Today, I’m going to show you how to get started on your sales as a cleantech startup.
Revenue, especially in the initial stages of your business, is the single most important thing to achieve. If you are a bootstrapped founder, revenue is the only thing keeping you and your business alive. If you are looking for VC investors, revenue is the only thing that will prove you are a valid business.
Starting out with sales is hard – especially if you have no previous sales experience. But by following the steps below, you will be up and running on the sales side in no time!
Cleantech Sales vs. Marketing – What’s the difference?
We all heard the terms “sales” and “marketing” before, but for most people, these are synonymous. But in fact, they are distinctly different, although they both have the same goal: Generating revenue for your business.
Marketing – Necessary but not your main value driver in cleantech sales
If you want to create awareness of your brand and product in your targeted customer segment, marketing is the way to go. Marketing campaigns, whether they are on a billboard or a sponsored LinkedIn post, passively present your brand or product to potential customers. By showing up repeatedly on their timeline or in their surroundings, they become aware of your brand and products and (with time) develop a certain trust in your brand.
Through marketing, you are not targeting a specific customer but a group of customers, luring them in to come to you and buy your product.
Sales – Here happens the magic
Sales is different as it does not target a group of customers with public marketing campaigns but is directed towards the specific individual. Often used with higher value transactions, a seller (you) will look up potential customers within their target group who could buy their product. It involves researching your target’s situation and background and reaching out to them personally.
Doing sales instead of marketing is usually more expensive per customer reached, but can also lead to much higher conversion rates, especially when you are trying to sell something that is worth more than fake jewellery on Instagram.
B2B vs. B2C
It makes an enormous difference whether you are targeting other businesses (B2B) or consumer (B2C) directly. You can reach consumers better through large marketing campaigns, but your margins per customer will be small. While business customers on the other hand, generate higher revenue volumes and margins, but require specialised sales for a specialised product.
And finally, it matters if people have heard of you and your product before (i.e., through marketing or PR). If they did, your outreach to them will be “warm”, granting you easier access to a discussion with them and increasing your chances to generate sales of your cleantech product. otherwise, you might be completely new to them and convince them that you are in fact a trustable expert in your field and that they could benefit from your product – this is cold outreach.
1) Define a Target Customer Persona – Who is your buyer?
When you start your cleantech sales campaign, you need to know who to contact in the first place. But before you start collecting generic company emails, you need to understand the difference between customer, user & buyer.
Your targeted customers might be companies, like an energy corporation for example. But behind the company name, there are real people doing their work and making decisions, and you want to help them do their job with your product.
Users are the people who would use your product or service. If you are offering a power grid planning software, these would be the engineers in the grid planning department.
But those engineers are usually not the same people who make the decision whether to buy a product or service. The buyer or decision maker will often be a team lead or department head. This is the person you really want to talk to, because they are the ones who need to be convinced of your service.
Of course, there are exceptions to this and here are the two most important: Consumers & (Solo-)Entrepreneurs. They are customer, user, and decision maker combined into a single person, and can be targeted more easily than corporate buyers.
2) Create an awfully lengthy list of potential buyers
If you have never done (cold) sales before, the most important thing to know is, that it’s going to be hard. Your conversion rate will be extremely low – but this is normal.
Just imagine how you react to cold emails out of nowhere. Like me, you are ignoring or deleting them most of the times. Some might even get blocked directly.
When I first started to reach out to potential customers for my cleantech startup, I thought that reaching out to a few dozen people should surely generate a few sales.
And this is normal – but I didn’t know that.
To make a few dozen sales, you will need to talk to hundreds of potential customers. Luckily, this doesn’t mean that you need to collect thousands of potential customers before reaching out to any of them. It just means that you will need to continuously reach out to hundreds of potential customers to generate some sales.
My recommendation: do sales in batches – e.g., collect 100 potential buyers and then reach out to them following the next steps.
To create a meaningful connection to your target customers, you will need more than their names and email addresses. In your list, try to collect at least the following information about them and their business:
- What is their business doing and how does it work?
- What is their role in the company and the pain points associated with that?
- Who are their target customers and how can you help them to better help their customers?
Based on this information, you should be able to write a personalised section in your outreach, which explains how they specifically benefit from your cleantech offerings.
I have prepared an Excel template for you to use. Download it for free here: Template-Sales-Database.xlsx
3) Prepare your reach out copy
One reason to work in batches instead of collection thousands of potential customers is procrastination. If you fear talking to potential customers, you might just not do it. You know, since you still “must gather more contacts”.
But in the end, there is no way around it. You must send your target an email or LinkedIn message. Of course, you can also call them, but one step after another, am I right?
So, create a template for reaching out, which explains what you are offering them. Include how they can profit from it, and that you would be happy to have a call to discuss it further if they are interested.
As a cleantech seller, you should include some information about how your solution is more sustainable than existing solutions. But keep in mind that your primary sales argument must be the primary (monetary) profit of your customer.
If you are insecure about your writing, you can use the help of ChatGPT or other AI-based writing helpers to create your template! I tried it out for myself and was impressed by the results:
For more example prompts to be used with these AI helpers, check out this LinkedIn post by Chase Diamond.
4) Personalisation Is The Single Most Important Thing
It is difficult enough to generate leads from cold messaging, but when your target feels like they are just receiving another unpersonal, generalised sales email, they are much less likely to respond at all.
In fact, more than 91 % of all cold email outreaches are simply ignored.
But you can improve on that by following a simple but important rule: personalise wherever you can. So don’t just send a generic email (e.g., as provided by an AI) but integrate the following few things to drastically increase your response rates:
- Personalised subject lines boost response rate by 30.5 %
- Personalising the message body also causes a 32.7 % better response rate
- Adding links to your social profiles, shows yourself more as a natural person rather than a bot, increasing your response rates by up to 23.4 %
If you want to learn more about how to improve response rates, check out the full analysis of over 12 million outreach emails at Backlinko.
5) Follow up and persevere
And finally, one last thing: Don’t give up if people are not replying to your first email.
They might be busy, or it could just not be the right time for your offering, yet. Just send a follow up email, one or two weeks later, and a second follow up another few weeks later. Following up on your first sales email can more than double the response rate of your potential cleantech customers.
Doing sales is hard and you will get a lot of rejection and ignorance. But you can do it. Just push through continuously and search and contact new leads every week.
If you need some help with getting your cleantech sales going, reach out to me or join the Climate Innovator Community (see below). Together, we can stop climate change – ton by ton.
- Doing cleantech sales correctly is crucial for your business’ success.
- Sales and marketing are very much different but can act complementary.
- Define your target customer, so that you can identify them out in the world.
- Create a veeeeeery lengthy list of potential buyers. You will need it.
- Prepare templates for consistently reaching out to customers.
- Personalisation is the key to successful email marketing. It makes a difference between day and night and increases your chances of success strongly.
- Follow up on your emails and persevere. You will get those sales in the end!
See you next week. 😉 (Haven’t subscribed to The Climate Innovator newsletter yet? Join here!)