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My Start-up Needs More Sales - But I'm Not a Salesperson!

This is the lament of nearly every entrepreneur who came up with a great product or service but doesn't know how to get that product or service into enough customers' hands. And compounding this problem is that, in the early days, there is scant capital available to hire a professional salesperson.

But there's a solution as close as your nearest mirror!

Yes, you - design guru, technician extraordinaire, multi-degreed engineer or scientist.  You, the entrepreneur, are your own answer. Don't like that answer, do you?  But it's the only one you have, especially in the early going.  Now I can already hear the whining.  "But, I'm not a salesperson!"  Because you have this image of what a salesperson is.  Glad-hander, jovial, bon vivant.  You know, your typical used car salesperson. That's a concept as old as black and white television or time-share terminals.

As you have already learned (or will shortly), no matter how good your product, it won't sell itself.  But, who knows it better than you?  Who is more passionate about it? Unfortunately, that's both a positive and a negative.  You know it too well, especially from a feature/function standpoint. But you also know it from a prospective customer standpoint, otherwise, you wouldn't have developed the product or service.  You found a need or a problem to be solved and you addressed it or solved it.  You identified the market to whom you would sell it.  Now you need to connect those dots.

But it's not easy.  Here are some key steps to help you to drive more revenue through your start-up, all by your lonesome:

Find qualified prospects and get in front of them.

This is obvious (you would think, but many entrepreneurs, don't do this enough). However you identified the problem or need your product or service is addressing, you didn't just come up with it randomly.  You had to have researched the market and targeted the key prospects in it, where the problem or need was most prevalent.  Use friends, advisors, business associates in the industry, consultants.  Anybody who can get you in front of the decision-maker.  And, find a way to get, physically, in front of them, if at all possible - it's easier for people to make a connection with people, rather than, virtual images or disembodied voices.

Do your homework.

Before you ever walk in the door, learn as much about the prospect as possible and how your product or service would work in their company (make their life easier, business better, drive more revenue, reduce their costs). Again use your contacts to help you understand this.

Make any meeting about them.

Don't make a meeting with them a "drink from a fire hose" of technobabble of features and functions thrown at them, non-stop.  Touch on them only as they relate to the benefits to the prospect.  How it will impact their business. Broadly describe your business terms, but tell them that will be "the easy part," once they see and use the product.

Do more than demonstrate. Get them to use it.

Don't only show them how the product works, show them how to use it and offer to let them trial it for a period of time or pilot test it.  If your product is as good as you think it is, once they start using it, they'll be hooked. Much easier to get a sale when the prospect already knows how the product behaves in their environment - and they are using it!

Put your offer in writing. Ask for the order.

If it's a trial, describe the trial period, what the pricing and payment terms will be and when it kicks in.  If it's a pilot test, have agreed upon objectives for test success (remember "pilot" is the first word of the phrase "pilot test") and what the agreed upon next steps would be relative to pricing, payment terms and timing of delivery. And it doesn't have to be some flowery proposal full of boilerplate.  Stay basic, stick to the cost/benefit focus and how you get paid (always important). And if you have them using your product or service, you have the basis to ask for the order.

Stay actively in touch even when they've agreed.

To know that the company's owner has taken such an active role in ensuring that their use of your product or service is working to their advantage is always impressive to a customer (remember you're your company's "big guy" - they don't have to know that you may be the "big guy" in a company of 3 folks).

So you see, it ain't magic!  It doesn't require that an entrepreneur be a big-time back-slapper, joke-teller.  No, it requires you to be yourself, passionate and knowledgeable about your product or service.  And that passion, focused as described above, will win the day.

The Entrepreneur's Yoda knows these things.  He's been there.  May success be with you!


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