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It is difficult to sell a product before it exists. It is also difficult to perfect an offer without stable cash flow. So where exactly do you start an entrepreneur? We interviewed leading entrepreneurs about the art of first sales, and here’s what we learned about how, when and where to focus.
Sell earlier than you think.
Eric Ries sums it up in his Lean startup strategy by recommending that entrepreneurs put forward prospects from day one. Find prospects on every occasion and assess their reaction to your concept long before a prototype exists. Build a waiting list, build excitement, and don’t waste time creating it until you know it will sell. Research also indicates that it is easier to get people to engage with an idea when they are involved in its creation, so draw your most desirable perspectives into the development phase of the concept and build relationships that will be needed to support your business later.
Shut up and listen.
It is difficult to open up to criticism, especially in the early stages of a startup when passion is at its peak. Hearts and souls are invested in the development and refinement of products, but each market has its weak points and it is one of the most precious information that an entrepreneur can extract from a prospect. The better you understand the problem, the more likely you are to find a solution.
Know (and own) your value.
It is tempting to sell at all costs while entrepreneurs are struggling in the early days to establish a clientele, but resist the urge and stay true to your sustainable price. Be bold in your request and comfortable with the dollar value that you have aligned with your product. If you don’t believe it, neither can your prospects. It is also common for prospects to lower your prices when they know your business is young and eager to do business, so be prepared to justify your prices and validate your offer.
Related: Mary Barra has time to respond. So you should too.
Sell to the biggest players first.
Founders often attack low fruits first, without recognizing that a single big name can generate hundreds, even thousands, of sales to follow. Focus your efforts on strategic buyers, who are also likely to be the people who will help your business sustain its operations over the long term. Set a big smart victory goal and use it as bait to lure others.
Being a first time buyer is scary because there are no proven references to reference. If there is no product to show, reduce the fear of buyers’ remorse by selling your team. These are the people who are ultimately accountable to customers, and if you can showcase their accomplishments alongside a winning concept, you might just gain trust in the hearts of skeptics. If your team is green, bring in advisers or board members with a stellar reputation to secure your business.
They are wrong. Size doesn’t matter.
LikendisLikes often go to great lengths to hide the fact that they work alone or alongside small teams. Being small can be an asset, so highlight your prospects that, as CEO, you are much more attached to customer satisfaction than a sales representative in a larger competitor, and also more able to personalize an offer based on the unique needs of your audience.
Whatever the size of the team, it is ultimately the founder’s job to drive initial sales. As a concept creator and visionary leader, the founder is the ideal candidate to sell a vision during product development and demonstrate to the market and internal team that the concept is a viable solution that supports long-term growth.
Related: How to Optimize Your Site at Each Stage of the Purchasing Cycle