Starting your own business can be one of the scariest but the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. During the early phases of your company, you’re essentially taking a shot in the dark as to how to best position, and sell your ideas and product. There are a lot of challenges you face: the product itself is not fully baked, you don’t have any customers or testimonials to back up the product, no impressive collateral or institutional investments, and no experience with big wins in the startup world that you can rely on. So where do you start?
I often get asked the question of how best to present and sell a product during this crucial stage of a startup. There is no clear-cut formula for success but there are a few key elements that if taken into consideration, will go long ways towards accelerating your company’s growth. I faced these same challenges and lack of leverage when I was starting MentorCloud so these elements were what seemed to work for me. I also was able to draw on 12 years of my client relationship experience working as a Supply Chain Technologist in High Tech and Aerospace industries. One key element I learned during those 12 years is that “people buy from people.” They buy you and your vision, more than they buy your product.
Which means that the story behind your product and your own integrity really matters. Here are those four key elements:
- Build Trust – Sharing your your personal story and background, builds trust by sending the message that you are genuine and that you are interested in building a long-term relationship. Saying what you will do, and then doing what you say is key to building trust.
- Share Vision – Share the BIG picture. Announce your plans boldly. Let people know what you are doing and why you are doing it. This is essential to drawing the attention of Innovators and Early Adopters (the first two groups in Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm), who love to be part of something exciting. If you can pique the interest of these two influential groups, and if they find you trustworthy, they’ll be willing to take a chance on your product and become your ambassadors/evangelists.
- Demonstrate Relevance – Communicate to the prospect that you understand their needs by presenting your product from their point of view and helping them imagine how they can leverage your product to achieve the results they envision. Present your product in a way that is relatable to the prospect by replacing every persona in your demo with personas from their specific communities (e.g. employee, entrepreneur). To illustrate this concept, consider the way in which you select a new doctor: Would you prefer a doctor with impressive degrees and credentials, but no experience in your particular area of concern, or a doctor who clearly understands your case and the pain and symptoms you are experiencing? Most people would feel more confident selecting the latter.
- Show Commitment – Be very open to letting them experiment with your product. If they are evaluating several vendors, share competitive knowledge openly so the prospect knows your main focus is to help them pick the best product and that you are committed to their success.
Lastly, do not sell the product, but rather share your vision, credibility, integrity, openness, and flexibility. Doing this will set the stage for a powerful long term relationship. If you operate with this mindset, you won’t have to sell the product, because it will sell itself.
Take note of these four elements of selling and work on incorporating them into your business plan. These elements will help you gain a better understanding of your customers and how to position your product in the marketplace especially during the early stages of your company.
For those that still don’t bite, remember SWSWSW—Some Will Some Won’t So What. As entrepreneurs with a vision, we need to move on looking at the world as ‘abundant’ not ‘scarce.’