When you're running out of cash, the only thing that will save your startup is--sales. Not your friends and family, not investors and certainly not pivots.
Well, technically, pivots can do save your startup from failing, but not when you don't have any sales to support it.
Guy Kawasaki writes in one of his blogs, "As long as you have sales, cash will flow, and as long as cash flows, (a) you will have the time to fix your team, your technology, and your marketing; and (b) your investors will leave you alone because they will focus on companies with weaker sales. (ed)"
Many a startup entrepreneur failed even before they started for they believed building the product or service would get them customers walking through their door!
Sales just doesn't happen, you have to make it happen. So, here are a few quick sales wins I've gathered over the years while building Arkenea LLC and three other product startups (one failed because of 'sales', rather the lack of).
#1--Not everything is bought
When you're a startup, your product or your service is certainly not bought--unlike an iPhone or Tesla. You have to sell, until you make it to a point where the product or service starts getting bought.
So what do you have to do to sell? Webinars, seminars, speaking at conferences, and recruiting customers personally are still routes that you must adopt to ensure you stay in the game. Schmooze if it takes to get sales, for inbound marketing takes a while to kick in and sales through it are a factor of how much traffic you can generate.
This is hard for startups in early stages. So, don't just sit there--find opportunities where you can get out and sell your story to your potential customers.
A simple enough tactic often overlooked or underperformed by entrepreneurs. At Arkenea LLC, we've won clients simply because we responded, and responded to our prospects fast--faster than any of our competitors could and would continue to do so throughout the lifecycle of the relationship.
This could very well be the growth hack of sales, for only one reason that most startup founders just don't do it. There are many things vying for your attention, agreed. But if your customer isn't paying, you don't have a business.
So drop everything you're doing and get back to that prospect, fast. At times, drop everything you're doing and be responsive to their queries and they'll appreciate the promptness and the agility.
Because most founders aren't doing this already, you've got an edge against your competition just with this one hack.
#3--Do your homework about the prospects
Go a step ahead to pre-empt your prospective customers' problems and tell them your views on how to solve them; give insights proactively. Let your prospective customers know that you're thinking about them, and their business.
Ask pertinent questions and listen to your prospects.
If you do your homework well, you will be a notch above the competition, even if you're the expensive option. In today's context, researching about your prospects is far easier than in earlier times. You've got social networks; you've got friends of friends and forums where they may be venting.
Here's how we do it. While discussing our prospective customer's requirements, we ask a few questions that gives us insights into what is really important to them at that stage and what their real challenges are. Our responses that follow that discussion address those challenges keeping in mind their goals, not just from the point of view of how our business can help them, but feedback and suggestions on aspects, which help them outside of the scope of our possible relationship.
The fundamentals are the same here as they are in inbound marketing. Offer so much value upfront that your prospective customers buy into your philosophy and not just your product or service.
#4--Drop the entry barrier
Products and services at times can have complex onboarding strategies, making it hard for prospective customers to buy into them. A free trial is a step in that direction, but not entirely since you're just deferring the onboarding, not dropping the entry barrier.
Spend time to understand what the entry barriers to adopting your product or service are and make the onboarding easier by giving them a sweeter deal--something they can work with in the beginning and over a period of time are fully engaged.
#5--Close the loop
Many a prospective customers just go cold turkey in responding leaving you wondering what just happened. The conversations were going pretty well and all of a sudden, one day, they just stop responding.
You send numerous follow-up emails without any luck. You can either stop doing so (and stop wasting your time and mindspace), or send one more email to close the loop--let your prospects know that you're assuming their decision has gone in another direction and thank them for their time.
If after this email they don't respond, you know for a fact their decision has gone in another direction. If they just didn't have a current status to update you with, this does elicit a response because they don't want to lose you yet!
The following email template by Blair Enns does the job--of course, adapt it to suit your product or service.
I haven't heard back from you on [project/opportunity] so I'm going to assume you've gone in a different direction or your priorities have changed.
Let me know if we can be of assistance in the future.
The business is yours and you've got to do whatever it takes to keep it running and growing. This means stepping out of your comfort zone more often than not. But then, you didn't start that startup as a hobby, did you?