This is a topic I discuss with people nearly every day. I have clients and friends trying to design sales processes and build sales teams, and I have a network full of sales professionals who need to know how to fill their pipeline.
So I decided to write it all down (well, the big bold version of it).
If you’re trying to sell a new product or service, or you’ve gotten some sales and haven’t really figured out how to scale those successfully, this is a guide for you.
Obvious, right? In order to sell something, you have to know what it is and what it does.
But do you really know the benefits?
Do you understand why people care about the features you’ve so dutifully memorized? Do you know what can be accomplished when someone buys from you and what can’t be accomplished if they don’t?
This is critical.
This is easily the most difficult step for people to figure out. Quite often when I ask the question of target market, the answer I hear is, “Well, our tool can work for A, B, C, D, E, F…” and so on. Or it might be as simple as, “Any business with at least two people breathing.”
When you’re starting from scratch (remember, we’re going from zero to sales), you don’t need to figure out all of the potential applications for your product or service. You need to figure out 1) the most effective applications & 2) the applications you want to sell.
Your goal should be to start with just one potential client base. Don’t try and be everything to everyone. It won’t work.
If you don’t know where to start, a good question to ask yourself is, “Who was your product originally designed to serve?” If the answer is yourself, describe yourself and find out if there are more people like you out there.
If you’re stuck trying to figure out how to prioritize your selling time, you probably don’t know how your target market likes to buy what you’re offering.
Assuming you have zero clients, start with your network. Without trying to pitch someone on what you do, try and get a friend or family member in your target market to tell you how they run their day and how they engage with salespeople.
No network? No problem – it’s just a bit more work. After Step 4, you’ll need to try using email, phone, and social media to reach out to your target market. If you find that one results much more often than the others, focus more time on that approach.
This doesn’t have to be thousands of contacts. It can be 20. The size of the list is ultimately unimportant. You won’t be starting with everyone anyway.
This is a list of contacts within your target market who can help you better understand product/market fit and how you’re priced against competitors.
Where do you get this list? Here are a few resources:
- Google – If you don’t have any databases available to you (see below), you can simply Google search, find some companies, and call the main corporate number.
- ZoomInfo – This is one of a number of professional databases that allow you some free access, with much more data available through a paid access.
- Hunter.io – This is a tool that allows you to input a domain name and find emails associated with it. Now you don’t have to keep emailing the general mailbox – you can get directly to the decision maker.
- LinkedIn – If you’ve built a strong professional network, someone you know will either be a potential buyer or will have connections they’ll be willing to refer you to. (Hint: connect with me there!)
There are about a million places to find people. I’ve even used UpWork to hire a data miner to find all kinds of useful contact information. (Email me for more info on making that happen.)
Salespeople typically don’t make enough in base salary to get by comfortably. That’s often by design (though it’s controversial). If you’re in a startup that’s struggling to make sales, it’s likely an even more challenging financial situation.
You’re going to be tempted to hard sell the first people on your list. Don’t do it. Not yet, at least.
Try to have as many real conversations with prospective buyers as you can. Learn from them. LISTEN to them.
The lessons you learn by being conversational and taking good notes will be worth many more times than whatever meager sales you can make by being too eager.
Once you’ve learned all you can from your initial contacts, leverage technology to scale your outreach.
There is an ever-growing list of “sales acceleration” technology out there. It’s a major industry now that grew out of our shift from Rolodex to CRM. I won’t list them all here (it would take five minutes for you to scroll down to the bottom, let alone evaluate them).
If you’re on this journey from ZERO to SALES and need help, let me know. I love helping sales teams and founders who need a trained eye.