Application programming interfaces (APIs) are becoming more and more prolific in today’s technology driven world. Millions of developers use APIs on a daily basis to integrate existing technologies into their applications. But at Lob, we think of our API as a vehicle for us to partner with other companies and deliver value. As the first 2000 developers signed up with Lob, we learned how to discuss and share our API with them. As a result, here are four steps that our sales team has found helpful to go through with customers:
1. Customer - identifying the pain point
First of all, take the time to understand our customers needs. It’s easy to jump into features, but it is more important to identify what problem your customer is facing. We look to understand use cases, workflow and processes, technology requirements and any concerns customers may have with our API.
2. Education - how does the API solve the pain points
After understanding the customer’s needs better, the next step is educating the customer about our API and how it can help them. The key here is focusing on the areas that are most important to the customer. If we’re talking to a large enterprise customer, we’ll address concerns around data security & privacy and tackle SLA questions up front. On the other hand, with smaller companies, like startups, we discuss details such as packaging, fulfillment time, and pricing questions.
One other strategy that we use at Lob is using case studies to showcase how current customers are using our technologies and API to solve real problems. Often times pointing to a concrete example of benefits that other companies have achieved by using our API helps potential customers understand how the API is deployed in a real-world context.
3. Pilot and Proof of Concept - show me it works
Whenever you’re working with an API, it is important to realize that there is always an integration time required on the customer side. There are development costs and it takes engineering resources to get the API up and running. As such, one of the factors we look at closely is time-to-integration. Lob provides wrappers in almost every major language to help speed up development time for our customers.
Larger customers often want to see a proof of concept (POC) or run a small pilot. This serves as an opportunity to prove the API works and demonstrate functionality on a smaller scale. Offering to run a small pilot or work to create a POC is a great way to get your foot in the door and show the benefits of your API. At Lob, this gives us a chance to ensure our customers are happy with fulfillment times, ease of use, and have a chance to play with the actual product as well.
4. Launch and Support - continued excellence w/ customer service
With all the boxes checked and a happy customer, we go into production. At this point any integration pain points have been worked out and the customer is happy with product fulfillment. We nail down the launch date and watch carefully for issues with live orders for the first few days. We promptly respond to all customer service requests!
Furthermore, we set up regular times with customers to connect to collect feedback and make sure no further issues are occurring. Having a regular time to connect is important to correct and plan for any changes coming down the line.