As a start-up, one of the most important things is to consume information. So when we finished moving all the furniture and sat for the first time on the chairs, I started working on our first customer. There are many good blog posts (I like especially this one) about early sales. I highly recommend reading every piece of relevant data there is!
The problem is that our product will be ready in 3-4 months and I didn’t want to work hard on making an appointment with practically nothing. I remember I just saw Eric Reis’ video on MVP (Minimal Valuable Product) and thought to myself, “he is absolutely right, but I’m not sure it will work in our case.” After a couple of days pondering the matter, I decided to take action and set up a couple of meetings with potential clients. The purpose of these meetings were to outline our plans and listen to their invaluable insights.
Here are some tips for setting up these meetings:
- Ask your investors to pull out their connections. For us, our investors were extremely helpful.
- Research the person you are going to meet.
- Be ready for an elevator speech. One of the potential customers actually called me one night and told me, “okay, you’ve got two minutes, shoot.” It took me about 5 seconds to see he isn’t joking and I started pitching him. After the two minutes ended I started breathing again and he said, “ok, you have 5 more minutes.” Eventually he agreed to meet with me.
I went to the meeting wondering if it was the right timing, but because I succeeded in scheduling them, I went. One thing I have to say to Eric, “thanks man, you were absolutely right!” I remember thinking to myself that I learned so much from those meetings that I was sorry we didn’t do them two months ago. In addition of starting a relationship between our company and the customers, I learned a couple of very important things that have had a huge effect on our production process.
Here is what I learned from those meetings:
- Understand who you want to meet with. This tip I got from Yaron Galai, the founder and CEO of OutBrain. We tend to look how our product is going to improve our customers’ life. If our customers are companies, like in our case, usually we miss one important thing: you are meeting with a person, not a company. It is absolutely vital to know how your product is going to improve the sales/marketing/engineering guy you are meeting. In the end of the day you should focus on the person you are meeting not the company.
- Listen, listen and listen. In the first meeting I did the mistake of talking 75% of the time. I made the mistake of selling too early. It is your first customer; they know and you need to know it. They need to feel that they are part of the dream, that they have the courage and wisdom to be the first believers of the next big thing.
- Don’t talk money; it’s irrelevant at this point. I started talking about it and found out the hard way.
It doesn’t matter if we had a product or just a nice mock-up, our customers gave us insights no one else can. Meet with them yesterday.