Answer by Nemo Chu:
Our company sells a B2B product and went cash-flow positive in one year. Here's what worked for us:
- In the early stages of your company (pre-beta), attend conferences and pitch your product to people who walk buy. Provided that your product is something people are looking for, and provided that you're a good listener and genuinely come across as wanting to help other people succeed, you'll earn your first customers. Our company got Kellogg's and Grainger as early customers before we even had a beta ready. In our experiences, people who are shopping at conferences tend to be quite far along in their sales cycle and are ready to buy sooner than most. That's good because you need cash in the door ASAP!
- Do everything in your power to help your first customers succeed. With some B2B products, software alone won't fix the problem. Know that coaching and internal marketing might be mission-critical for overall success. Apply yourself accordingly. That might mean picking up the phone.
- Tell those success stories on the road and acquire more customers at conferences similar to the first one you went to. Focus your energy at conferences to do the things which will yield the most fruit. For brevity's sake, I'll point you to this article I wrote on 5 quick tactics for supercharging your events marketing: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/5-quick-tactics-for-supercharging-your-events-marketing/
- When you're not at conferences, focus your energy on LinkedIn groups. Join LinkedIn groups that your customers would participate in. For example, we were focusing on corporate training professionals, and so we joined tons of groups for HR, training & development, workplace performance, etc. LinkedIn lets you message members that are in the same group as you, so start conversations with fellow group members. To avoid sounding like a used car salesperson, seek first to understand before talking about yourself. Try to share success stories from your customers.
- Have a killer salesperson on your team nurture those conversations and turn them into sales. I wish I could expand this point, but I honestly can't articulate how salespeople do it, even though I work next to one every day. It's like magic (a pathetic explanation, I know).
That should get your sales going. If I was to do this all over again, I'd also add an extra point between #2 and #3. Ask your first customers this question: "If we help you succeed, will you agree to provide a testimonial and send off 3 recommendation letters to colleagues who could use our product?" If they say yes, do everything in your power to earn the testimonial and recommendation letters.