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Tech Spotlight: Building a Foundation

Posted by Kevin Ward on March 7, 2018

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As this is the first Nestio blog aimed directly at SaaS learnings, I felt that the topic should be in line with the foundation we are building. Throughout my experience at various startups at different stages in funding and growth cycle, as well as working closely with professionals at other companies, the fundamental element consistent across the board is building a solid foundation early on which will help you massively as you expand. Having a solid foundation also aids in mitigating any growing pains experienced along the way.

When I say “building a foundation”, this does not end at implementing a few processes here and there. It means that on every identifiable level, set yourself up with a solid foundation to build upon. There are always going to be changes, pivots, improvements in technology, edits to the tech-stack, and unexpected issues to address, but being able to make those changes without having to start over, or build on top of something that was weak to begin with, will make those changes much easier.

Define foundation processes that are always evolving, but don't require a full redesign to improve on.

There have been a few times where I have suggested a full redesign of the sales process and customer journey from beginning to end. This decision has come from looking at the current journey, and seeing remnants of pivots at each different stage, and previous  large scale changes that were needed because the existing process was so ingrained in the prior vision. Making shifts in the journey requires adding new pieces to a process, and if that process was not a solid one to begin with, then the customer journey begins to deviate from creating “the best experience”. The journey becomes more about how it fits the arbitrary processes previously put in place. This results in a substantial amount of extra work, shoddy data compiled from various points in the sales process, and a poor customer experience.

Let your process determine your tech needs.

An easy, real world example that many companies experience is implementing Salesforce in a useable and, more importantly, scalable setup. Many times, when Salesforce is implemented, it is done with no dedicated resource, and is designed to accommodate an existing process, whatever that may be at the time. This can mean not utilizing all  objects, ineffectively tracking key metrics like conversion, or if they are being tracked, it is done through a set of custom fields instead of utilizing standard functionality. The reason for this is often because such an approach seemed like the easiest way to obtain data that was important at the time. The issue here is that the data that is important early in the stage of the company will change over time. There are key metrics for a sales process that can be coached and improved upon, and tracking those in an easy and scalable fashion will be helpful throughout the business cycle. But what happens when you segment the team to be territory or vertical driven, or when you add an SDR team to support the AEs? If there was no segmentation before, now you either have to add more custom fields to determine the same metrics, or need to do a full redesion to suit the new process. (We will dive deeper into this in the next post focused on sales foundations.)

Another common issue is designing a scalable billing process. There are many software platforms out there that are easy to use out of the box, but only if you design your processes around them. This is a case of letting your tech determine your process, not your process determine your tech. In the beginning, you may only have one offering paid monthly, but what about when you do larger scale deals? You will need to have a billing setup that can process multi-year contracts with built-in renewal increases and invoices going out to multiple contacts. This can be done manually for a small segment of clients, but the hope is to have more of those clients. Setting up a foundation where you can easily change your your invoicing process, or structure your contracts for those changes, will be increasingly important as your business grows.

Iterate on your process, and scale it with your business needs.

The easiest way to avoid any of these issues is by building the strongest foundation in every area you can foresee. If you set up a solid sales process that can be adjusted without adding massive amounts of encumbering steps, and maintains strong key data points on your customers such as your ability to pivot and adapt will not be held back by the ghost of previous ideas. Even when testing functions or experimenting, do it with a small sample group and identify if you are ever going to use those stats or that process ever again before you roll it out to the whole company. If you can create a solid foundation to build on, you won’t need to worry about being able to adjust the cycles built on top of it.

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