How to Implement Top-Down Sales For API Products

How to Implement Top-Down Sales For API Products

Imagine waiting in line to place your order at a cafe counter. The friendly cashier suggests a dessert and a big drink. You go through the whole transaction, and at the very end, you close with, “Thanks so much for your help! Have you considered evaluating your waste removal plan?”

Awkward, right? For one, it sullies an otherwise pleasant interaction. Even more importantly, it’s a waste of everybody’s time. The odds are good that a cashier will not have enough decision-making power to make much of a difference. A bottom-up approach is not the best approach in this example.

A bottom-up self-service approach is especially common in SaaS sales and API marketing. Yet, some have speculated that companies are changing their tune about bottom–up sales strategies.

With that in mind, we’ve put together some tips to empower your top-down sales strategy for your APIs and API products. But first, let’s take a moment to consider each approach to provide more context into creating the best possible API sales strategy.

What Is A Top-Down Sales Strategy?

Top-down sales can simply be called “traditional sales.” It’s the business model practiced by most businesses before the Internet. Top-down sales involves fewer people and less variables, as you only target the person in charge of making purchasing decisions instead of an entire developer community. As such, this approach is easier to monitor and keep track of.

Top-down sales are also called “accounts-based marketing,” as it usually involves targeting a small number of bigger companies that are likely to purchase your product. This allows you to focus more on a specific enterprise client, as the potential payout is much more significant. Yet, this sales process can require a lot more time, energy, and resources than the wider net of bottom-up sales and marketing.

Benefits of Top-Down Sales

The first and most obvious benefit of a top-down sales strategy is that you’re more likely to engage with decision-makers. For all the disruptive power of the Internet and digital sales and marketing, there still aren’t many people capable of making large spending decisions.

A larger ticket price is the next benefit of top-down sales. When a single sale or account is so substantial, you can justify allocating more resources. It also increases the likelihood of upselling, as new customers will want to protect and get the most out of their investment.

Stability is one of the biggest benefits of top-down sales. Bottom-up sales strategies tend to be much lower stakes, as customers are less likely to be committed. Top-down sales are more inherently stable as you tend to deal with one person as your liaison to that company, making your sales channel more secure. You’re also safer against competition, as you’ll have a sturdier relationship when dealing with one individual.

Last but not least, top-down sales can be much faster and more efficient than a bottom-up approach, which takes a lot longer and requires more cultivation to lead to significant sales or revenue. Top-down sales decisions tend to be made by either owners or a C-Suite or sales and marketing team in close proximity to those capable of making financial decisions. Bottom-up sales can lead to faster user adoption, however, which often leads to conversions.

What Is A Bottom-Up Sales Strategy?

Bottom-up sales is the act of casting as wide of a net as possible to get as many relevant leads as you can. It’s also sometimes called “one-to-many marketing.” This approach has become incredibly common in the digital age, as it relies on new technologies to function.

Bottom-up sales often work like a digital marketing funnel, where you create some form of content to bring in new users. Freemium or low-cost levels are two of the most common ways bottom-up sales strategies are implemented. This means users are already using your product when it comes time to convince those in charge of making financial decisions to pay for the full version.

Like other digital marketing structures, a bottom-up sales funnel is always running — new users can onboard anytime. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to leave some form of bottom-up sales structure in place, even if you invest more in top-down sales.

For API developers, bottom-up sales means targeting individual developers as well as the enterprise. This means making your API as self-sustaining as possible with good API documentation and a fast, easy onboarding process. You’ll want to ensure your API is discoverable to attract your ideal audience as well.

For an example of a good bottom-up sales structure in action, consider Twilio and Stripe. Both are widely loved and used by a vibrant developer community, who become brand advocates when it’s time to make a financial decision.

5 Tips For Improving Your Top-Down Sales Strategy

1. Identify Your Target Customer

Remember, top-down sales have the most in common with traditional sales and marketing techniques. This means spending more time cultivating real, valuable leads. Creating detailed buyer personas is one of the most essential parts of that process.

