Big thinking can often come undone when business owners forget that the first sale is more important than any other.
I have had the great pleasure of working with hundreds of business owners over the last two decades. Added to that wonderful experience, I’ve also presented to and surveyed tens of thousands more.
There’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve observed over those years, and forgive me if this assessment is quite blunt. But many people with a business idea have their head in the clouds when it comes to actually selling the idea and making it a viable proposition.
The very qualities that make people adventurous enough to have a crack at business ownership can get in their way when it comes to making the first sale to the first customer.
In this article, I’ll explore this with you. And provide four tips on how to avoid the dangers it presents.
1. YOUR FIRST CUSTOMER IS OF PRIMARY IMPORTANCE.
You may have experienced this in your business journey. You mention a business idea to someone, and they give it the thumbs up. Then another person and another person say ‘wow, that’s really cool you should do that’. So you work away on the idea and research it and price it, and when it comes to selling it to someone, you can’t find any takers. What happened?
WELL, FOR ONE THING, A PURCHASE IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM AN OPINION.
Someone can like an idea, but it may not actually contain enough value for someone to hand over money for it. The first sale you make of a product or service sets a benchmark – it means someone, somewhere valued it enough to buy it from you.
“My idea is amazing, I’m going global, and I’m going to make billions of dollars’ – wishes, hopes and dreams, my friend.
And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone go ahead and spend thousands on product development, websites, domain names, lawyers, IP protection – and forget the simple fact that you’d better try and sell it to someone before you ‘count your chickens’.
My tip here is to think about the selling of your product one customer at a time, and add process, systems, scale as you build, rather than build your business for thousands of customers first.
Don’t buy a big trailer and six lawn mowers until your letterbox drops have attracted some customers and you’ve been paid for and praised for mowing one lawn.
2. REAL RESEARCH WITH REAL CUSTOMERS.
Very few business owners do anywhere near enough research with the right customers for their product. They ask friends and get nice warm feedback and opinion.
Tip – research lots and lots with different types of customers and find the group that really values your service then keep researching this audience in great depth until you really know the value proposition of your product.
3. MARKETING AND SELLING WORK TOGETHER.
Many people spend a lot of money on what I call marketing infrastructure and assets too early. They build websites, get logos designed, makeup signage, print brochures.
When I started my business, I didn’t have any cards, any brochures, any website – nothing. I didn’t even have a business name.
In fact, we signed our first contract on the back of a napkin over a coffee meeting with a prospect. I had made my first sale before anything other than the concept of a service – to help customers with their marketing plans.
When your business or idea is small – marketing and selling can be the same thing – in the same discussion you can research AND position AND generation AND convert a lead. It’s often only when you scale that these activities become separate parts of the business activity.
4. THE BUSINESS OWNER MUST BE ABLE TO SELL.
As the originator of the idea, product or service, you are uniquely positioned to sell to customers. In fact, if you can’t, no-one will be able to.
Early in your business evolution, make sure you take each new product or service through the sales cycle to ensure you can actually sell it to one customer before even contemplating many customers or world domination.
Don’t avoid it, because your ‘brilliant’ idea might fall on deaf ears and far too late to waste all the investment in collateral and systems and research.
The business owner – you – must convince yourself you can sell to one before thinking about many.
Business owners are leaders and adventurers – they are often big thinkers who can imagine a bright and shiny future far off in the distance that others can’t see.
But this same big thinking can often come undone when they forget that the first sale to the first customer sets the tone.
Think one at a time, and many will happen. Or as that old quote said ‘watch the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves'.
Enjoy the journey.
Originally published on Smallville.