Scaling Up-A Good Match

This is the second part of a mini-series on scaling a small services-based company to the next level. The first part dealt with the mindset of customer success.

A major ingredient of a successful outcome for a software engagement is a good match between the customer and the service provider. You will not match up with every customer, PERIOD.

Finding that mismatch early on is a good thing, for both you and the customer. A mismatched business relationship is toxic for everyone involved. It should be avoided like a bad virus.

Getting to the sales table can be hard. Thus, there is pressure to close the deal.
The initial sales interactions are more about finding the common ground, similarities that match.

Ideally, the sales cycle should be worked as ‘The Scientific Method’ where your aim is to fail as many hypotheses as possible (Prospects) with experiments (questions) to find the one that does not fail.

When we were starting out and had little revenue, I would raise my hand and would say ‘yes’ to anyone wanting anything to be developed. I did not bother to see if there was a match or not. I thought that was gritty on my/our part.

In hindsight, that was a mistake with oodles of opportunity costs. It brought bad karma from unhappy customers and caused constant stress.
It was not all negative though. We were able to do some things and add more skills to our team. Still, overall, it was net negative.

Before I go over what is a good match, let me describe what is NOT a good match.

It is NOT a good match if:

  • Someone who needs the skills NOW which your outfit does not possess. You can source it over time, but it is needed today.
  • A customer whose idea of software development is like interacting with a vending machine - just put the money in the slot and the software will pop out.
  • A prospect who has no idea of the effort involved (or any experience) and simply states, ‘I want to replicate, make a better AirBnB, LinkedIn, FB, Uber etc.
  • How much will it cost?
  • Someone who wants to build custom software when it is available to purchase off the shelf.
  • Someone who wants you to estimate the cost of building something when they do not know the features and scope of what they want to build.

If you are getting an impression that it has something to do with the tech skills of the customers; that is wrong. It is more about personality traits, unrealistic expectations, and lack of clear thinking. There are plenty of non-technical founders with great ideas and business skills to match that produce meaningful success.

The good match for you is someone who has a reasonably clear idea of what they want to accomplish business-wise and is somewhat realistic about the approach and process to accomplish it. Rarely are all the answers known upfront. Being realistic about what they know and do not know is a good start.

From the Customer’s viewpoint, you will be a good match if:

  • You possess the technical skills required to get the job done.
  • You already (more or less) know how to provide a solution instead of learning on the customer’s dime.
  • You have reasonable knowledge of the customer business. Your knowledge may not match what the customer knows, but you cannot be clueless of the space their business operates.
  • You are invested in the Customer’s success.

What has been your journey like in finding a good match for your business?

In the next part of this series on Scaling Up a small services company to the next level, I will talk about the importance of tools and how to go about it.