Top-down sales give you the ability to dedicate more time, energy, and resources to your sales and marketing funnel. If possible, find out specifically who will be making the purchasing decisions at the business you’re targeting. Do everything you can to get to know them. If they’re on social media, follow them. Find out about their pain points and use them to craft highly targeted sales materials. Even if it doesn’t lead to a sale, you can still use the insights for future marketing materials. For tech companies, this involves everybody, from CIOs to CTOs to end users.

The people involved in deciding on a new API product typically fall under the umbrella of the IT decision maker (ITDM). As BizTech points out, business decision makers (BDMs) might be the ones who ultimately make the decision, but the decision is hugely impacted by ITDMs.

2. Target the Right Companies

Finding the right companies to work with is an important part of finding the right customer. There are only so many businesses in the world that are going to be big enough to justify a top-down sales approach. Find out who these people are using any tools at your disposal.

Research your sector on business networks like LinkedIn and Glassdoor or more pedestrian apps like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. The business sites will be more useful, as they’ll likely reveal practical professional details like their net worth or biographical data for the owner, CEO, CFO, or C-Suite. Then you can use that info to start constructing different buyer personas.

Business directories aren’t the only way to identify possible leads, though. You can also perform competitive analysis on your competitors to find out who they’re engaging with. Then, use these insights to flesh out your list of qualified leads.

Do some research on what industries are using APIs like yours. If you’re providing a natural language API, for example, eCommerce sites might be interested in your services for creating naturalistic chatbots or enhanced text search. Consider making targeted marketing materials for specific sectors based on these findings and outlining your product’s unique value points (UVPs) to further optimize your efforts.

3. Create High-Quality Content

If you’re going to follow a traditional sales model, you’ve got to do it all the way. That means understanding your product or service down to an atomic level. This way, you can explain it to anybody, at any time, under any circumstances. Once you’ve attained this level of understanding, you’ll be able to craft world-class sales copy for any network or medium.

This requires an understanding of the sales and marketing in your industry, so you can deliver the best of the best. Look at sales and marketing materials in every medium. Examine video content as well as written and photo promotional materials with a marketer’s eye. For the visuals, pay attention to color palettes and font and layout choices for written promotional materials.

If possible, you may want to invest in your top-down marketing materials to yield maximum conversions. Consider hiring a copywriter for the written materials, as they’ll be able to make your API sound as appealing as possible. Copywriters are often trained in digital disciplines like SEO, so they’ll know which keywords will be the most useful and profitable and where to place them on the page to appeal to users and search engines.

You should perform some competitive analysis on your competitor’s marketing materials, as well. Try and measure which marketing materials are performing best, if you can. Then reverse-engineer those materials and marketing campaigns for your own top-down sales strategies.

4. Analyze Traffic

Your digital marketing content can yield a lot more than conversions. It can also deliver useful insights into how users are feeling about your marketing funnel. Analyzing when users opt out of your sales funnel offers invaluable insights for improving your marketing materials. Time spent on a page is another useful metric to measure.

If you’re adopting some form of freemium structure, you can also use that for insights. It’s worth noting if users aren’t converting beyond the trial or free tier. If you’re having trouble converting users to paid customers, you might invest in more optimized landing pages or marketing emails, for example. Technical analysis removes the guesswork, making your top-down sales materials as effective as possible.

5. Land And Expand

Land and expand is a sales strategy that’s been becoming more popular in recent years, especially among software-as-a-service. It’s a continuation of the freemium sales structure as it encourages users to start using your product and then expand their services and your revenue. It’s also called the “seed and grow” strategy.

Land and expand is a useful sales and marketing strategy, yielding qualified leads. The users you’re targeting are already using your API and finding it useful. It often just takes a little nudge to convert them into paying customers. Those customers tend to be more loyal and last longer, too, since they already use your product and find it useful.

Land and expand is a way to engage with ITDMs, who then exert their influence on BDMs. It’s a useful mingling of top-down and bottom-up sales strategies and can help expand laterally throughout a company into other departments.

Final Thoughts on Top-Down Sales For APIs

As business owners, marketers, and developers, we should consider every tool and strategy at our disposal. To grow your API business and make it as successful as possible, consider which business model will work best for your API. Top-down sales is a good choice as it lets you focus on developing the best leads and strong, reliable relationships that will stand the test of time. Do some market research, experimentation, and introspection to decide which model might work best for you.