Picture yourself pitching a new product on a sales call, and the client unexpectedly asks to purchase immediately. You have no price, no order form, and they want your product now.

What would you do? We pressed the mute button.

Every company has a first sale. I want to share the story of when Terminus made our first sale, why you should focus on the problem you're solving, and "get real" with your customers

Do We Have a Product?

When I first came on board with Terminus, the company was already running with Eric Spett (Founder and CEO) and Eric Vass (Co-Founder and CTO). In the first few months before my arrival, Terminus was primarily working in the B2B advertising space.

In the midst of their advertising work within B2B, a question was growing at Terminus: "Do we have a real product here?"

After I heard Spett and Vass speak at a startup event, I knew Terminus was onto something. I knew a problem-solving solution, a real product, was within reach. I also knew the product would be amazing, and it would be called Account-Based Marketing (ABM).

When I shared this with Vass and Spett, they googled "Account-Based Marketing." Almost nothing came up. Three years ago, no one had written anything on the subject. What was my response to my now-fellow co-founders? Exactly. That's the point.

They were inspired by the optimism. If I truly believed we had a product, then go for it, they said: Let's put together a prototype and sell it.

Meet Gretchen: Our First Sale

Our first sale came much earlier than expected. We had no order forms, no price, but plenty of optimism. 

Vass and I hopped on a sales call with a lady named Gretchen. I excitedly pitched her our B2B marketing solution called Account-Based Marketing. She loved the idea and asked how much our product cost.

I put the phone on mute. We had never discussed price internally. I asked Vass what his thoughts were. Vass said, "You're the CMO!" So, I tossed out a monthly price, and Gretchen asked to purchase on the spot.

We didn't have a price. We didn't even have an order form. But, we were passionate about solving a problem, and we landed our first sale.

Focus on the Problem

We float our first-sale story around the office to this day. We remind ourselves that what set up our first sale wasn't pricing and details, it was the passion for our solution.

Sometimes too many questions can weigh down the pursuit of problem-solving. What have I learned? Don't get paralysis by analysis.  Don't bog yourself down with too many details.

Sometimes you just have to make a call, be the first one to the punch, and be the closest to your customer. Put your focus on the problem you are solving, and convey this passion to your client.

Getting Real: Who Are Your Real Customers?

At the end of the day, who's paying you? Who are your real customers? David Cummings (CEO of Pardot before it sold to Salesforce) gave us some good advice early on.

David is an investor who was helping us raise capital in the early days. We had told David that Terminus had about 20 customers. He stopped and asked me, "How many customers are paying you?" I told him about three.

David's response was pointed: Terminus had three customers.

When somebody has paid you, their feedback becomes valuable. If they aren't paying you, don't consider them as customers. If a non-paying entity is providing feedback, your organization can become quickly stuck in an unending feedback loop.

Without a real customer, you may end up continually tweaking your product and developing features that will never result in a purchase. If you are really solving a problem, they will pay you to build something.

Until Next Time

Focus on being passionate about our product. You don't always have to wait for everything to be perfect. We didn't wait until we had all the details in place. We simply made a sale.

Published on: Apr 24, 2018