As entrepreneurs, some of us had the challenge of finding the first few customers. I was not particularly good at it. I did manage to get customers like Microsoft, in USA. I have been involved in selling products, consulting, technology licensing, and even custom product development.
Here are a list seven (among many) lessons I learned.
1. If you have deep expertise and some credibility, you can sell. You can do this, by having a genuine conversation of the customers’ problems and brainstorming various possible solutions. If your expertise helps address the problems customers are facing (alignment), the conversation happens naturally.
2. The sale is a little easier when you understand the customers problems and give them a range of options. Some of these options, may not include your product/service at all. This conveys a message to the customer that you are there to solve their problems.
3. Make yourself (or your company/product/service) easily findable and visible. When the customer comes in search of you, the odds of making a sale is much higher.
4. One way to make yourself findable and visible is to help people in your industry segments with your expertise. This is actually doing without talking (about what you can do). Every core member of your team needs to be able to do this in some way. It has to be a company culture.
5. I believe every service company should have a product or service that the customer can easily try out. Hubspot, one of the leaders in Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation, is the most visible experts in doing this. Their website grader, Twitter grader and now Marketing grader are great tools for every one to use and probably helped them with lead generation as well.
6. It is awesome when some one refers you to a customer and the customer calls you. To make that happen, you need to help every one who comes to you with a problem. There were times we used to get calls that had nothing to do with our product. We used to engage them in conversation, understand their problems and give them some ideas and point them to the right sources. To do this well, you need to know your industry segment (not just your product).
7. It is easier to sell when you are considered an industry expert. There are great tools to help you help the world. Writing blogs, participating in forums (like Quora and Stack Overflow) and answering questions are a good start. Amit Agarwal @labnol is one of the greatest examples I know who does this very well.
Take all these learnings with a pinch of salt. Professional sales experts may have different opinions. Also a lot of what I shared is not scalable but will certainly help you get started.