Ready to sell your product? Don’t start by calling the ceo or cto of the company you want as a customer. Start at the bottom.
I have been talking to Steve Blank last week, as he was visiting the YES!Delft incubator. He started eigth companies, of which two failed big time and some others were very successful. After he retired as an entrepreneur, over a decade ago, he looked back on his startups and realised he could point out patterns and success factors in every startup that succeeded.
Blanks key idea is that startups need to get out of the building as soon as they have a basic version of their product or service. Don’t keep building on it until it’s perfect, but go out with your concept when it has a minimum set of features (a.k.a. minimal viable product or MVP)and start asking people what they think of it. Then you can iterate your product or service and start again.
An important thing he mentions is not to aim too high right away when you start to do cold calling. Your instinct might say: yeah, my product rocks and I am ready to sell it. You go straight for your goal: the ceo or cto of the company you want to have as a customer. Don’t do this, Blank warns, because you only get one, maybe two meetings with the top of a company. If you go to the top immediately, you only have one shot.
It’s better to start lower in the company. First, because then you can slowly figure out what people think of it, and change it bit by bit. Don’t think only the executives in a company will judge your product; it’s those who will work with it on a daily basis that will need to help you sell it. If they believe in it, they will recommend you to their boss – because it makes their work easier, faster, better – and you will be able to sell easier. Second, because it’s good to practice your pitch. How do people respond to your performance, do they understand the product features and what do they think is good to hear or see in your pitch?
Ask loads of people about their comments, be sure what you sell is what they really need, and then start working your way up. It takes some time, but you will be more likely to succeed.
See more of Steve Blanks advice to startups: