No matter what you’re trying to sell, one of the first steps in the sales process should always be learning what your customers expect from you.
For experienced or ambitious entrepreneurs who think they’ve already figured out their whole plan, it may be tempting to skip this step. But the truth is that no one knows exactly how a product or the sales strategy for that product will do when actually released to consumers.
One of the tried and true methods for learning about your customers is to actually get out there and sell your products face-to-face early on. This can be a lot of work but the insights and the interaction can be invaluable.
That’s what Ben Weiss, founder of Bai beverage company, did. While others might have jumped into riskier growth strategies or gone after venture funding, Weiss stuck with the slow but steady path.
He wanted to actually learn how to make his company and product better. So he put in the hard work early on to do so. He told Inc:
“When I created Bai, I went to health food stores and set up my folding table and learned what consumers loved and didn’t love about the brand. Bai, with its natural flavors and just five calories, was very on-trend and quickly piqued the interest of Costco. Selling at Costco is a week of 10-hour road shows on your feet. Most brands our age wouldn’t do those road shows, because there’s nothing glamorous about them. But we decided early on: Put this drink in front of people, tell them a couple of relevant things about the brand, and let them taste it. That works.”
Today, Bai, which sells beverages loaded with antioxidants from coffee fruit, is worth about $125 million and is just now going national. Weiss avoided venture capital and expanding too quickly while he was still growing the brand and learning about customers.
It can certainly be tempting to take any early success and run with it into rapid expansion. For some entrepreneurs, that risk has even paid off handsomely. But for those who are more interested in secure and solid business growth, there’s a great lesson here.
Learning about your customers and actually showing them your product is a huge part of the process. If you do it on a small scale early on, you can potentially save yourself a lot of headache later.
It might be hard work, but entrepreneurs like Weiss have already seen it pay dividends.