Whatever pulls you into the startup space, you’ll inevitably find yourself face-to-face with one of the toughest requirements for your venture’s success: cold, hard sales.
Having been independent most years of my professional life, I’m frequently treated to coffee in exchange for my thoughts on leaving the corporate cocoon.
This generally translates into a friend or colleague earnestly seeking my counsel on the solo (or partnership) route as they’ve grown sick and tired of answering to someone, adhering the company’s agenda, fulfilling half-hearted (or empty) visions and goals, etc.
Invariably, the discussion turns to my thoughts on the secret to success away from the W-2 world. My standard response?
Always be selling.
And the immediate reaction to that statement is the leading indicator of his or her likelihood of success.
If they nod self-assuredly, even with a bit of trepidation, I think to myself “They’ve got a shot.”
But if they scoff, detail the virtues of a word of mouth ecosystem or otherwise dismiss my conclusion, I figure “Don’t let that resume get too stale.”
No one else is gonna do it
I’ll step back a moment.
Aspiring entrepreneurs follow a variety of tacks to get to the startup phase. Some spot a glaring need in an industry they know intimately. Others take the pulse of a marketplace that seems to be missing something. A few simply take a leap on a hunch.
Regardless of the path, the product, service or offering could be the greatest thing since unsliced bread 2.0, but if no one knows about it, it won’t sell.
And if it doesn’t sell, you don’t have a viable business model.
So as you mull and develop your business plan, you must allow for selling your goods. That is, convincing complete strangers to pay you money for the value you provide.
While friends, family and word of mouth can provide a nice foundation, sustained success can only occur when you wade into the unknowns of your target market and make sales happen.
A game plan to get you started
How can you soothe your anxieties?
- Identify your ideal customer—that person who will say “yes” almost instantaneously because they believe your product or service is invaluable and virtually tailored to their needs.
- Suss out the best place to reach that ideal customer—some may be passive but you’ll likely need to include some active prospecting via email, face-to-face networking and yes, cold calls (gulp).
- Plan out a process that includes multiple points of contact—as sweet as it would be, that instantaneous “yes” is a rarity, even among your biggest fans.
- Please, please, please understand that it’s a numbers game—the more people your efforts touch, the more likely you’ll get sales. And don’t take rejection personally.
Of course, you still need to deliver on your promises, fulfill a true marketplace need and provide an exceptional customer experience, but those concepts really aren’t even material until you make sales happen.
Now that I’ve saved you from buying me a coffee, take a deep breath and get after it.
About the Author
Kerby Meyers is the Founder of The Communications Refinery. He’s a Denver-based advisor to
You can find Kerby’s panel 1PM Tuesday at The Innosphere: Your Financing Narrative – Don’t Go Pitching Without One.