Now it’s time to sell. Now it’s time to get a customer. Or two. Or 100. Or 1,000. It’s go time.
Maybe your product won’t need sales—people will sign up and instantly start using the product. If that’s the case, you need marketing (lots and lots of marketing).
But what if your product isn’t that simple? What if people will need to set it up, integrate it, be trained how to learn it? What if there needs to be discussion and education and convincing and persuasion before a prospect is ready to buy?
Well, then. You need sales.
Where do you start?
If you think you need to hire someone to sell, you probably do, but I implore you to wait. I think founders should make the first sales, before they bring in someone to do it (unless you have the good fortune of having a co-founder who is also a sales leader, in which case, that’s awesome!)
You don’t have to be experienced to get the ball rolling on your company’s first few sales. I hate to oversimplify it, but I have to because so many people overcomplicate it. This isn’t about your CRM, or your marketing automation platform, or your auto-dialer, or your lead gen machine, or your…anything. You may have those things, and you may not. Don’t worry about that stuff. It will all work itself out later. If you put those things in place before selling, you are just distracting yourself from what is most important: getting your first customers.
Don’t distract yourself with complications. Just pick up the phone, find your first customers, and sell them your product. Here’s how.
- Know who you are selling to, and what problems your product solves. Hopefully this goes without saying, but make sure you have a clear picture of who will buy it, why they will buy and what problems your product solves. These things can evolve as you start to gain traction, but you can’t start selling if you don’t have a particular kind of prospect in mind, and how it will help them. Again, hopefully this goes with our saying. But it’s important when you get to #3 on the list below.
- Tell everyone about your product and ask for referrals. Tell your friends, associates, colleagues. Tell your grandma and your grandma’s mailman. Tell everyone you know, professionally and otherwise, about your product. You can ask for the sale if you want to, but it may be better to just ask for referrals. Why? Because, you might actually get a referral or two. But most importantly, you will get practice telling people about what it is you sell. Easy, no risk practice. This helps you develop your ‘talk track’, and anticipate the types of questions real buyers will ask you.
- Build a list of ideal customers. Who are your dream customers? Who is the perfect customer who will get tons of value from your product? Create a list of 50 or 100 ideal customers.. Don’t get bogged down in where you build that list—build it in a spreadsheet, build it in a CRM, write it on a legal pad, it doesn’t matter, just get the list of target customers together.
- Reach out to the list of ideal customers, following a set cadence. Decide how you will reach out, and with what frequency, and then do it. Perhaps it starts with a personalized LinkedIn invite, then a call (leave a voicemail if you don’t reach them), then a “why you, why now” email, then another call, then something special in the mail to get their attention. Decide on a 10-touch cadence you can execute over a 4-6 week period, and just start. And keep doing this until you get people who are willing to hear you out.
- Figure stuff out after you get them on the hook. Sometimes people are afraid to sell, so they distract themselves with other stuff. Like tools, and processes, and hiring and endless discussions about price, and service levels, and the perfect slide deck, and sales template and on an on. That’s fine. Do those things, but also, it’s OK to figure it out as you go along. You will have the most perfect sales contract or proposal template, and I guarantee you will need to modify it the first time you send it to a prospect. You can have the most perfectly designed pricing structure, and I guarantee the first customer you close will need or ask for something different. So don’t lose yourself in those things, because they are going to change. But there is no way to know how they will change until you start having conversations and drum up real interest from some of your prospects.
- Do whatever it takes to win your first customer(s). Everything starts with a sale. You need the revenue. You need the product validation. You need the case study. You need it all. So be flexible with your first customers and do what it takes to win the deal. You aren’t in the position of leverage, they are—you need them, probably more than they need you. Speaking of which, it’s a tremendous risk for a buyer to try something new, so minimize their risks wherever you need to in order to give them peace of mind.
I am not trying to oversimplify sales. But you can do this.
It’s an art, it’s a science, it requires tremendous skill. But you can sell if you put your mind to it, and without a sale your company and your product are dead in the water. So get going and don’t let all the other stuff get in your way. Once you have some traction and some paying customers, you can find your sales tools, your sales people and your sales leader. You can’t scale sales until you have a sale. So first, go get a customer.