10 Ways For SaaS Companies To Reach Small Cafe and Coffee Shop Owners

Does your SaaS company have a tool that restaurant, cafe and coffee shop owners absolutely need to have? That’s awesome! Now comes the hard part:

How do you get these chronically time-starved, million-hat-wearing small business owners to actually learn about, try and sign up for your product? Perhaps you’ve been hanging out with other SaaS founders, offering helpful onboarding critiques, sending each other inspirational Medium posts and upvoting each other’s Product Hunt submissions. No shame there — being a startup founder is socially isolating and emotionally taxing — you NEED a community of people who’ve been where you been. But if your SaaS company is targeting small restaurants, coffee shop owners, hairdressers and the like, you’re probably finding out that their behaviors and preferences are nothing like this tech-savvy crowd.

Talking on the phone? They like it!  In-person visits? The more, the better. White-glove support? They might actually expect it. Small business owners view their suppliers as partners in their success — and partners don’t take three days to answer a support email.

So, after you’ve found product marketing fit, how do you reach cafe and coffee shop owners at scale?

1. The list is life
To build an effective small business sales machine, you need to pour some high-quality fuel into the gas tank. And the fuel of any sales team is the list of prospects. For this reason, you want to find a high quality list that includes only the kind of small businesses that constitute your target market. This also means you have to get very specific about which kind of small businesses would be ideal customers for your SaaS. What size is the company, either in annual sales or number of employees? How long has it been in business? How many locations does it have? How large is the management team? The better your list, the better your results will be.

There exists an entire industry to compile and sell these lists to customers like your SaaS — but their quality varies widely. If you choose the wrong provider, you could end up paying thousands of dollars for a list that’s out-of-date and off-target. A better approach might be to find your own online source for for this info and then to hire a freelancer from Upwork, Fiverr or TaskRabbit to gather their contact info for you. If you think this info is hard to find, this slide from Anand Kulkarni of LeadGenius might change your mind:

2. Seek out unusual data sources.
The sources in the above slide are great, but by no means should you stop there. You may find many other great (FREE!) list sources once you dedicate yourself to looking for them. For example, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is the government agency responsible for the provision and regulation of liquor licenses to any business that wishes to sell alcohol in the state. Every month it publishes a list of the Texas bars and restaurants who have hauled in the largest amount of alcohol-related revenues. What a goldmine for any SaaS that wants to connect with the biggest restaurants and bars in the biggest state in the country! Most states or municipalities have some sort of licensing requirements for cafés, bars and restaurants and in many cases these lists are publicly available. Some good Google-fu will help you find them, and do be sure to take heed of their terms of service.

3. Phone calls may be just as important as e-mails
Yelp, Groupon, Yext and Foursquare are all trying to reach the same companies that you are with your SaaS. And e-mail is just one of the methods they used to grow their way to multi-million (in some cases, billion) valuations. They’re also dialing for dollars. To illustrate:

  • On Glassdoor and on its company blog, Yelp’s sales reps mention making 80 calls per day.
  • An interview with David Greenberger of Foursquare pegs their reps as making 150 calls a day. How many calls are you planning to make each day?

4. Think about the best time to reach your prospects
Try to anticipate the best time to reach your prospect on the phone by considering their opening hours, when they might be busiest and whether the need for pre- or post-work prep gives you an opening. If you’re trying to reach a coffeeshop, you’ll want to avoid the morning rush hours when the owner might be too busy serving customers and helping her staff. Instead, calling late in the afternoon might work best. On the other hand, you might be able to catch a restaurant owner while they’re doing their late morning prep before the first lunch customers arrive.

