The course dives deeper into ways to manage runway, find early adopters, connect with decision-makers, conduct interviews, and reach product-market fit. The complete course structure is available below.
It also includes battle-tested worksheets and templates, and access to the all-new Monthly Virtual Office Hours. You can check out the Lean B2B Course right here.
The Lean B2B Course Content
It’s a lot of content, but you can complete it at your own pace. Just dive in whenever you have time!
You can use the good ol’ telephone to reach out, connect via InMail (LinkedIn), direct messages (Twitter) or through Quora’s messaging system, but chances are, email will be your best bet.
Depending on how much research you do, the quality of your email template and the industry you target, you may be able to convert as many as 30% of your cold emails into interviews. To help you achieve those results, I created the following guide.
Here’s How I Get Customer Interviews with Cold Emails:
Step 1: Get their Email Addresses
Gone are the days trying to guess email patterns on Google. With dozens of tools at your disposal, finding email addresses shouldn’t be a challenge anymore.
Among the tools available, I strongly recommend Clearbit Connect. Not only is it a nice alternative to LinkedIn, it’s fast, accurate (97% accuracy according to YesWare research), and gives you 100 free credits per email account. Think about that last point a bit. ;-)
Here’s how I use Clearbit Connect to find email addresses:
Step 2: Research the Prospects
This is where you’ll spend most of your time.
You need to personalize your emails in order to establish rapport. To do that, you’ll have to spend time researching prospects one by one. You can’t skip this step; it’s what separates your emails from the spammers’.
At a minimum, you’ll want to add the prospect’s first name and make it visible from the ledger (see image below).
You’ll also want to add a personal note showing that you’ve done your research. Here are a few things you can comment on ranked by the order of what seems to work best:
Personal success (job promotion, award, achievement, etc)
Company news (related to them, their work function or a significant company achievement)
A shared experience, acquaintance, hobby or interest (ideally, not something about work)
Recent posts (on LinkedIn, Medium or on their blog)
Recent LinkedIn or Twitter updates
You can decide to add more personalization, but don’t overdo it. According to research by the team at Growbots, personalization follows a law of diminishing return. In other words, adding more personalization doesn’t necessarily increase response rate; it can actually make your emails feel creepy.
Once you’ve found your style, you can decide to outsource some of the research to workers on Upwork or Fiverr.
Step 3: Write the Email
Nailing the email script makes a huge difference in your response rate. You have to be humble and remember that you need their help. To be successful, keep in mind:
It’s about them – You need to speak to their ego and make them feel smart and esteemed. It’s about their expertise and interests and it’s on their terms. Use compliments. Make the interaction as positive as possible.
Their time is important – It has to sound like it’s a short meeting. Twenty minutes is all you need. Any longer than that and you’re wasting their time.
You’re not selling – You have to build a relationship before you attempt to sell anything. Be informal, helpful and easy-going. Formal emails create doubts in the prospect’s mind.
It’s got to connect – The more certainty you have that the problem is – or was at some point – on their radar, the more likely you are to get a reply. You want to give them a reason why spending 20 minutes with you will be worth their time. It has to feel like you’re going to be of value to them.
To start, use a broadly defined problem. A looser problem in the subject line and in the email copy has a higher likelihood of getting people excited. Prospects will build their own perceptions of the problem and invent the product in their minds.
Here’s a sample script I’ve used before:
Subject: International growth
I enjoyed your 2-part series on employee retention. I had tried to find a job with startups in Hong Kong when I was living there and I know it’s not easy.
I’m contacting you because I have a software company trying to improve how businesses expand internationally.
I’m not looking to sell anything, but since you have so much expertise with international growth, I’d love to get your input to make sure we don’t build the wrong thing.
Can I schedule a quick call with you next week? Monday or Tuesday perhaps?
Let me know, thank you.
Keep it short. Make it easy to respond to.
Step 4: Send the Emails
You can decide to send all emails manually, but that’s a lot of work, and it’s not very value-added work (you have better things to do!). In the past, I’ve used Mailchimp, but without a paid subscription, it’s very hard to send truly plain emails.
I discovered Streak through Alex Berman, who knows a lot more about cold emailing than I do.
Basically, Streak is a CRM that sits inside Gmail. It allows you to send mass personalized emails, manage pipelines, track replies, send followups and schedule email delivery from your inbox.
Here’s how I use it to send emails:
Before hitting send, I recommend setting up a new email account. Some of your emails might get marked as spam. The last thing you want is to have your main email account in the spam folder. It happened to me before, and it can be quite painful.
Schedule your emails carefully. Ask yourself: where are my prospects located? At what time do they get up? Go to work? When are they likely to have time to look at my email?
Start slow, don’t send too many emails (you need time to reply), make revisions to your script, and followup.
Getting customer interviews with cold emails is a learning process. Start from the top and practice.
It’s hard to find good business ideas in B2B. You want an opportunity you can execute on, a problem you can be passionate about and that, over time, can lead to a sustainable competitive advantage. It’s not a decision you want to rush.
To help you, I put together a list of 5 ways to find good business ideas:
One thing that’s often overlooked is that, Excel is the most-widespread programming language in the world. In many businesses, people have built extremely sophisticated Excel models. Those spreadsheets are often central to business operations, and that’s a liability for companies.
