No customer--no business. It's that simple. When dreaming of launching your company you will have a certain customer in mind. Your first question, who is my customer? Your next question, where do I find them? Your last question, how do I bring them on board?
For those of you who start breathing heavily at the thought of selling, the very notion can be overwhelming. Let's start by taking a few deep breaths and slowly exhale. You can do this. You must do this if your company is ever going to evolve into something special. Like a good engineer would, we can break this process down into a few simple steps.
Step One--who is my first customer? My question to you is what do you need from this customer? Feedback? Usage or engagement? Revenue (I hope not--its probably too early for that)? Start by determining what you need now. Most companies are desperately seeking feedback. If so, don't sweat the revenue; it will come later with some other customer. Right now, go find a handful of prospects who love to share their opinion and who actively engage in this type of activity. We all know someone like this. Reach out to them and just ask them.
Step Two--where are these customers? In my top-selling book, Build The Fort, I encourage everyone to socialize their idea without fear or inhibition with as many people as you can. I am thinking 50+ friends, friends of friends, peers, friends of peers, etc. You get the idea. If you connect with 50+ people with a 30-minute conversation around your idea, you will invariably find the type of people who can and will help you. Some of these will be your first customer. Each one of these connections is a gateway to another 2-5 connections.
Step Three--how do I bring them on board? Many smart people have shared that one difference between successful startup founders and the rest is that successful founders make the ask. You would be amazed to find how many sales people never ask for the order. This goes for you too. I promise you, people want to help you. But you have to make the ask. I will also share that once you build this muscle (by repetition) it will get easier. I sometimes think that this is a right of passage for first timer founders.
No customer--no business! Don't be one of those founders with a product and no customer. Follow these 3 simple steps and break out from the pack of wanna-be entrepreneurs and build out those customer-building muscles. Later you can figure out how to fire those first customers and transition into the next customer phase.