Dear Chad,

I've just launched my startup. Any advice on landing my first 100 customers?

-CEO

---

Hey CEO,

When it comes to landing your first 100 customers, you need to forget everything you've heard or read about sales.

That's because when you're looking for your first 100 customers, you're playing by different rules. You need to be scrappy. You need to do things that aren't scalable.

Your entire company should focus on this goal.

That's because the rate at which you add those first 100 customers determines the velocity of your company going forward.

With that in mind, if I were in your shoes, here is what I would do:

  1. Find a Very Specific Problem You Can Solve
  2. Make Sure The Specific Problem is Something Customers Will Pay For
  3. Make Solving That Specific Problem Your Only Message
  4. Land Some Big Name Logos

Find a Very Specific Problem You Can Solve

A lot of CEOs miss the subtlety of this one. Most feel their product is a fit for everyone in every market. When they take this approach, they end up solving a very general problem, for a very general market.

The problem with that?

There is no urgency. Your prospects will feel no need to buy. They will be price sensitive. Your deals will get pushed month-after-month as other, more "urgent" problems get prioritized and purchased.

Instead, figure out a very specific problem you can solve. The more specific the better. That's because when an executive has a very specific problem, fixing that problem becomes urgent (and price never is an issue).

Make Sure The Specific Problem is Something Customers Will Pay For

Again, I know this sounds like common sense, but in the thrill of launching a business, some CEOs miss this.

It doesn't matter how cool your think your solution is. If you are solving a problem that people aren't willing to pay money for, you have no business.

It doesn't matter how convincing you think you can be. It doesn't matter how awesome that superstar salesperson you just hired is. You can't sell someone who isn't buying. I don't care what the gurus tell you.

Make Solving That Specific Problem Your Only Message

Sometimes CEOs confuse "branding" with "selling". That's because they get distracted by creative marketers who like to make things look shiny and pretty.

But, shiny and pretty doesn't fill sales pipelines.

(And while you're at it, don't let your creatives get cutesy or punchy with your messaging. It won't work at this stage of the game.)

Go to market with one message and one message only: How you solve a very specific problem for a very specific person.

It's not sexy and your VP of Marketing will hate it. But land your first 100 customers first, then you can talk about branding and being "creative".

Land Some Big Name Logos

The best thing that you can do to get the customers flowing into your business is to land some big name logos. Make sure the logos are recognizable.

Do what it takes to win a few of these. Even if it means giving things away for free in exchange for using their logo on your website.

When you are a startup company, buyers see you as a risk. But, when they see that big name logo using your product, it takes that risk away in their mind. It immediately makes you more desirable.

I won't sugar coat it. Landing those first 100 customers is tough.

Sales is complex, but it doesn't need to be difficult. Don't get sidetracked. Find that one specific problem you can solve, then market and sell the daylights out of that message.

Best of luck!

-CP

PS. It goes without saying that you may need to pivot while pursuing those first 100 customers. Just remember, pivoting isn't bad.

Published on: Sep 28, 2017