Post is part of my collection: EntreFEST 2015

Sales Strategies for Startups

-- Trey Bowles of Dallas Entrepreneur Center.

I have recently been getting more into marketing and sales to implement into my own startup ideas. I think marketing is quite fascinating as it is the science of getting someone to hand over hard earned money to you for something you are proud of. It is your dream they are investing in. This is very challenging which makes it quite fun to get involved with.

So because I have been getting more into marketing and sales, I decided to attend this session to hear some sales strategies I could use myself on some new ideas I come up with in the future.

When I got into the room, I was hoping that this session was not over my head or some session by someone with decades of experience giving us an advanced sales talk. I am a software engineer after all and I am a beginner when it comes to marketing.

Right off the bat, Trey shared with us that he has been doing sales for 30 years and he does not enjoy sales. Wait...what? Yes. He does not enjoy sales yet he spends a ton of his time on sales and he is quite good at it. He shared that he has had to do sales simply because as the founder of a business who cannot afford a sales staff, you have to do what you have to do. This was awesome to hear as this is pretty much the situation I am in! Sales and marketing is interesting to me and I believe in my products enough that I could sell them, but I would rather be off building awesome products. This was a great session to attend.

The 4 P's of sales:

Entrepreneurs think we need to fully dive into a business idea. Imagine there is a small pond in front of you. You could fully dive in heads first or you could dip your toe in, analyze how deep it is, and then decide to do a cannon ball if the situation is suited for it. You do not need to fully jump into an idea and spend all your time and money on an idea. If you jump instead of dive, it might save you from breaking your neck.

Do validation. "Get out of the building" as Steve Blank would say.

Think of business like a lemonade stand. Anyone can open one. What makes your lemonade different? What location are you going to take? Who are you marketing to? All of the decisions that go into creating a lemonade stand go into a business idea of yours.

Dedicate time every single day to selling. Sales needs to be as important as building the product. If you spend all this time on creating a product but don't sell every day, what is the point in spending all that time on creating the product if no one is going to buy and use it?

Setup a CRM system ahead of time (his favorite is Zoho) to make your life easier when you are heads down into sales.

Pitch every single day. You change it as time goes on. Practice to friends, practice to a mirror every day. If your pitch sounds sloppy, you don't sound confident and people do not sound confident to buy from you.

Trey has changed his pitch hundreds and hundreds of times over the years because he practices it so much. After you practice it, it naturally changes the more you say it. This is where it starts to get good the more feedback you get about it. Pitch it to someone who has never heard about the product and watch their face. Watch when they start to get bored or confused and then change the pitch to fix that.

Find a way to stand out to people. He writes a thank you note to everyone he tries to sell to. He comes in months later to that business to work on a sale and he sees the thank you note on the wall. It makes you stand out. Get to know who you are talking to. Create a relationship together.

There are 2 types of sales people.

Transaction: Call and hang up. Smile and dial type of sales.
Relational: Emotional. Get to know your customer. (the way you should be selling your startup)

Do some sort of customer validation on people when you try to sell to them. Ask them what their problems are and try to get them to state their problems to you and then come back at them with the solution you provide. Much better for you to sell to someone who verbally tells you they have the problem you are trying to solve then for you to try and tell them their problem.

If you approach someone and try to sell to them and they do not seem to have the problem you are trying to solve, don't sell to them. Leave the situation and before you leave, thank them for their time and ask them who they know that would perhaps have the problem you are trying to solve.

After you get them to state their problem to you and they are interested in buying, close the deal. "Great, will you sign a contract with me today?", "No? Can I come in tomorrow?". Once you get the sale, stop selling. You got them, stop!

"No one cares about your beta".

When you hype up your beta a bunch, that is for your benefit. For your testing benefit. They don't care. Don't make a big deal about your awesome beta so don't ask too much of people when you have a beta.

Don't put "Coming soon" on your website. It is a death trap. People come to site, get excited and then leave because they see that.

Other notes:

  • In your CRM system, make sure it allows you to export/import your data. That way you are not locked into them forever.
  • Book: Spin Selling. Good book to teach you different questions to ask people to try and get them to state their problems and you close a sale.
  • If having a bad day selling, take a break and go back to preparing. Bad days happen with sales, go back at it later.
  • Remember, when you are not selling, competitors are.
  • Find creative ways to drive interest to the product. Finds ways to be remembered. You are creating relationships for life, not just today.
  • Make decisions. If you don't know, learn it and fix it later. Just make decisions! If you don't know how to sell in a situation, try it and you will find the best way in your situation. It takes time and practice.
  • "When selling and they say no then you later pivot the business, is it ok to come back and try to sell the new solution?" Yes. Always leave with info after a no. Why they decided to say no so you can come back. Worst thing that happens is they say they are not interested in you coming back.

Thank you so much Trey for your time and expertise. I hope to try out these tips on my own ideas very soon. A great start to day 2 of EntreFEST!