Startup Sales — How to Convert your First Leads to Customers

Getting a potential customer interested in learning more about your product is hard enough, but unfortunately early interest from a lead is a long way from a sale. Here’s how to take the process further and convert your first leads into real, paying customers.

Find Their Problem

Start with asking the customer about their problems. Do not assume you know the particular problem a customer has, as you could be wrong about its importance, cost, priority, or overall need; which is a bad start. In the early meetings, resist taking a deep dive into your product, and do more listening than talking. This will allow the customer time to reveal details about their problems:

What to Ask –

  • What tasks take up most of your time?
  • What problems cost you the most money?
  • What is the biggest problem you encounter daily?

If their priorities don’t align with your offering’s solution, they may be the wrong customer. If all customer feedback does not match your solution, you may need to change your product entirely.

Iterate to Create a Solution

When you have an idea that will solve your potential customer’s problem, do the minimal amount of effort to test it. Start by showing them screenshots or a workflow (Invision is a popular design tool for this). Iterate on these workflows before using resources to build an actual product for the customer. When you have a demo, give the lead access, measure their usage, and ask for feedback.

What to Ask –

  • Would using this product be easy for you?
  • If you could make changes, what would they be?
  • Is this something you would likely use daily? If not, why?

Don’t give a potential customer a sales demo and push them to immediately buy. Focus on getting feedback first. If the potential customer doesn’t want to provide feedback and isn’t ready to buy, don’t waste anymore of your time. Move them to your mailing list and stop scheduling meetings with them; you can pursue them again when your product is more stable.

Get it Live

If a potential customer reacts positively to a demo, guide them to a trial. Ask about options for trying the product live or in a testing environment. Next, suggest a “no-risk” deployment with a free trial (or money-back guarantee) and easy cancellation at any time. If you’re solving their problem and it’s available for free, with no effort, why wouldn’t they try it?

What to Ask –

  • Does this solve your problem?
  • How valuable would this be to you?
  • What would be the easiest way for you to try this live?

Don’t expect to charge full price with your first two customers, but don’t discount after this as it is easier to go down market, than upmarket. Don’t ignore the importance of security and legal reviews, get the representatives on the phone and give them the same high caliber service you afforded the original point of contact.

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