My friend, Todd Cohen, is famous for saying that “everyone’s in sales.” And he’s right. As a founder or co-founder, you are the lead salesperson in the company. Entrepreneurs sometimes think that sales is someone else’s job, but it isn’t. It’s yours. This is especially true for people who are not technical co-founders; most of what you must do is sales and customer development.
B2B pilot projects become great vehicles to not only prove out your technical elements and core value proposition of your startup but they become great ways to better understand what you’ll be facing when it comes to selling at scale someday. Remember all the pain, delays, issues, and more that you faced when trying to get your pilot? Well, those likely don’t go away much. It may be somewhat easier if you become a brand that people have heard of, but even then, you’ll still encounter the many challenges of being successful in sales.
There are many terrific books on sales and selling. At the startup stage you likely don’t have the luxury of time to digest all that you need to be good at sales. So here are a few very important tips:
- Know that the entire pilot project, from start to finish, is part of the sale.
- Listen more than talk with your prospective customer.
- Recognize who you’re talking within the organization, where they stand, what power they have.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others in the organization. Sometime a manager may want to help you but doesn’t have the political capital.
- Document everything you do. It will be important for later repeatability as you on-board others to help you.
Sales isn’t a dirty word and entrepreneurs must get used to (and love!) being in sales. It’s the lifeblood of every organization and one of the most critical elements of your startup.