Ben Barbersmith

runner · developer · entrepreneur

B2B Sales for Indie Developers

— Posted on Oct 31, 2021

B2B sales are lucrative. They can generate 1000x as much revenue as B2C sales. But for most indie hackers, sales is scary. Selling to businesses is super scary.

This blog post explains how I closed my first $20k of B2B sales as an indie developer in 5 simple lessons.

Prelude: Who am I, and why should you care?

First, let me present my credentials and introduce myself.

I quit my job at Google to become full-time indie hacker in summer 2020. When I quit, I had $500 of monthly recurring revenue (MRR) from spelltrackerapp.com, an app for nerds who play Pathfinder — a game like Dungeons & Dragons. It took 3 years to get that far.

Fast forward 6 months, I still had $500 MRR from Spell Tracker.

But in the first six weeks of 2021, I closed my first $20,000 of annual recurring revenue from a brand new B2B product!

How did I pull off this feat?

When I worked at Google I was a partner engineer who advised businesses on YouTube’s rights management system. A few months after I quit, a few businesses I’d worked with asked me to do some consulting. I had no deadlines, so why not?

It turns out that several consulting clients had the same problem… a problem I’d already solved repeatedly inside Google. Within 3 weeks, my new product was born.

Meet observant.app, a system to find, prioritise, and recover missed revenue opportunities for YouTube content owners.

Lesson 1️⃣: Make something people want

Observant solves a problem that businesses were paying me crazy hourly rates to solve for them. It solves a problem Google paid me to solve for years.

These two facts acted as instant validation!

Don’t start with ideas. Start with burning problems.

Lesson 2️⃣: Niche down and talk their language

I’d wager that my elevator pitch above didn’t mean anything to you. Good!

If your customers get the value proposition, it doesn’t matter if nobody else knows what it means.

Get it right for customers, then start sending emails.

Lesson 3️⃣: Make use of professional relationships

Hopefully you do (or did) great work at your job. Hopefully there are already business people who know you’re smart, capable, and effective.

Make your first sales easy. Pitch to those people first.

All my first sales came from sending email to people I’ve worked with for years. I had no landing page. I still have to explain my product every time I mention it on Twitter. I still only get sales from warm email outreach.

I expect this to be true for a long time.

Lesson 4️⃣: Know your USP and leverage career capital

The first question I got asked while pitching: why shouldn’t our developers build this instead? (Answer: Because I did this for 7 years at YouTube, so I can do it faster and more effectively than anyone, except people still inside Google.)

The second question I got asked while pitching: what’s going to stop Google building the same thing and making it free? (Answer: Because Google is preoccupied with billion dollar opportunities. This is only a multi-million dollar opportunity.)

If you’re making B2B sales, you may need to anticipate questions about why you (as a solo indie developer) are the right person to solve their problem. Answer with confidence!

Lesson 5️⃣: Show your value in hard numbers

Every time I book a demo, I ask prospects to share confidential data beforehand, process it, and load it into my product.

The first thing they see in a demo is how much cash they’re leaving on the table.

For example…

Last month, you earned $184k in ad revenue. But you missed out on an estimated $51k due to [BLAH BLAH]. Fixing those issues could increase your monthly ad revenue by 27.4%.

Boom. Find a way to put numbers on your value, and put it front and centre.

I can’t stress this enough. Make your product valuable, and tell your prospects how valuable it is in terms they relate to.

Hmm, should I spend $5k to make $20k?

Easy question. Make it easy for every demo to be followed by a sale.

Recap: 5 simple lessons to close B2B sales as an indie developer

How to close B2B sales in 5 simple lessons:

  1. Make something people want
  2. Niche down & talk their language
  3. Make use of existing professional relationships
  4. Know your USP & leverage career capital
  5. Show value in hard numbers

I made $20k of sales as a solo developer with a new product in just a couple of months. So can you.