Selling a brand new product or service is tough. And a startup selling to big companies is one of the hardest jobs around. Your product is still being built. Your team is still gelling—or coming apart—or both. You can’t afford marketing support and you have few (if any) customer references. You’ve got only a few bucks in the bank. And, worst of all, you aren’t at all sure how well the rest of the team is going to execute once you actually close a deal.
To give you a hand, below are 9 tips for startup salespeople:
1. Prequalify and Target Your Opportunities
Start with five companies to focus on. Too many options is confusing and leads your team to chase its tail. Once you’ve made some progress with those five, you can expand your search—hopefully with positive feedback from them. There’s no need to rush.
2. Treat Your Network As a Precious Resource—Be Selective
Since you don’t know how the rest of your startup team is going to perform yet, save your big contacts and the full power of your network until you know everyone on-board is up for the challenge.
3. Take the Plunge with Cold Calling
There is no single better way to hone your pitch than cold calling. Don’t be that LinkedIn spammer who always needs introductions. Do 10 cold calls a day to companies outside your target list. That way you may land a client you may not have initially intended upon—and you’ll be ready when the boss of your top target picks up the phone.
4. Respond Instantly
You must address any indication of interest, curiosity, or objection right away. I mean employ a drop-everything-now sense of urgency. Nothing is more important than that inbound email from someone on your list.
5. Qualify Constantly and Find an Inside Evangelist
Don’t waste time on small deals, one-offs, partnerships, or anything outside the “win-win” column. Relentlessly go after the biggest companies that can pay you this year. If they respond slowly, move on. Time is your enemy. One way to close the gap is to enlist the help of an insider who already knows and loves your product. This person will push on the inside so you don’t have to—and give you the all-important inside track to key decision makers.
6. Don’t Push, You Already Have a Brand Ambassador
Desperation gives off a stench that repels big companies. When the other side hesitates be the first to say, “I’m not sure you guys are ready for this. Let me come back when we have made more progress.” Your contacts will always remember you for giving them some breathing room.
7. Relentlessly Prepare for Meetings so You Don’t Rely on Your Slides
You must know why the potential customer is willing to take a risk on you and your company before the meeting starts. Come up with three reasons why you’re the right choice and run them by your in-house champion the week before and ask for feedback, especially objections. Polish your answers to those objections like a sword before a duel. Now that you’re in the conference room, don’t read off your slides, just use them as a backdrop. Discuss the product, how it will help solve the client’s pain, your passion for this issue—even run a demo. Anything but mindlessly clicking through the slides.
8. A Quick No Is Better Than…
It hurts. It stings. There’s nothing good about getting rejected on a deal except for taking too long to get rejected. Respect the folks who decide quickly, and make a note to come back to them with the next version.
9. It’s Not a Done Deal Until the Money’s in the Bank
The only thing worse than being told “no” is having a “yes” fall apart. Unexpected and unusual things happen in corporations, and you’ll never really know what’s going on. Keep driving and stay in touch until a deal is 100 percent complete.
After the check’s cleared and the client’s happy, you’re still not done. You have to make sure the rest of your team delivers on what you just sold. You’ve got to do it all again with other clients.
And after your huge success, your quota will likely go up next quarter. But before you dive back into the work, take a moment and celebrate the big win with the people who helped you make it happen. Those moments can be as sweet as getting your bonus check.
Closing A Deal Photo via Shutterstock
Your comment about sales “buck scent” is spot on. It’s why entrepreneurs should have enough of a nest egg to give themselves plenty of runway to develop leads and close on a long sales cycle. While necessity may be the mother of invention, it does not lend itself well to months-long closing cycles!
Excellent and sound tips and advice for any start up or a growing business. Thanks for sharing.
I’ve just posted my advice to a New Yorker on how to get tough in business. http://goo.gl/defbd