Minimum Viable Process – What is the MVP in Startup Sales?

Hey there startup founders and early employees! Today I want to talk about the idea of an MVP in sales. We’ve been talking about minimum viable product for a long time within product development and engineering - it’s all about the most basic idea of a product that works. 

MVP in the Startup World 

I really picked up on this concept over a decade ago. That’s because as a startup founder, I made the mistake many, many times of trying to build the full scope of a product right off the bat. It’s normal - you get excited and energized, and you want to see progress. 

But there are a few fundamental issues with that. 

When you’re building a startup from the earliest stages, things change very quickly. The product evolves, the market shifts, and user feedback starts rolling in. If you commit to a full build right away, you’re probably sinking too much time and money into building the wrong version of your product, or you’re building it in a vacuum. 

The MVP is designed to address that. You’re building the basics you can show to your testers, your potential funders, and then make changes easily based on feedback. 

MVP in Startup Sales

But MVP doesn’t only apply to creating your product - you can apply it to startup sales as well. Creating a sales process that works is a challenge for most startup founders and sales pros. And after many years of experimentation, I landed on a method that works for me (and maybe for you too). 

MVP in sales refers to minimum viable process, as opposed to the minimum viable product. This is the most basic process that a startup founder, entrepreneur, or early employee can start to leverage to get some feedback, some beta customers, some early customers, and so on. 

Create a set of ideal customer profiles that include details such as full name, company name, title, department, location, company type, company size, tools they use, potential use cases, and other firmographic, behavioral, and technographics that make sense. Good Docs are perfect for this.

How to Create Your Own Minimum Viable Process

Everyone’s MVP in sales is going to look a bit different - it really depends on your business, your product, and your ideal customers. But for pretty much everyone, there are a couple of tools you can leverage to create your own MVP. 

The first is the phone! It’s free, we all have one, and we want to make calls to contact our early users for feedback and our potential prospects. Yes, even in 2022!

The second is email - you need to communicate via email to gather even more feedback and see what cold contacts are working and which ones aren’t.  

The third is a simple spreadsheet - use Google Docs, Excel, or whatever you prefer to keep track of your outreach efforts. Track how they’re going, what you tried, what worked, and what didn’t, so you can tweak and adjust on the fly. 

The fourth tool to use is Yesware or MixMax. There are a variety of similar tools in the market but I personally love these two as they feature PLG business models. (Full disclosure, I am a friend of the founders but you can check out other options yourself as well.) It’s a great tool to be able to track email replies, see who’s opening your emails, perform A/B tests on the conversion rate of specific messages, have access to out-of-the-box temples, and more - check it out. 

Fifth and finally, Linkedin is where you will find all your prospects. It's a lot of the time more effective than email. Keep your messages short, personalized, and easy to respond to.

Get Started on the Right Foot

Yes, there are more advanced tools out there you’re going to want to set up eventually. But this is the basic set of tools that will help you to get early customers, engage in outreach, and start to develop some foundation of a sales process. 

When we talk about creating that basic process, this is really all you need. Remember - we’re creating the minimum viable process, not sinking all the time and money into something untested. 

Now I know some of you are thinking - but this doesn’t scale! And the bottom line is no, it doesn’t. But right now, at this stage in your business, you’re not worried about trying to scale. 

You’re trying to get early customers, develop traction, get product feedback to continue to build the product, or raise money - or whatever the next step in your business’s life is. This is just step one, and we’re keeping it lean and light. The rest will come later. 

Questions about the MVP in sales, or anything else startup-related? Contact me! I’m always happy to chat. 

This post was inspired by a video I made back in 2014:

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash