There is no shortage of advice to early stage businesses: we have our own innovate framework to help you build your business. But there’s one place where most entrepreneurs stumble: how to get the first sale. We are taught how to size the market, how to value your market potential, how to protect your IP, and more frequently than not, how to pitch for investment. In fact, investment is often seen by many entrepreneurial businesses as the only way to get money into the business. There are many startups for whom the adage ‘Long time, no sale’ is sadly apt, yet their investment keeps them believing they are successful. And of course, there are cases where heavy investment is needed in order to move from proof of concept to saleable product. So we’re not suggesting that investment is an unfavourable alternative, but there comes a point when you have to work out and decide to actually take the product to market, and to mix my metaphors, make the market drink it. So are there any ways to make the first sale more achievable and early on in a company’s lifetime. Here are some simple tips: 1) Talk to people. Oh how obvious this sounds. But without getting out into the markets where you’ll be selling your product and engaging with your future customers you’ve no chance. You cannot, to use a great expression from Peter Cochrane, keep polishing the Spitfire. Take the plunge and let people know that the product is there for the buying. Which leads smoothly on to 2) Turn your research customer into your product customer. Remember the guy who was interested when you were researching your markets. Who said that if the product were ready he’d find it really useful? Go back to him. Tell him it’s ready. Don’t ever think of those early market research targets as anything other than prospective customers. They helped you shape the product 3) Tailor and tweak to get someone to buy. This may not be the best long-term strategy, but it can be a very effective short-term one. If someone wants to buy your product but wants a small variation think of two things. Does this variation have a major impact on the product roadmap? If it does, don’t dismiss it yet – it may be a variation which actually gets you a bigger market share – so head back and check this out. Secondly, can I do it in a manner where the benefit is greater than the cost – ie will this customer then be a reference customer. Because, there is no doubt that the one thing that makes people buy your stuff is if someone else has. 4) Support your product sales with services sales to show your expertise. This is a slight development on the ‘people buy from people’ adage much loved by seasoned sales professionals. But here it’s about proving your commitment to the product sale with supporting, or even supplementary, services. It can give you some additional revenues which help take you to the next stage, and cement you as a good company to do business with. 5) Make part of the sale a reference clause. I’ve mentioned the word reference once or twice and I’m going to say it again here. A customer might be useful to your bank account, but a reference customer is vital for your future well-being. There are two ways to get this to happen: if it’s very early on you might ask for them to shout about you from every rooftop in return for additional service, discounted price – don’t make the discount a habit though, or, make sure that when they sign up you include a clause in your contract. If someone loves your product and can say how it’s changed the way they do business then they really won’t mind. 6)Find the lowest of low-hanging fruit. AKA Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. You may want to have Procter and Gamble as your first client, but if Purchase and Greed down the road are willing to buy then sell to them. Following the rule of reference above. 7) Run parallel with an established provider. Be honest. Don’t think that because your product is innovative, disruptive and all-round brilliant, that someone will be one hundred percent secure in being your first customer. So let them run your product in parallel – they’re using you, you can mention them as a customer and you have a great potential success. Let’s hope this takes you to success – let us know and remember that our Innovation Exchange will help profile you for people looking for your sort of technology. And if you’re a business looking for great ideas and innovative businesses to partner with – why not submit a brief ?
- Peeping into the innovate framework – your one-page strategy | innovatrs.com
- Taking your product and yourself to market | innovatrs.com
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