Sales is a topic that is often underestimated in the areas of business model innovation and company building. Often, the topic of sales or sales strategy comes up for the first time in the preparation phase of the go-live of a product or service. Read here why this is often too late and how the V_labs Sales Strategy Canvas helps you think about sales strategically in an early stage.
Many projects start with a vague search field or a problem. At the beginning, an in-depth understanding of the problem is created through an intensive research phase with the help of market and competitor analyses, interviews, trend research, incognito missions, etc. The path from understanding the problem to drafting the first idea is often taken very quickly. In many Innovation projects, for example, a detailed product concept with features is generally developed straight away, while the distribution and sales approach is neglected. The problem is that this way, it is impossible to recognize in time, whether this component has been sufficiently considered. It is not until later in the development of the business case that the topic of sales is reflected at a strategic and in the testing of the MVP at an operational level. The fact is, however, that with the formulation of the product idea and the associated vision, the decisions and assumptions are already made. Moreover, factors are defined that have a significant influence on later sales and can accordingly be a success factor or, conversely, also a brake on success.
These influencing factors around the product or vision deal primarily with questions such as:
To avoid the mistake of not thinking about the influence of the above-mentioned factors on the sales strategy (and vice versa), or not thinking about them sufficiently or too late, it helps to set the (preliminary) product idea as a checkpoint for the start of considerations on a high-level sales strategy.
We have developed the V_labs Sales Strategy Canvas in order to structure these early considerations of the sales strategy. Above all, it helps to strategically discuss the interaction with the target group, its access, the legal form, the external appearance and the business model. In the Sales Strategy Canvas, the vision and the detailed product idea are notedagain at the beginning as a "recap". However, product and vision must already be clearly defined before filling out the Canvas. The Sales Strategy Canvas focuses on the most influential fields (1) target group, (2) unfair advantage, (3) venture setting and (4) revenue model.
Customer- and user-centricity is the core of any functioning business model. However, it is not enough to define personas in this early phase and thus conclude the question of the target group. The first step is to find out which target groups are addressed by the innovation, product or service. Are there different target groups that have certain dependencies? For example: A platform with a two-sided market: there is no demand without suppliers and vice versa. Closely related to this is the question of how the USP differs depending on the target group.
Not to be neglected is also the question of who makes the buying decision. Are the users or customers also the decision-makers or are these different people? Especially in the B2B sector, these two positions differ. This often implies - especially for sales - that two groups have to be addressed and convinced differently as theys have different pain points. In addition, decision cycles for B2B segments may be longer than in the B2C sector, where the users are usually also the ones who make the purchase decision.
One question that is often underestimated or forgotten in this early phase is how to reach the target groups. An overview of the available channels - i.e. social channels, private and professional networks, existing business relationships with target companies, internal CRMs, sales contacts - helps to identify sales opportunities, potential market tests, as well as revenue potentials and models. It is not a question of defining the target group one hundred percent correctly and determining which channel works best. On the one hand it is important to make assumptions and hypotheses and on the other hand to create a basic understanding of who the target groups and markets are and how they can be reached.
Target group access is closely linked to the Unfair Advantage. The majority of corporate company building projects result from a combination of an existing (customer) problem and the unique target group access through the corporate.
Therefore, it pays off to look closely and map out as concretely as possible how target group access can be used (access by whom or what: department, people, sales network, IT systems, existing customers, etc.). Through a precise, structured evaluation of the target group access, it can be avoided that a supposed unfair advantageturns into a potential unfair disadvantage and the (sales) potential of the entire idea cannot be validated or implemented.
Our key message: The earlier we have clarity about this target group access (and above all how it can be used concretely), the better the Unfair Advantage can be incorporated into a sales strategy, the right venture setting can be chosen and the foundation for sales success can be laid.
The positive influence and synergies with the parent company should not be underestimated, as well as the various hurdles that can arise from corporate proximity. The first step is to explore the possible venture settings (depending on the parent company, the partners involved, etc.). Firstly, the decision for the right venture setting is guided by the question of which advantages or disadvantages result from a setting close to or far from the corporation.
Secondly, the venture setting is also determined by the target group and the potential customers. Are future customers possibly competitors? Does the venture target only existing customers? How close is the product/service idea to the core business? Depending on the answers to these questions, not only the legal form of the (corporate) start-up is determined, but also its external appearance. While the legal form tends to have an influence on the start-up's work and decision-making processes in many cases, the external appearance, including the brand, branding, communication, etc., influences the entire sales and marketing activities.
On the one hand, the revenue model must fit the target group and industry, and on the other hand, it must serve the business case and the corresponding revenue streams. At the beginning, corporate start-ups in particular are often faced with the challenge of quickly acquiring their first customers, growing and bringing the solution to the market. If the revenue model is too high-priced, too conservative or too high-threshold, it will be difficult to acquire the first customers and users in the MVP to market phase at the latest.
Therefore, it is advantageous, especially under the growth premise, to look at common revenue models from one's own industry. At the same time it can be beneficial to analyse best practices from completely different markets. The result should be to find one or more revenue models for one's own (corporate) start-up that support market entry and the first growth phase. You will quickly come across models such as freemium, pilot positions or demo accounts, which in many cases represent a promising sales strategy. Of course, it is also important here that the revenue model matches the target group, its access and the own Unfair Advantage.
After the strategic consideration of the four main sales fields of influence, the learnings and take-aways from a sales perspective are broken down and noted. These learnings are to have an influence in subsequent phases and are to be continuously evaluated and reviewed.
_ Think about your sales strategy at an early stage, since a defined product idea and vision already create connections with and influence factors on the later sales approach.
_ If you think about the interaction between sales and target group, Unfair Advantage, venture setting and revenue model in advance, you create success factors for the later roll-out.
_ Not only are success factors created, but potential strategy adjustments that may be necessary later can be avoided or minimised.
_ Establish a preliminary product idea and clear vision as a checkpoint and impulse for initial sales strategy considerations.
These early high-level considerations help to set the course for later sales success factors and flow into every further project phase.
Of course helpful tools are allowed: Use the V_labs Strategy Canvas for a structured approach.