Getting Your First Ten Customers

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  • If you build it, they will do absolutely nothing.
  • If you’ve never done this before it will suck but you will get used to it.
    • You have advantages most sales reps lack: the ring of authenticity, commanding understanding of the problem domain, and the ability to make changes to the product to close early deals almost in real time.
  • Why ten? You likely won’t be able to sustain your business with only ten customers, but by the time you have ten happy customers, it isn’t a fluke anymore.
  • Good base comparison is pitching: just trying to get to the next convo with the interested party

How do you find prospects for your company?

  • Your network
  • New leads: Google, LinkedIn. Just gotta hustle
    • Don’t buy leads until you’ve exhausted this.

How do you determine if prospects are good or not?

  • Early adopters, of lots of things. Find users of companies that are also early. Like, find a young version of Trello and find out which companies are using it.
    • This lets you dodge a major objection to going with a new company, which is the risk factor: clearly this customer has sufficient tolerance to adopt a solution from an “unknown” provider; they’ve done it before.
  • On the internet
    • Just easier. You know they’ll be open to SaaS
  • Light sales cycles
    • Not much insulation between decisionmaker and people you are talking to. If you’re not talking to someone who can make the decision to buy your software, move on or move up
  • Intrinsically reachable
    • Businesses for which being intrinsically reachable is a prerequisite (accountants, lawyers, other service providers) will always be willing to pick up the phone and talk to someone on spec

How should you communicate with customers?

  • Prove you put in some work.
    • Example: Hiya Karen, I really enjoyed your presentation about repeatable processes for finding new customers for financial planners, particularly the points regarding user personas.
  • Start providing value.
    • You have clout as a founder. Use it.
    • Example: I run a software company which helps small businesses optimize their online advertising, including managing campaigns for different personas. For example, I see from your website that you are active with business owners, retirees, and young couples, and our software would let your ad creatives target the right audiences with the right creatives and the right offers. I have some ideas I’d like to run by you for how to better align your online advertising and your landing pages. For example, your Facebook campaign for engaged twenty-somethings currently sends prospects to the retirement planning questionnaire, but a better choice might be your post about talking about money with your loved ones.
  • Ask for a small, specific thing.
    • Don’t do anything else. Just leave it for them to respond.
    • Example: I’d like to talk about how we could help your company convert more prospects into sales. Do you have 15 minutes free this Thursday?

How should you go about following up?

  • Follow up! There are a million reasons you didn’t get a response, and very few of them are actually “I will never buy this product”
  • Early on, just handwrite a nice bump.

What should you ask for on the call?

  • Spend your time on the call establishing rapport with the customer, learning about their problems and motivations, qualifying them, and if appropriate ask for an opportunity to do a longer ~45 minute demo call or present a “formal proposal.” If they’re amenable to that, then you’re off to the races.

How can you get better at this over time?

  • Just keep doing it. Document lots of things so that eventually you’ll have a codified, repeatable process.
  • Feedback loop from sales to product and back again.
  • **This synergistic interplay of product development, marketing, and sales is one of the joys of running a business. **