Excel spreadsheets are often expressions of needs. Especially if they’re shared across departments and/or consumed daily or weekly. Seek out Excel documents in your work. Talk to users. Understand the real needs. Find other businesses with similar challenges. Take it from there.
Go on a Safari
Entrepreneur Amy Hoy recommends going on a Sales Safari seeking expressed problems in discussions on the Internet.
The idea is that if you go through forums, communities, Quora questions, LinkedIn / Facebook groups, Reddit threads, blog comments, open customer service websites or competitor support forums, you can find needs and problems. Here’s one I found on GrowthHackers:
What do you know better than anyone else? What did you learn in your previous work that you could now leverage? What expertise have you been building?
Good to Great Author Jim Collins created the Hedgehog Concept to help entrepreneurs find their focus. To Collins, that focus lies at the intersection of what you’re passionate about, what you can get paid for and what you can be uniquely good at. It’s a great concept. Try it out, what’s your business Hedgehog?
Seek Out Requests for Startups
Investors spend their days thinking about what businesses they’d like to fund. Why not reverse the search process and solve a problem they’re already looking at?
By going through investors’ social media accounts or personal blogs, you can find nuggets like this one and that one. If that’s not enough, Y Combinator has put together a list of startups they’d like to see. This approach should help with securing financing for your business. :-)
Do Series of Customer Interviews
By far my favourite approach, but also the approach covered in Lean B2B: Build Products Businesses Want, customer interviews allow you to systematically explore industries, tasks, job types, or even market competitors.
There’s a lot of ways to find good business ideas in B2B. To increase your certainty, you’ll probably want to combine one or two of these approaches. Business ideas may be everywhere, but good business ideas are hard to find.
The New Year is a great time to get started with your search!
As businesses scale, grow and mature, their founders need to grow and adapt their skillsets.
The skills and knowledge that got them to product-market fit, won’t necessarily get them through scale and beyond.
To keep up and stay ahead of the game, entrepreneurs need to constantly be learning. There’s going to be thousands of lessons along the way, but here are 21 I feel are key to ensuring business success:
Your most valuable asset is your network:
Use your professional network. Ultimately, it’s your best asset.
You need to hustle:
Silence is not rejection. If someone doesn’t respond to my calls or emails, I simply assume that they are busy and that I need to follow up until they have a moment to respond. — Steli Efti, Close.io CEO
Advisors are not real victories. Funding is not necessarily progress. Keep your eyes on the real prize:
The only things that matter early on are product-market fit and not running out of cash. — Fred Lalonde, Hopper CEO
Shorten the time to product launch:
If you don’t have a product, you don’t have a business. — Tara Hunt, Truly Social Founder & CEO
Details only matter when they can have an impact on real people. — Flagback
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel:
New business opportunities can come from changing just 5% of an existing product. — François Lane, Cakemail CEO
It doesn’t have to be complicated:
Complex ideas are almost always a sign of muddled thinking or a made up problem. — Sam Altman, Y Combinator CEO
Good partners are worth the equity:
It’s better to have 50% of a big thing than 100% of nothing.
90% of startups over-promise. — SaaStr Conference Panelist
Don’t sell people a one-time thing. Make sure you always have recurrence. — Bill Aulet, Author & Entrepreneur
Technology won’t be your competitive advantage:
As a small business, your ability to hustle is your competitive advantage. — Ken Morse, MIT Entrepreneurship Centre Founder
You need to solve a real problem:
It’s really hard to bring something to market without an initial pull like an already-addressed market need or an important problem.
You need to build a machine:
If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die. — Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway CEO
The CEO needs to focus on the magic:
You can do everything in a startup, but doing everything will prevent you from being strategic with your actions. — Jean-Philippe Gousse, Product Advisor
You can easily be led on by customers:
“Interesting” is a distraction. Watch out. — HireVoice
Company culture can easily break down:
Every single person you bring on in the early days changes your culture, in a good or bad way. — Moritz Plassnig, Codeship Founder
Not everyone is worth your time:
Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers. — Tim Ferriss, Author & Entrepreneur
You need to make money:
Don’t try to start something if you don’t know how you’ll make money. — François Lane, Cakemail CEO
You can charge more than you think:
The fully-loaded cost of the lowest-paid employee is $4000 per month. At a minimum, your pricing should use that as basis. — Patrick McKenzie, Serial Entrepreneur
It’s very hard to avoid services:
The moment one customer pays you a lot more than any other customer, you’re no longer a product company, you’re a services/consulting company. — Jason Fried, Basecamp CEO & Founder
If you build it, they won’t necessarily come:
The hardest part of any business is the marketing/sales cycle, not building the thing. — Martin-Luc Archambault, AmpMe CEO
Anything missing? What other realizations do you think entrepreneurs need to have to make their businesses successful? Tweet at @LeanB2B
How many people experience this problem? – Are you the only person impacted or are all team members feeling the pain?
How much would a solution reduce the pain? – Would it be a 5% improvement or a 10X impact on the entire organization?
Is status quo an option? – Can the organization live with the pain caused by this problem?
Would my boss allow the purchase of this solution? – Would there be budget available if I were to solve this problem?
Your ranking could look something like this:
Sending one-question surveys via email is painful.
1 to 5
Problems worth solving are typically invisible from the outside. By being stationed in the organization in a position to observe the way people work around problems, you get privileged access to business opportunities.