Closing your initial sales at a startup is one of the most challenging parts of building a company. Many startups die before they ever close a deal.
Unless you’re entering a well established market there will be uncertainty with your product, approach, and timing until you have enough customers to prove that you have a good business model.
When Brendan and I started Wistia, we had questions about how the sales process should work, what kinds of documents we needed in place, how long things should take, and where we should look for potential customers. Through sheer will, conviction, and lots of failure, we found our way to where we are today. Here are the 10 principles we learned along the way.
1. Don’t wait to sell
You should start selling as early as you possibly can. Do not wait until your product is polished and launched. We changed direction and started heading towards Wistia about a year into startup life. How’d we know to head towards Wistia? Because we had a real potential customer that was interested when we had NO PRODUCT. We talked to them about what we thought Wistia could be. They liked the concept and we built the first version of Wistia in two weeks. A month later and we had our first customer.
We had just spent seven months building a portfolio website and four months trying to get people on board while our bank accounts shrank and our time to live decreased. In the course of a month we sold our first customer, decreased our burn, and realized that selling early was possible.
2. Do things that don’t scale
We learned an enormous amount from our first customer. That first sale gave us a benchmark for what people were willing to pay, how long it would take to close a deal, and how easy it was to use the product.