5. Use a script
There’s lots of debate on whether or not you should use a sales script for your calls. A script is a written document that you will have in front of you stating exactly what to say and when to say it. Here are a few valuable reasons why you should opt for one:

  • Putting your words on paper will force you to make your thoughts crystal clear, which will make them more persuasive when you’re actually on the call.
  • If you have never written a sales script before, you may approach it by doing some Google research which will give you a headstart on best practices. Here’s an excellent place to start.
  • As you start using your script you will increasingly learn what works and doesn’t work, which will lead to your editing the script and truly optimizing it to get the best results.
  • Finally and most importantly: if you have a grand vision for growing your business you will not be the person doing sales forever — you will ultimately delegate this to a team of people. Being able to hand them a script that has been customized and battle-tested for your business is part of the knowledge transfer that will make your hire and your company successful.

6. Keep your script simple
David Greenberger, head of sales at Foursquare, puts it best:

In local sales, you’re not calling up other tech companies or startups. You’re calling plumbers, coffee shops, and bars. In order to get through to them, you need to speak their language.[…] Don’t start a call by saying: “Ma’am/Sir, I’d love to talk to you about the solutions and optimizations that Foursquare has,” unless you like hearing the sound of prospects hang up the phone.

Instead, say: “Hey, do you have a quick moment? I thought this might be able to help you. Give me two seconds.” Keep things simple, and easy. Just get the conversation started, and see what sticks in order to close the deal. The closer you get to your customer’s level, the better.

In fact, consider doing what Yelp did and make sure you have some locally-focused small talk in your script.

7. Make sure your script has these essential elements

  • What you will say if the person who picks up the phone is not actually the owner/decisionmaker. Some key things you’ll want to find out include:
    • The name of the owner / decisionmaker
    • When is typically the best time to reach them
    • Whether there’s a mobile or other number that might be better for reaching them
    • What their correct e-mail address is
    • What you will say if you don’t reach a human but need to leave a voicemail

8. If you do get the decisionmaker on the phone and they have time to hear your pitch, be prepared to give them all the info they need to make a decision.

Due to their busy schedules, you may not have a chance to get them back on the phone again. So be prepared by having an easy way to show them a demo of your product during that first call. Want to go further? Here’s how to hack this:

  • Create a secret URL with a landing apge that’s customized for that company. For example, if you are pitching to Denise’s Coffeehouse in Memphis, Tennessee you could set up a secret url just for them.
  • After the call, include the URL in the follow-up email you will send.
  • Then, set up an ad retargeting campaign that will appear to anyone who has visited that specific web page and make it highly customized for Denise’s Coffeehouse. Imagine if you could retarget them with an ad that said, “Find out more about how Our SaaS helps other coffeeshops in Memphis triple sales” while pointing this to a downloadable case study of how XYZ SaaS helped a similar business to do just that.

9. …But also be prepared for the case where the decision maker’s not very tech-savvy.
Chris Snell says it best:

This one really threw me for a loop; please understand that this is not at all a dig at the SMB market, but rather a word of caution to sales reps that sell into SMB’s. There has been many a business owner that my team has spoken with that does not have an understanding of simple technology. I almost fell off of my chair one day, when I heard one of my reps say to a business owner, “nope…you don’t need to spell out ‘backslash’, you can just use the backslash key.” Oh, there’s also the time one of my reps had to explain to a prospect that he could just type my company’s web address into the address bar instead of going to Google to search for it first, then click on it. “How else would I get there!?” he said, completely astounded. I’ve had my own experiences, too, like the time I had to teach an owner where the address bar was on a web browser. The stories are funny, and they’re not meant to be mean at all. One of the differences between calling SMB’s and Enterprise-sized organizations is that your reps need to be prepared to speak with folks that may not be as computer savvy. They may need to do some teaching at a basic level, and if you lose your patience with them, you’re going to lose their business, too.

10. Always follow-up
You may not reach the decisionmaker or owner on day one. Or they may tell you that they need more time to make a decision. For that reason, your first outreach should be just the start of an entire sequence of follow-ups.
Here’s one potential cadence, courtesy of Inside Sales:

And here’s Velocify’s take on why that matters:

Whether you’re selling to Starbucks to the smallest mom-and-pop coffee stall, you’ll soon find that sales is a marathon, not a sprint. But if you use the tips here, set aggressive goals and design a process for measuring your performance against them, you’ll succeed.


