Three Simple Steps to Your First Sale

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One of the most intimidating tasks for many entrepreneurs is finding your first customer. When you are passionate about the business you are building it is easy to stay focused on creating the product or service you want to bring to market. But at some point you will put the finishing touches on your offering and it will be time to actually offer it to someone and close your first sale.  Here are three simple steps to move your company from concept to customer. 

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Savvy job seekers know that informational interviews are a fantastic way to start building a relationship with hiring managers they are interested in working for. You can use the same approach in the early stages of your business by interviewing people in your target market. By involving potential customers during the concept phase of your company, not only do you get invaluable data on what these customers really need, you create engaged advocates that want to see the results of their feedback. Now instead of having to hard sell new prospects on your solution you can simply circle back with your original interview candidates and ask if they’d like to be the first to use the products they helped to mold.

Be Yourself

Many innovators fear that in order to sell they need to transform their personality into that of the stereotypical salesperson. I’ve found that the most effective sales tool entrepreneurs have is passion for their business. Remind yourself that you set out to help people by creating a solution to their problem. Focus on why you decided to start your business and that authenticity will come across to your prospective customers. Demonstrate your understanding of their challenges and then explain how you created your product to change their experience. Simply be yourself and allow your dedication to shine through.

Just Ask

A wise woman once told me, “If you don’t ask the answer is always no”. It is hard to put yourself, your company, and your brand new product out there for the world to see. But in order to win customers you have to ask someone to use your solution. So what if someone tells you no? As I like to say, every ‘no’ leads to a ‘yes’. Each time a prospect tells you why they don’t want to use your offering you get information to help you improve your product and message. Rather than be afraid of hearing ‘no’ use each negative response as an opportunity to refine your approach and try again. You’ve heard that sales is a numbers game, so just keep on asking and sooner rather than later you will hear a resounding “YES!”.

So there you have it, three simple steps to your first sale. What is your best piece of advice for new business owners to win their first customer? I’d love to hear what has worked for you in the comments below.

Does your sales pitch include a WIIFM?

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One of the most powerful sales and marketing concepts I ever learned is the "WIIFM", or "What's IIFor Me?".  What does this mean exactly?  Whenever I am presenting, whether to a potential client, project stakeholder, or investor, the WIIFM concept reminds me to always be thinking about what I am trying to communicate from my audience's perspective.  Before I create a single slide, draft an introduction email to a decision maker, or create a product one-sheet for a trade show, I step back and take a minute to make sure I can answer the one question I know they will be asking in their head: "Why should I care about your product, what's in it for me?".  

It's not that people are inherently greedy or self-serving, they just need a way to be able to relate your product to what they do so they can quickly engage attention and understand what you have to offer.  So instead of starting your pitch with everything they need to know about your product and your company, try this approach:

1) Research your audience - What does your prospect's company do?  What do they offer the marketplace?  What is your decision maker's role at the company?  Can you find them on LinkedIn to understand their background and experience?

2) What problem do you solve? - Once you understand what your prospect does, what problem does your product help them solve?  Are you going to help them gain new customers?  Reduce costs?  Shorten time-to-market?

3) Talk about them first - As you begin your pitch, show them that you understand their business and the challenges they face based on the research you have done.  Explain why you are interested in working with them, what do they offer that you find intriguing?  

4) THE WIIFM - Once you've engaged them by demonstrating that you "get" what they do, let them know what's in it for them if they work with you.  Why are your companies a good match to work together?  What will your prospect gain from your proposed partnership?

While I've chosen to give mostly B2B examples here, this process works just as well for a consumer product or service in thinking about your customers and users.  And I guarantee at some point you will need to engage with other companies from a business development perspective to enhance and expand your own offering, so these tips will serve you well when you are ready to develop corporate partnerships.

In his book How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleDale Carnegie said, "Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language".  Incorporate that philosophy into your product pitch by talking about your prospect and their company first, then follow up with a well-researched WIIFM.