Brian Friedman

Founder of Loopd, VP of Digital Innovation at Aventri, Author of Takeaways

Find a Hard Metric From the Start

To succeed at sales, you need to know the value of your product.
At Loopd, we created a wearable for digital business card exchange that evolved into session tracking at corporate conferences. But beyond cool features and capabilities, our prospects demanded hard metrics. They needed to know whether it would help make money or, at the very least, pay for itself (a concept known as return on investment, or ROI). 

Prove Your Product

Although new technology and flashy branding attract customers, they never seal the deal. In our first twelve months, we worked hard to persuade prospects that our product was more than “cool” with well-orchestrated online demonstrations. It didn’t take savvy prospects long before they asked for evidence like metrics and references to validate our claims. 
We were neither surprised nor unprepared. In anticipation of this, we wrote case studies about the success of our early customers and then published them on our website. Even with these narratives, some prospects launched brutal and time-consuming assessments of our products with the justification of having been “burned before.”
For example, we did five online demonstrations over a two-month period for a large legal software company that wanted to use Loopd wearables at an annual user conference. With the deal nearly closed, I received a request from the company’s CEO, who wanted to “play” with the wearable badge at his desk for a few weeks. 
After that, the CEO proposed that he test Loopd at an upcoming regional sales meeting for free. We later found out that he was a trained electrical engineer and doubted whether our technology was reliable enough for his one-thousand-person user conference.
Although these delays and requests were challenging, they were a good exercise. After denying the CEO’s request for the free meeting test, he agreed to buy all our technology for the user conference. The conference went better than expected, and the company even agreed to coauthor a case study with us. 

Gather Your Evidence

This was a best-case scenario, but it was not repeatable. With a small team and ambitious sales goals, we could not afford to go through this rigorous assessment process with every customer. Though necessary in the beginning, it would never lead to exponential sales growth.
Instead, we needed to find a few simple metrics that showed how our technology would help increase event revenue and deliver ROI. By surveying customers and prospects, I created a list of half a dozen possibilities:
Decreased number of hours to track and analyze sessions, partners, and product performance. By capturing information digitally, event organizers could eliminate the need for part-time workers for room registration and other tasks. This would vary depending on event type, but you could calculate savings by multiplying the salary/pay rate of each unnecessary employee.
Decreased number of hours spent on each sales cycle for converted prospects who attended your event. This would be harder to track, but we could stay in touch with clients and ask them about their sales cycles while maintaining the relationships.

Increased number of marketing qualified leads for your sales department. We could count the number of influencers and attach a value to each prospect.
Increased background information on your hot leads to import into your CRM and marketing automation systems. This would be comparable to ZoomInfo and other data companies.

Increased satisfaction of attendees, speakers, and partners. By tracking repeat attendees, we could quantify the value of good planning and how finely tuned content attracted loyal attendees.

Eliminate the cost of producing business cards by exchanging digital business cards. We would need to calculate the number of trees saved per one thousand people as well as the overall cost savings of ordering, printing, and mailing business cards. 
The potential metrics for Loopd were endless, but our quest for information hit against the realities of quick deadlines and limited communication with our clients’ sales teams. Because of these factors, much of the data that would have informed hard metrics was outside our purview. We simply lacked the visibility to see whether the leads captured with our smart badge actually accelerated the sales cycle. 
In the end, we produced a handful of validated statistics, but we never built highly persuasive metrics into our sales pitch. For customers looking for this type of validation, our pitches were never that successful.
This struggle is common among startups. Hard metrics take time to form, and new companies face tight deadlines and limited resources. Despite the challenges, hard data is never a bad idea and can often be the secret ingredient for closing deals with hard-to-convince prospects.
This article was adapted from the book Takeaways: Secret Truths from Leading a Startup.

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Comments

September 6th, 2019

Hey congrats on publishing the book @brianfriedman!

Looking back, what metric did you think would be really valuable to potential customers but they ended up not caring about? Finding a quality hard metric is a fine line between assumptions and reality.

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