Selling for Startups
Absolutely %$#&! nothing.
I have a six-story townhouse in Boston overlooking MIT on the Charles River. I often invite young engineers and would-be entrepreneurs over to schmooze. Many of them tell me my townhouse is beautiful and that they hope to invent something like Ethernet that will get them such a house.
The picture they have in their heads is of me lounging around on the beanbag chairs in a conference room at Xerox PARC in 1973. They see me having this idea for a computer network and submitting it as an invention proposal to Xerox. Then they envision me putting my feet up and letting the royalties roll in until I have enough to come up with a down payment on the townhouse with the river view.
My picture—the actual picture—is different. It’s a picture of innovation rather than invention…. In my picture it’s the dead of winter and I’m in the dark in a Ramada Inn in Schenectady, New York. A telephone is ringing with my wake-up call at 6 a.m., which is 3 a.m. in California, where I flew in from last night. I don’t know yet where I am, or where that damn ringing is coming from, but within the hour I’ll be in front of hostile strangers selling them on me, my company, and its strange products, which they have no idea they need.
If I persist in selling like this for 10 years, and I do it better and better each time, and I build a team to do everything else better and better each time, then I get the townhouse. Not because of any flowery genius in some academic hothouse.
Despite persistent negative stereotypes of salespeople and selling, the profession has always has always consisted primarily of honorable and ethical people.
If you need to learn how to sell or refresh old rusty selling skills, these books are highly recommended:
Sales Situations to Be Avoided by Startups
Entrepreneurs should avoid startup strategies which require selling to committees of any kind. Trying to close the critical first sale deal when a committee has to make the buying decision is like trying to boil the ocean. It simply won't happen...at least not in this lifetime. As a startup you need to go after prospects where you deal directly with the final decision maker. If there is a second person who has to approve the purchase, you want to make sure that you identify them up front and arrange for both partners to be present when you go in to do your sales presentation.
There is almost nothing more frustrating in sales than doing the perfect presentation only to hear, "I'll have to talk to my partner about it." Ninety-nine out of a hundred times the partner will talk your contact out of the deal.
More Selling Advice for the Startup Entrepreneur
Well written article on boosting your closing rate with the right questions.
Having the capability to accept credit card payments provides a boost to your top line.