Roy Osing
05 Feb 2018

10 proven sales tips to make your startup successful

As is often talked about, over half of startups fail within the first five years, and I believe one of the contributing factors is the lack of an effective sales approach.

Effective sales, however, is not achieved by doing only one thing. There's no hail mary pass or silver bullet that will establish you as a “sales wonder” and ensure your startup defies the odds of success.

But these tactics worked for me. And they will work for you if you give them an honest try.

1. Take a long term view of the customer. Don't treat them as short term cash generators. Focusing on the next 30 days forces you on the client and creates product flogging behaviour. An approach with little longevity.

2. Sell on value and the benefits you will deliver to customers. Never promote cheap prices as your value proposition. People want to buy value at reasonable prices. If you can't sell value your startup is doomed.
And avoid selling technology; stress the capabilities it has to deliver benefits that people care about.

3. Focus on building a deep customer relationship at every opportunity. If your startup is to defy the odds of success, it will depend on how effective you are at quickly establishing a stable of loyal customers who will help promote you to others. This can only be achieved when your raison d’être is “selling relationships “ with a serving mindset. Successful salespeople serve people, they don’t sell to them.

4. When things go wrong (and they eventually will) focus on recovering FAST.  A customer will actually forget about the mistake if you are able to quickly repair the damage you’ve caused and SURPRISE them with something they don't expect. The power is in the surprise , so get to know each one of your customers intimately.

5. If your new idea doesn’t fit what a potential customer wants, be helpful by suggesting someone else's solution rather than trying to force fit yours. You will be perceived as a credible organization that puts the needs of a customer first as opposed to a “make the sale at any cost” hungry one.

6. Enter a potential customer contact as an opportunity to engage with them not pitch at them. No one likes to be pitched at. It’s an aggressive, one-sided asymmetric conversation aimed at satisfying the needs of the organization rather than understanding what the customer needs and responding accordingly. Pitching salespeople give their profession a sleazy image which you certainly don’t want as you try to successfully launch your startup.

7. Focus your customer engagement activities on trying to discover what they want and desire as opposed to what they “need”. Selling on the basis of what people need is a tough task which, due to the amount of competition in the needs space, eventually comes down to trying to differentiate on price. A commodity status ensues. 
On the other hand, selling into what people want, covet and desire generally attracts premium prices because the competition in the wants space is rare — few organizations point their salespeople at discovering customer “secrets” as a priority.

 8. Listen and resist the temptation to get on stage and perform. The best salespeople I know listen better than anyone else; they control the typical sales urge to give a speech and share their wisdom with others. It’s impossible to discover someone’s wants and desires when you’re in the transmit mode. 

9. Amazing salespeople take copious amounts of notes when engaging with a client. Note taking shows you think what they are saying is important. And of course you have a record of the engagement that you can refer to when considering the sales strategy appropriate to a particular customer.

10. Constantly ask your customers for feedback on your performance and listen carefully to what they say. Accept criticism openly and take action to improve where the customer says it’s needed. Loop back to customers who suggest what you can change and tell them the action you took because of what they said. 
And offer them a big “THANK YOU!” for helping you.

Getting a startup off the ground is an extremely arduous and daunting challenge which requires a disciplined sales effort. These 10 sales imperatives will give you the results you expect —  delighted customers and a sustainable business.

Roy Osing (@royosing) is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead


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