Q: What is the best piece of sales advice you can offer a first-time founder?
A: Listen to the market. “I once heard a former employer say, ‘They just don’t get it.’ The truth was that she didn’t get it. If your product or service is based upon your personal preferences, your chances of success are slim to none. What you have to sell should either solve a problem or help a prospect meet an aspirational goal. You’ll never have to convince someone to buy if they believe you can make their life better.” Derek Hunter, Long Live Luxury
Bring on a rainmaker ASAP. “Make a talented salesperson your first hire. This is much harder to find than operational or technical talent, but it is just as critical to your business success. In addition to that, cultivate a sales culture throughout your business.” David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services
Build a process. “Most founders will jump on any business that comes their way, which makes sense. However, the sooner you build a process and start targeting the segments that fit your company, product and vision, the sooner you will succeed in sales. We found the book ‘Crossing the Chasm’ very helpful in building a basic understanding of this.” Alexander Shashou, ALICE
You have to be the top salesperson. “If you don’t have the sales ability or confidence, then you need a co-founder to be the top salesperson. Sales is not something you can easily delegate, as you need someone on the top level to collect objections and figure out how to change your product, service or pitch to properly address the customers’ needs. Don’t think you’re above being on the front line in sales. You always should be.” Tim Maliyil, AlertBoot
Know your product to market strategy. “Having an amazing product is a lot easier than getting people to pay attention to that product. Invest in a strong product to market strategy, the way you would invest in your technology itself. It can be your make-or-break difference.” Benish Shah, Refinery 29
Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t do. “Keep in mind that not every deal you encounter is a good deal. Part of having great sales is also having the right kind of sales with the right people. When you negotiate, the deal should be good for both parties. If it is not a good deal for you, explain why and ask for what you need in order to move forward. If they don’t make a concession, don’t be afraid to move on.” Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Doorbell
It’s about giving, not taking. “Always look to be a resource for your customer. Show them you are interested in their business and what is affecting them. I always send news articles or videos that I think will help my clients with their company. It’s about building the relationship that your competitor isn’t building; then when they are ready to pull the trigger they will look straight to you, their trusted resource.” Justin Nowak, Mitch and Murray.
Plan to get an answer as quickly as possible. “The prospect of working with large corporations can be very exciting. However, you’ll face long sales cycles with a tremendous amount of uncertainty where the discussions can be halted at any moment. When navigating through the cycle, make sure you are doing everything you can to get to a decision quickly, maximizing your time to pursue other opportunities.” Reza Chowdhury, AlleyWatch
Let content be your sales team. “Invest in quality content from the beginning. Great content such as motion graphics, infographics or interactive experiences have the opportunity to connect with a wide range of potential clients and each piece of content you release becomes a lifetime sales person.” Amy Balliett, Killer Infographics
Get everyone invested. “Desperate to acquire initial customers, an entrepreneur might eagerly offer clients a free trial. While that approach may increase the number of deals you close, retention rates will be low and the feedback you get from customers won’t be very valuable. Instead, focus on selling your product or service at full price to clients who will be invested in the long-term success of the project and you.” Danny Wong, Blank Label
Be different and make friends. “When we first started, we overheard some of our potential clients complaining about salespeople in our industry who approached them with sales pitches during trade association events when they were just trying to have fun. So we decided to do the opposite. We left our business cards at home and focused mostly on making friends. We essentially became ‘one of them.’ It worked.” Jesse Lear, V.I.P. Waste Services, LLC