One of the most difficult go-to-market strategies for startups is platform. Platform go to markets mean selling software that can do many things, depending on the customer need. Selling a platform is challenging for five reasons.
First, most customers buy software to solve a particular and immediate problem. When pitching a platform, the potential buyer has to imagine what the platform can do for them. On the other hand, point solutions present a more concrete alternative of what is, rather than what could be.
Second, most platforms don’t solve a problem out of the box, so the buyer won’t receive the benefit immediately. Configuration, customization, integration require engineering time and budget. In contrast, point solutions are ready to go.
Third, broad platforms can complicate the sales process. The broader the platform, the more likely other departments seek a voice in the decision. Instead of a one-party decision, now the purchasing process is a party-of-many, which isn’t a party at all, because it means the sales process lengthens.
Fourth, solution selling, which resolves some of the problems above by creating out-of-the-box point solutions on top of the platform, fragments the team. Solution sales mitigates some of the challenges above. But, solution sales fragments the marketing and sales teams. Typically, account executives specialize in solutions. They also require dedicated marketing presentations, call scripts and battle cards. Specialization works well, but only if the team is large enough to be divided.
Fifth, the ecosystem must be sophisticated enough to understand, appreciate and prefer the value of a broader platform. Platforms provide more flexible solutions to customers. Consequently, customers must understand the nuances of their needs quite well.
Platform go-to-market strategies can be very successful. But they introduce some additional complexity to the sales process that must be managed.