Selling to customers when you're a new startup can be tough. You're still figuring out your pricing model and product, but you need early sales to confirm your business model. One of the greatest obstacles is being able to build confidence in your early customers when you don't have traction yet. While selling without a case study is tough, there are ways to get around it without having to lower to price. Here are a couple tactics to use when you're still trying to sell your first couple of customers.

1. Use Your Customer Interviews

One of the most frustrating parts for me when I started selling for Alumnify was that I kept getting asked about early case studies. When we didn't have these, I would fumble my words and not have a response that built trust with my clients.

Overtime, I learned that one of the ways I could answer that question was through my customer discovery. I would talk about the number of interviews I performed, and what patterns I was picking up on. The client I was speaking with would resonate with the customer problem I had discovered. This helped make the sale much easier for me, because they understood the need for my product.

It also helps mitigate risk on their end, because it shows that you've done your homework. You're not guessing with your product, but instead you've performed hours of research. This goes a long way with customers and will make them care a lot less about having traction in the marketplace.

2. Give Your Customers More Power

When you don't have many customers, the problem is you still are discovering and refining your product all the time. While this may seem like a disadvantage, it can work wonders in sales. If your customer seems uncomfortable being an early adopter, sell them on the fact that you are going to work with them. The fear from the client is that they buy your product and it ends up not living up to the expectations that you set. To limit this fear, say that you're going to make adjustments to the product until it's working.

It's also something that your more established competitors won't be able to do. If I didn't like something about my iPad, would Apple change it? No way. But if I was Apple's first customer, my voice would be much more powerful. Your customers will like the weight their voice holds, and you'll be able to use their opinions to improve your product.

3. Give incentives for being an early adopter

Everyone wants a deal. Many times, customers will tell you to circle back with them once you have more traction. To avoid this, you can use incentives for them to sign on the dotted line right then and there. For Alumnify, we gave our earliest customers free access to all the new features we built during their contract period. We also allowed them to get first access to new features before any other schools. Perks like these can go a long way with your clients. Another benefit of being an early adopter is that they can become your case study. Tell your prospect the amount of PR that will be generated for them if your product is successful. How cool would it have been to be the first user of Facebook or LinkedIn?

Notice, that none of the benefits I'm listing is a reduction in price. From experience, it's important that you charge a respectable amount for your early customers. You want them to have skin in the game, otherwise they won't put in the work necessary to make your product successful. With all the benefits I've talked about, you and your customer are better off. You'll have a case study and a client to test new features, and your prospect will get PR and more privileges. It's a win-win deal.

A big part of selling this is explaining your company's vision and the opportunity of what it can grow into. These customers cannot only get early access to your product, but they also can be a part of your company's journey to success. It'd be unfortunate for your prospect to walk away now and miss out on all the amazing benefits of being one of your first clients.

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Published on: Nov 3, 2014