If you’re a startup working on getting your very first sales or your first million in sales, this guide is for you. It’s one thing to grow revenue if you already have something…and quite another if you’re still trying to get off the ground! Those first sales can be the hardest.
I remember what it was like, stumbling around trying to figure out a sales model that worked. My first internet company, LeaseExchange, failed painfully because of my lack of sales knowledge – and I want to help you avoid the mistakes I made.
NEW: Have you seen the sequel to Predictable Revenue? Get From Impossible To Inevitable: How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue.
9 Quick Tips
In a coaching chat with an entrepreneur who had an early stage specialty nuts company (initially selling them to hotels, who’d buy $10k per year)…we covered a bunch of interesting problems and how to approach them. Of course she wanted to scale it faster through outbound, had gotten some great initial results, but was struggling to get the results she wanted…
- Break Big Problems Into Bite-Sized Chunks: Take your big problem, like “outbound isn’t producing what we want with our new targets,” and break it down into lots of small steps. Building a list, initial outreach, getting a response, sending a sample, getting them to try the samples, etc….and then take each step and try something different. Start at the beginning to solve the first small problem, and then move on to the next. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
- Make It Easy To Sample or Share: This entrepreneur sent out a sample of four small packs of pistachio nuts. But most chefs weren’t trying them – they’d sit on their desk. Why not send 5x as many samples, and encourage the chef to give them to their coworkers? It might be $20 in cost per “lead”, rather than $5, but if it helps you land a $10,000-per-year account it’s worth it.
- Make It Personal: Where can you add a personal touch? Such as a hand written email to certain prospects or customers, or a friendly text message. Personalization doesn’t have to be long letters or emails – just a little touch to show you care.
- Guilt-Free Followup: the more you reach out to people asking “Have you done ___ yet?” the more guilt they can take on… which usually ends up with them avoiding you, since “you = guilt/work”. Take the guilt out of most of your followup. Just say hi, that you were thinking about them, that you saw something that reminded you of them, that you had an idea for them, that “…if you’re too busy, don’t worry about it…”. And then when you do include a ‘call to action’, make it as simple as possible to respond to. Asking someone “what are your business goals for the year?” is a lot of work. “Are you free on Thursday at 1pm?” is much easier to answer! (And if they say ‘no’, at least you have a conversation going and can suggest another time.)
- Triple Down On What’s Working (Pick 1-2 Big Rocks): Got inbound marketing working and growing? Maybe it’s time to switch to doing outbound! NOT. It take a lot of focus and energy to start up a new initiative (and get results)… first triple down on whatever’s already working, before diluting or defocusing your energy. Or at least put 80% of your energy into expanding what’s working, and 20% in other investments that could pay off later. Is outbound cranking? Ignore inbound and double down for longer, until you see a real need to do otherwise! (And vice versa)
- Ignore Social Media: Speaking of which…”what should we do with social media?” Ignore it for now! Ignore it unless 1) a lot of your targets are active on it, 2) you have a real passion for it, 3) you’re already generating revenue with it, 4) a competitor has proven you can generate a lot of revenue with it and you can copy it successfully, or 5) there’s some other COMPELLING reason to use it. For most businesses it’s still more of a distraction than a help.
- Smart Targeting: The easiest way to waste time and money in leadgen is targeting or selling to the wrong people – the people who don’t need what you have. How smart can you be in targeting the accounts and people most likely to buy for the most money, and avoiding the ones least likely to buy?
- Niche Your Niche: Speaking of targeting…what’s your best 10% look like? Say you have 5,000 customers. What are the top 5 like? The ones that were the easiest to close, get results for, and pay you the most money? If you sell to hotels – what about specialty hotels? Or specialty hotels in NY? You can’t be too specific in your targeting.
- Need vs Want: If you find yourself thinking that all these prospects and customers “don’t get it” or are stupid, look again….’cuz it ain’t them. OK, I know anyone and everyone COULD or SHOULD use your service. But those words are killers, because COULD/SHOULD = NO PURCHASE. Who NEEDS it? If you’re not closing sales, are you selling the right product to the wrong people/companies? Or confusing your prospects with vague promises and language? Or trying to sell something that people don’t see that they need? They have to see the need, and see exactly how you can help them with that need, before they buy. (This of course excludes friends and family, who don’t count.)
Did You See The Sequel?
Rated 5-stars, From Impossible To Inevitable: How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue has been called by many readers “the best business book I’ve ever read.”
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Related “First Million” Blog Posts
- Why should you hire salespeople? (3min video)
- “Am I Doing Something Wrong If Our Big B2B Deals Are Taking 6+ Months To Close?”
- Avoid the entrepreneurial pitfall of hiring salespeople too fast (3min video)
- Some ideas for companies who have investors: ExpertCEO: 3 fatal CEO mistakes (wrong vpsales, unrealistic expectations, autocratic style)
- Excellent post by Mark Suster around why you need non-scalable services
- Steli Efti / Close.io Startup Hiring Guide
New: Predictable University
In my new 4-week Predictable Revenue Certification course, students can:
– ask me questions and have them answered in live sessions
– learn the main “approaches” that work best, in what order
– access templates for referrals, email responses and follow-ups
– track metrics and benchmark best practices
– network with other industry experts (plus other SDRs)
– receive a badge on LinkedIn and a digital certificate
Other Instant Resources
Why Should You Hire Salespeople? (3min video) This is for founders that don’t like the idea of having “salespeople” either because they don’t think it’s scalable, want to remove people from the equation, think your people will just buy your stuff without help.
Avoid The Entrepreneurial Pitfall of Hiring Salespeople Too Fast (3min video) Yes salespeople are valuable, but be careful hiring them too fast! First, sell it yourself.
Keys To Successful Pitching: People Don’t Care What You Do, They Care About What You Can Do For Them (3min video) Do you still speak in “tech jargon”? Maybe you’ll impress your mom or an investor, but you’ll just confuse prospects.
Aaron Talk at Coloft: “Create Predictable, Scalable Revenue – For Startups”
click: download the Coloft slides
Free Online Entrepreneurial / Business Courses From DocStoc
I made a friend down here in Los Angeles, Jason Nazar, founder of DocStoc (they shot some of those short videos I list above). He’s helped put together a bunch of useful courses for early entrepreneurs and small businesses that you should check out:
Have you built a product/service that people like…but don’t like enough to buy? Is it ‘nice to have’ not ‘need to have’; or a vitamin instead of a painkiller? Tips from SalesRamp: How To Sell Your Product When It’s A “Nice-To-Have”, And Not A “Must-Have”
One of the best ways to raise some money to fund you or your startup while LEARNING exactly what your clients need to be successful, is consulting! (Another fantastic way to fund a startup: keep your day j-o-b). Here are some tips from a smart guy on getting started: The Instant Consultant