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Startup Service Business Development

Updated on April 20, 2016

Fine tuning your value proposition to grow

Before you launched your business, you developed a lengthy and detailed business plan that described in meticulous detail your target customer and the ways you proposed to reach them. Six months after the launch, you are pleased to report that you have engaged five new customers. Each was a meaningful engagement in terms of your business capability and skill set and, more importantly, in terms of the cash generated for your business. Now you find yourself in a bit of a lull with no new hot prospects urgently wanting your attention.


Analyze every sale.

This is a great time to look back at each of the five customers to measure how well you’re doing against your documented strategic plan. Analyze all aspects of each deal to determine what went right, what went wrong. This helps you improve the quality of your processes and it helps you to learn how to repeat the pattern of acquiring and serving new customers. This includes elements such as identifying the decision maker’s role and function, the nature of the initial contact (i.e., referral, cold call, partner, etc.), why they chose to buy from you, specific advantages in your capabilities that made the difference.

After this brief analysis, you discover no two of these customers have any resemblance in any of the elements in common. They are all in different industries, each was initiated in a different way and each was attracted to you for different reasons. To make matters more complicated, only one of them was even close to the specific target customer you identified so clearly in your original plan. Your initial business success now seems a little more arbitrary and potentially the result of a bit of luck.

Build repeatable business.

Building a repeatable business to accelerate growth based on these early successes seems improbable. One common element between them is that they paid you to provide services that match your capabilities and skillsets. That is a great start. You may also find that the business outcomes they are experiencing because of your work bears many similarities. This analysis helps you to sharpen your focus and adjust your messages for both intended target customers and to address other customers that you had not contemplated.

Your initial engagements teach you what worked, what didn’t work and how to find elements of the benefits of the engagement to each customer. Next, adjust the language you use to express these benefits and outcomes to fit into the specific business domain of your target customers. You may need to adjust your value proposition and your entire sales approach. The good news is that you will be building that approach on the strength of five recent customers all benefitting from your services in similar ways.

Customer references are key.

Targeting a specialized vertical niche can make this job more difficult, as customers often insist on references and experience in that specific industry. For example, orthopedic surgeons may not see the relevance of your great success in pharmacy operations. You have two choices; go back to your original plan and build an effective sales and marketing program to acquire the target customers, or redefine the target customer based on your initial engagements and build a program around that. Either way, building from the strength of the customer references from the first five engagements will dramatically increase your credibility with any new prospects.

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