Many first-time Atomic clients are also first-time custom software buyers. To those first-time buyers, I can imagine that Atomic’s sales process is pretty disorienting. We sell our services in a non-standard, custom way.
If you are experienced in software buying, you might also be interested in a high-level understanding of our sales process. We are atypical in our approach, and our process might be confusing. With this blog post, I hope to give you a guide to our process, step by step, from beginning to end.
In each section, I’m going to share a calendar time estimate of how long each stage will take. As with custom software, there are a lot of variables, so I’ll share the estimates as ranges.
1. Initial Contact
TIME ESTIMATE: 2-5 BUSINESS DAYS
Most folks reach out via the form on our website Contact page. Rest assured, it asks for only the bare minimum of information we need to start the process. Fill it out, and we’ll be in touch in two business days to schedule a conversation with a Managing Partner.
You can also email us at email@example.com, but this often delays the process. If your email doesn’t include all the information we need, we’ll respond (within two business days) with questions. We’ll need your answers before we can schedule a call. For this reason, we suggest using the contact form. We all have a lot of email to attend to these days, and this back and forth produces churn, which wastes everyone’s time.
TIME ESTIMATE: 1-2 WEEKS
Mary O’Neill, our Vice President, will review your request, make sure we have everything we need, and confirm that Atomic does the kind of work you’re looking for. (This isn’t the time to describe your custom software needs in great detail; that will come in the next step.) If everything looks good, she’ll work with you to schedule a meeting with a Managing Partner.
The more flexibility you have in your schedule and the more responsive you are to emails about scheduling, the quicker we’ll get you through this stage.
TIME ESTIMATE: 30 MINUTES – 1 HOUR
Triage consists of a thirty-minute to one-hour call between you and one of Atomic’s Managing Partners. Our Managing Partners are a rare mix of software maker expertise, people management, and entrepreneurial spirit. We all have between 10 and 20 years of experience in our respective fields and are some of Atomic’s longest-tenured employees.
We won’t spend much time talking about Atomic. Instead, we’ll ask questions and do a lot of listening. We’re interested in learning what you want to accomplish with custom software and what kind of relationship you want with Atomic.
Atomic’s Managing Partners aren’t salespeople. Our goal isn’t to up-sell you, and we don’t have quotas to meet. Our goal in this conversation is to understand whether your current needs are a good fit for our services. If we think we can help, we’ll move you along to the next stage in the process.
If we don’t think we can help, we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. We’ve been in business for almost twenty years, and we likely know someone at an organization that can help you. We’re happy to serve by making introductions.
TIME ESTIMATE: 1-4 WEEKS
This phase involves one or more meetings with Managing Partners, where we take a deeper dive into your project, product, and business. The more information you can provide, the more depth we’ll be able to provide in our budgeting, estimating, and proposal process.
We might also talk a bit about Atomic, our history, and our approach to customs software services. We’ll also show you a few past projects similar to yours; we can talk as much or little about this as you like.
Once we feel confident that we have enough information to put together a budget model for you, we’ll move on to the next stage.
We prefer these meetings to be in person or over a video call.
5. Project Alignment
TIME ESTIMATE: 1-4 WEEKS
During this stage, we look to align with our clients around budget and preliminary scope. This is the most crucial stage of the process. A project isn’t set up for success if its budget and scope aren’t adequately sized.
This stage is one of the things our clients appreciate the most about Atomic’s sales process. Some firms play an unethical game at this stage — counting on the fact that once a client has invested $100,000, they aren’t going to stop spending. We don’t see an advantage in entering into a proposition that won’t result in a win for all parties. Atomic strives to be transparent and honest about the cost and value of custom software. We refuse to offer a proposal if we don’t think the budget will be sufficient.
To arrive at a responsible budget, one of Atomic’s Managing Partner pairs puts together what we call a “ballpark estimate.” I strongly suggest you take a moment to read about what one of these estimates entail:
These ballpark estimates take our Managing Partner teams between 3 and 24 hours to put together. We’re happy to make this investment in new client relationships! (If you’re curious about the cost of custom software, I encourage you to spend some time with the costing widget on our homepage. It represents real data from the past four years of client work.)
In return for the time spent, we ask for a face-to-face meeting with key stakeholders to present this estimate. After that meeting, we’ll share the full budgeting spreadsheet with you. You can make tweaks to the scope and see how that affects your prospective budget.
If you need to get sign-off and approval from many parties within your organization, this stage may take longer than a month. A competitive bidding process may also take longer, as you look for estimates to arrive from multiple vendors.
If we can align around a responsible budget, we move on to the next phase.
TIME ESTIMATE: 0 – INFINITY
Our typical engagement budget starts at $10,000 and can go as high as $3 million. It can take a while for a project of this size to work its way through your approval process. We understand and will stay connected, nurturing our new relationship through in the procurement process.
It’s completely up to you how long you hang out in this stage. Approve a budget with Atomic, and we’ll move to the next stage as quickly as possible. As long as you remain responsive and let us know what’s going on within your organization regarding a prospective project, we’ll keep you in this stage. If you go missing-in-action, we’ll look to remove you from our sales process gracefully.
The way Atomic engages legally is straightforward and client friendly:
- We don’t want to own your intellectual property.
- We charge hourly for our time and expertise; this arrangement keeps things simple.
- We prefer to execute a Master Services Agreement to govern the legal relationship between our organizations and a Statement of Work that defines the specific project and budget.
When the paperwork is fully executed, we assign a team and schedule the project start.
8. Handoff to Project Team
Once we have a team assigned and a kickoff date, we hand off the project to a project team, giving them access to all documents from the sales process. We’ll make introductions via email to a project lead, who will become your main point of contact.
The team will manage scope and budget with you going forward. They will also introduce you to some form of product development process, most likely Agile.
If you are ready to jump into this process, you know what to do. We look forward to speaking with you soon!