from cold calls to completion of a deal.
Focusing on these businesses opens up tremendous opportunity. That’s one of the first things I saw when I arrived to take over our sales operations.
Pipedrive is a very open, accessible system. This is essential for small businesses, which rarely have the resources to put staffers through lengthy training sessions for software. Just about anyone can get Pipedrive up and running in just a few minutes. It’s affordable and intuitive. These are huge advantages we’ve given ourselves by making the conscious choice to be optimal for small businesses.
But this focus also requires a different approach to sales.
2. Focus on the big picture
The process in place at Pipedrive before I arrived was traditional. The team was making targeted calls, and their goal was to make sales quickly.
If I wanted to keep that model, I could bring in more aggressive reps who would lift our closure rate. But my experiences in sales at Intuit and Dell had taught me an important lesson: Always look at the big picture.
This kind of aggressiveness would help Pipedrive only in the short term. A few months later, lots of small businesses who bought our product wouldn’t be using it.
3. Build relationships
So I set a different strategy. For my sales team, the initial goal is not to close deals. Instead, it’s to get to know the clients — and to get them using Pipedrive in the ways that are best for them. Signing a deal doesn’t make someone a devoted customer. To really win customers over, get to know them. Genuinely care about their success in using the product. Be someone they can count on and trust.
When people register to use Pipedrive for a trial period, we send them information not just on the product, but on how to contact us. We want to hear from them. We make ourselves accessible and available.
It helps a lot that we’re not based just in the United States (with offices in New York), but also in Estonia — a hotbed for startups in Europe, such as Skype. Small businesses all over the world know that we’ve got people available who know the product.
And in our interactions, we work to help customers feel comfortable. We ask how we can help, and really mean it. We explain that we’re dedicated to helping them increase their revenue and save time.
So our sales model doesn’t feel like sales. It feels like relationship building. And it’s working — our conversion rates have become exceptionally high.
Now, we’ve taken it even further. Our sales team calls some users within 30 minutes of when they sign up.
4. Listen first
We’re not calling primarily to talk. We’re calling to listen.
We ask customers about themselves and their businesses. What motivated them to try this out? What are their goals for this year? What are their current challenges and what kinds of solutions are they looking for? Only once we’ve learned about them do we start talking about how Pipedrive can help.
With larger companies, it’s tougher to build that rapport. So many people are competing for that buyer’s attention. And the buyer might be moved to another department, so you’re suddenly starting over. With smaller businesses, relationships can be built — and can last.
This also means that as our customers grow and develop, we aim to do the same along with them. We adapt to their needs. And how can we know what those changing needs are? By staying in touch and asking.
Already, we’re integrating clients’ feedback into the product and our sales operations. One great thing about Pipedrive being a relatively small company is how dynamic and malleable things can be to stimulate growth. A helpful point from one customer might lead us to expand our platform in ways we hadn’t thought of.
We have a sales team of 10, so we can’t make that initial call to everyone. It’s decided at random — a business of 50 people is no more or less likely than a business of one. And we’re happy to talk when any user calls us.
Pipedrive is growing fast, and our sales team will expand along with it. We have paying customers in 180 countries. We operate in 13 languages and are working to open more.
5. Aim for symbiosis
Of course, there are challenges that come with this rapid growth. But at the beginning and end of any stressful day, I’m able to look at the kinds of testimonials we’re getting from customers and know we’re on the right track.
“What I really like is, I feel like we're developing a professional relationship,” Johnny Gabriel of the company Now What! told one of our sales reps, Courteney Cannon. “So when I get down the line and I need some help, I feel like I can reach out to you and Pipedrive and figure it out together."
Another small business owner told us we’ve helped “maximize” his sales process. A third called our product “pretty dang sweet.”
I know that the people giving us this feedback have struggles of their own. They’re working to make their businesses succeed, to feed their families, to build a nest egg.
Every message we get — requests, ideas for us to consider, updates on how their business is doing — is reaffirming. It shows that we’re helping, and committing to our mission of making small businesses successful.
So it’s ultimately about symbiosis. Our success depends on our clients’ success. We know the challenges small businesses are facing. And we have a clear incentive to help by making our product work for them.
For all this to happen, here at Pipedrive our sales team has to know and appreciate our customers. It’s not just a nice idea; it’s a necessary ethos. We have to provide for this underserved market — and do our part to keep the lifeblood moving.
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