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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to create a successful pilot program for your startup.

In the startup world, running a pilot program for your startup is a great way to fine-tune your solution and get in some early customers. Sadly, many pilots end up failing due to mistakes made during them, and this is something that Steli and Hiten explore in this episode.  

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how to do pilot programs correctly, why you need to be clear about KPIs, why you need to be as hands-on as possible during the pilot and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:46 Why this topic was chosen.

02:36 Why you need to be clear about KPIs.

04:46 Why clarity is super important.

04:16 Why you need to be as hands-on as possible during the pilot.

05:13 How you need to babysit the pilot.

06:36 How to get more advice about your pilot.

06:41 How to handle contracts and timelines.

06:50 Why want to learn from your customers past.

06:33 A question you can ask your customer during a pilot.

3 Key Points:

Find out from your customer what you’d need to do to get them to purchase your product.You need to babysit the pilot.You wanna learn from your customer’s past.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today we're going to talk about sales but what we're going to talk about sales is how to do pilots correctly so that they lead to successful outcomes and basically close deals.


Steli Efti: Yeah, this is one of the biggest heartbreakers. Whenever I talk to startups that have A, pilot or multiple pilots going on usually with either larger customers or maybe if it's very early in their development phase where the product maybe doesn't work yet or is very rudimentary. Startups like to do pilots, right? It's these agreed upon times where a potential customer in a startup will come together and they'll agree that they're going to run a certain amount of tests. They're going to try to use the product or implement it or integrate it and if it goes well the idea is at the end of pilot, once we've tested this out, we would buy. The company would become a customer. The heartbreaker is that a lot, the vast majority of the time, especially startups that are not super experienced in sales, they'll put these pilots together in a way that's destined to fail and they will work so hard and have such high hopes. Then at the end of a one month or three month period when they were hell bent on needing this pilot to turn into a successful customer relationship, it doesn't, right, and it doesn't just crush the morale. It doesn't just deplete the funds and the money but it's also wasting the biggest resource the startups have which is time. So let's unpack a little bit of the mistakes that startups do, how to do avoid them and how to do this well in order to save some people a lot of trouble and a lot of wasted time.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, pilots are so key, especially to get the kind of deals that you're looking for. They also help companies get really comfortable with your product and your technology and help you actually sort out how to make something that actually provides something that they actually need and want and help them get ramped up on something. I'm going to let you lead the way because I'm sure you have more tips than I do on this.


Steli Efti: I have a million of them. All right.


Hiten Shah: Go for it.


Steli Efti: After all, a few simple things and I know you'll pepper and salt it with your wisdom around it. One of the most important things when you set up a pilot is to create clarity on what the key KPIs are that will indicate that this is going well.

Key points in this episode

Key Highlights

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