5 Mind, Process & Productivity Hacks For Startup Sales – Lessons From Groupon’s Early Days

On the most basic level, there are only two jobs that a startup founder has: Ship the product. Sell the product. Both are tough, but I know from personal experience — and from conversations with many other startup founders — that sales is often the most challenging of the two, especially if you are bootstrapping. Selling a paid product? There is no product-market fit until you have a customer who’s willing to part with their dollars.

When it comes to the SMB market, the sales challenge can be tricky. Small business owners don’t often have big budgets or lots of time at their disposal. So how can you build a scalable process for reaching them one-by-one, convincing them to listen to your pitch and earning the their business? You can start by learning about how one famous startup did it: Groupon.

I tracked down Sunjay Agtey, one of Groupon’s first salespeople, to pick his brain. He joined the company the year after it launched, when there were just 30 people on its sales team and when the entire company had fewer than 100 people, total. (For comparison: today’s Groupon’s headcount totals over 10,000 employees.) Sunjay was excellent and generous enough to share with me his inside perspective on how Groupon built a sales machine from the ground-up. And here are the most valuable lessons that any startup founder can apply to build an SMB sales juggernaut.

1. You’ll have to do everything yourself at first, but don’t panic.
Today Groupon has a massive sales organization with highly specialized roles, including business development reps, account executives, inside salespeople, outside salespeople and more. But in its early days it was a much flatter sales organization, says founder and former chief executive, Andrew Mason:

“[W]e started off with a team of about seven people. We had a couple of business development guys as well as the guy that was actually doing the writing. Even I was doing it to some extent early on. We were all calling the businesses.” [Emphasis added.]

Sunjay confirms. There was no separate team to hunt prospects and decide whether they qualified as actual leads before passing them on to the person who would do the product demo, follow up via multiple contacts and close the sale. If you were a salesperson in Groupon back in 2009, you were responsible for the entire process end-to-end — finding the prospect, deciding if they qualified as a lead, entering their data into the CRM system, contacting them, doing the product demo, following up and closing the deal. So if you are at the helm of a small team of founders — or even if you are the solo founder — know that it is not at all uncommon for you to also be the chief salesperson. Take courage from the fact that it can be done.

2. Don’t buy lists, build them with your own creativity.
Before you can start reaching out to prospective customers you need to locate them and uncover their contact information. How did Groupon do it?

Believe it or not, the internet was where Groupon went hunting to fill its pipeline of prospects. If you are looking for local businesses, websites like Yelp, Thrillist, TripAdvisor and local blogs are all places where you can find them. But only make those your starting points, and not your stopping points. Go several steps further to uncover websites, directories and other free sources that are off the beaten track — remember that the more creative you can be in finding your lists of prospects, the less likely you are to run into competitors who are using the same hunting grounds.

3. (Dis-)qualifying your leads is crucial.
Sales is a game of numbers. The key to doing it well is finding ways to boost the chance that the very time-consuming activities you are undertaking — calling, emailing and following up on a one-to-one basis — will actually result in a sale. A major part of this is qualifying your leads, or making sure that the small business you are about to contact is actually someone who would be an ideal fit for your business.

The sooner you can determine whether a lead is qualified, the faster you can close a sale: either with that same person or by moving on to someone else in your pipeline who is qualified. To turn the process on its head, you may want to aim to disqualify leads as quickly as possible. Why?

Having the door closed in your face can make sales a bruising sport, but the reality is that you are far more likely to hear “No” instead of “Yes”. For this reason, salespeople can fall into a trap of seeking the comfort of having a fat pipeline of theoretical “Maybes”. But if you haven’t carefully defined what makes a good customer for your business vs. a bad customer — and forced yourself to apply this standard with rigor — you will end up wasting a lot of precious time.

