Makers often build for other makers. It’s great to start out that way, but eventually you will have to broaden your horizons and start targeting businesses—if you are interested in revenue.
If you are building a solution to sell to businesses, it’s important to understand their selection process for new tools.
Here is what decision makers think about, the questions they ask, and how you can prepare for them.
As it happens, these are some of the same questions I used to ask as part of my job, when deciding which new software to go for, be it online based or on-premise.
Who are you?
What’s your background and how are you qualified to provide us with the service they’re after?
In maker terms: Be transparent in who you are, share your story and show that you care.
What are you?
Are you a company or a person?
In maker terms: Start to think about the legal structure for your business and incorporate. Businesses buy from businesses, not from people, generally speaking. It’s too much of a legal nightmare, in the event that something bad happens.
Plus, if things do go wrong, depending on the structure you choose of course, liability falls onto the company, not you. It’s best for all involved.
What structure to choose, or in which jurisdiction to set it up, is a topic for a whole separate article.
Where are you based?
As an extension of the last question, it matters to some organisations where you are based.
In maker terms: There’s not much you can do here, other than choose a structure for your company. Wherever you decided to incorporate, that is your legal base in the eyes of the organisation you are hoping to do business with.
I won’t go into too much detail here, as it does tend to get political, but it’s unfortunate that some companies refuse to work with companies from particular countries.
Again, this is just an FYI.
How long have you been around?
What they’re really trying to assess here, is how long you will be around for. Think about a company using your product, with potentially 100’s of people using it and forming processes around it.
Changing a habit for one person is difficult enough. Imagine the upheaval should your product cease to exist.
In maker terms: This one is tricky. For most of us we are just starting out. If this is you, the best you can do is be present. Build trust with the company. Make an effort to respond quickly. Resolve issues as fast as you can, and communicate openly and honestly.
Keep iterating and shipping. Let them know this is something you’re working on for the long run.
Where will our data be stored?
To a lot of companies, especially to those based in the EU, this is important. They want to know exactly where they’re data is stored.
As makers, we take having our files in the cloud for granted, but if you think that a lot of companies are still used to hosting their own files with on-premise solutions, it’s easy to see how you will have to be clear about what happens to their data. Goes back to trust.
In maker terms: Be very clear about where your servers are located, and how user data is handled. Research the following and if possible, get legal advice:
Additionally, make sure they feel in control. Give them a clear path to access their data.
How responsive is your support?
Something will eventually break, this is inevitable. Companies are very sensitive about receiving quick responses in these events. They want to feel taken care of, especially as online solutions are out of their direct control.
In maker terms: It’s very easy to get your head down, trying to fix the problem as quickly as possible, without letting users know what is happening.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of your customer. They’re not in your head, so have no idea what’s going on. You don’t even need to stress if things are not fixed as quickly as you hope. Companies can be quite forgiving if you keep them up to date on what’s happening.
If it’s a particularly large issue, regular updates are recommended.
What are you payment terms?
Are they easy to understand? Is it easy to cancel?
In maker terms: This is easily satisfied, especially if you are offering subscription based payments. Make sure you offer an annual payment option, as companies often prefer this, since it makes it easier for their accounting departments.
How do you conduct yourself during the trial period?
Trials are make or break. They want to be sure that everything is as advertised, and they get full value out of your product.
In maker terms: Place a lot of focus on onboarding. Make sure you do a good amount of hand holding, so the company is assured of your product and you as a business (once you incorporate 😉).
Besides how awesome your product is, the way you communicate during the trial can sway things either way. Try to find the right balance between communicating too much or too little.
What you generally want to get across, is how useful your solution is to them, and how they will integrate it into their business.
There are more questions companies ask, but these are the ones I think are most relevant to makers.
A lot of this can seem daunting, especially when you’re just starting out, but if you start considering these now, whilst you’re busy making, you’ll be better positioned to eventually sell to companies.