If you don’t sell, nothing happens. And so many of us starting out know the pressure and stress of getting through our first year, because we know that sales will determine if we get to our second. But time is limited. We are faced with this sales pressure daily, fully knowing that sales cannot ever be our only concern. As entrepreneurs we are every department. Sales. Finance. Marketing. HR. Production. We do it all. Because when you are a startup you are lucky if you can feed yourself much less anyone wanting to help you.
You can pray for that referral. You can hope your SEO works. You can invest in Facebook Ads or Instagram. But sales, no matter how you work it, is a one on one sport. It is about opening one door at a time and hoping the door stays open and that there is an exchange.
And it is hard. People are constantly overwhelmed by advertising, cold calls, newsletters, and many of them have simply tuned out of the “advertising conversation” that they never really agreed to enter into anyway. We have been talking to customers assuming they will be interested and buy, but all it has done is make them feel crowded.
So what does a young entrepreneur do with little time they have to grow their sales?
Here are four steps to sell without selling at all:
The Testimonial That Sells
Your greatest struggle as a young entrepreneur is credibility. No one knows you. Credibility can mean many different things to a customer. It could mean brand value as much as it could mean that your service hasn’t been proven. Trust is a huge factor when it comes to where anyone puts their cash.
So don’t try and convince hundreds of people that you are amazing at what you do. Convince one person who already has the trust of hundreds. Just one person. And make it someone you wish you were more like.
The First Sale
Sales guys will tell you that you only ever need to make that first sale. The problem is that if that first sale doesn’t tell anyone, it won’t get you to your next sale. So make your first sale count, and instead of going for profit, make it profitable for the person who believes in you enough to sell your product on your behalf.
The Big Ask
You will have to find someone who is in your industry, but isn’t a direct competitor. A great way to start this conversation is to ask for mentorship. If they are willing to invest time in you, they might be willing to sell what you do to their existing clients.
The ask is big but simple. Explain that they aren’t doing what you are doing, that it is easier for them to outsource to you and offer what you do as a service to their clients. You can pitch it to your mentor as a sales add-on to existing clients. And make it profitable, so say that they can charge a bit more and take a cut if the sale goes through. Always go for the win-win. This is a profitable, low effort strategy for your mentor to give new value to their clients.
Always Be New
The only way someone in your industry is going to make your service part of their business is if you are incredible at what you do, and, most importantly, they hadn’t thought to do it yet, or it wasn’t a priority yet.
If you are starting out, you want to design a service or product that is the next thing, you want to be niche. Being an expert at your niche is what gets you in the door. What keeps you there is providing incredible service and making it ridiculously easy for your mentor (or, if you are smart, mentors) to sell on your behalf.
Relationships will make or break you as an entrepreneur. This is a people game. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a numbers game. There is no reason to be making 100 cold calls a day, or buying an email database and bothering people with your product or service. You need to gain trust, and if you are starting, betting on the trust your market already has in someone you respect in your industry is a far better way to get initial sales than constantly having to sell to everybody.
Leveraging the client base of a mentor isn’t just about getting those first sales in so you can be more comfortable and grow, it is about establishing a rich, mutually beneficial relationship where you can learn all the time and make some money. If what you are doing is fresh and dependable, you will find someone who will be relieved that they can rely on you to get the job done.