Remember that it’s not the quantity of the leads that count, but rather the quality. If it’s going to be a “No” due to a bad fit, then you’ll want to find this out as soon as possible to avoid wasting time on both sides. In Groupon’s early days the company only wanted to work with small businesses who had a website. So any business that didn’t have a website was a poor lead that would be disqualified. (Or, back in the very early days the Groupon salesperson might occasionally offer to create the website for them. Really. Remember point 1? Expect to do everything yourself.)

4. Learn to live by the clock.  
Efficiency always matters in a startup, but it matters especially if you are a sales team of one. Very simply, the way you approach and structure your workday is going to determine whether you’re able to hit your sales goals. And that, in turn, should be driven by the workday of the people you are trying to reach. Working at Groupon during its early days, Sunjay and his fellow salespeople learned early on to start with the customer and work backwards in order to develop some rules of thumb for the best and worst times to call a small business in a particular industry. Restaurant owners, for example, were usually unreachable between 11am and 1pm, during the lunch hour rush. Instead the team would reach out between 7am and 9am, when the owner was taking deliveries, catching up on finances or other admin tasks. Another good window was 3pm-5pm, before the dinner prep and rush.

Because small business owners are so time-constrained, if you do manage to speak to them during your initial call, be prepared to give them all the info they need to make a decision, including a demo of your product or service. (This is an argument for having a mobile version of your demo that works — if the person you reach is not in front of their computer, you can have them put the call on speaker and open up your demo their mobile browser.)

If they’re not yet ready to make a decision or don’t have time to fully hear you out, be sure to set up a specific time to call them back. And do take the extra step of confirming that next appointment with them before the day approaches. Small business owners often find their schedules overwhelmed by last-minute issues, which may lead them to stand you up. Be intentional about the language you use while making that confirmation so that you hold them accountable to showing up for the new appointment. Try to highlight the benefits they stand to miss out on if they miss speaking with you — a tactic that takes advantage of our cognitive bias against loss avoidance, aka FOMO.

Finding prospects, entering their details in the CRM system, following up on earlier contacts and then entering those results in the CRM — sales during Groupon’s early days was an admin-heavy task. When can you find time to get this done, amidst the actually calling and emailing? Sunjay and his most successful colleagues learned to get these type of tasks done during the in-between periods, i.e. the times that were less favorable for reaching out to the businesses.

Even with a founder’s level of passion, sales can be a repetitive and ego-damaging activity. So be sure to structure your working day in such a way that it’s as palatable as possible for yourself. Maybe it’s doing a batch of calls and then taking a walk around the block before coming back to do email follow-ups and CRM admin. Or taking a few hours at night to set up all of the following day’s emails in your outbox. Find a rhythm that works for you so that you can keep going with peak energy and motivation.

5. Keeping a cool head will help you persevere.
Here’s a bit of folk wisdom: “Sales is a lot like being a parent, showing your baby to the world and having them tell you it’s ugly.” Your feelings may get hurt, again and again. But this will be particularly tough if you don’t accept this as an inescapable part of the process and find a way to develop some amount of emotional distance and move on.

The philosophy they cultivated during the early days at Groupon? Try not to get too high when you close a great deal and also not to get too disappointed when people say no. Keep an even keel. If you have ten people in a room, on average, two people will always say yes to what you offer, and two people will say no. A good salesperson wants to find those nos as quickly as possible so that they can focus on converting the other six people. And when it comes to the four who are indifferent — bear in mind that they may say no at the start. But no’s just the start of the conversation. Try to understand the reasons behind it and be armed with well-thought out ways to counter their objections. And always expect to receive 13 “Nos” before you give up.

As humans we have a deep need for stories, myths and heroic lore that focus on the glory and conveniently leave out all the messy bits in between. But no matter how big they are today, every startup who reached unicorn or household-name status built its success just one sale at a time. And so can yours.