As many people know, Focus.com is a startup/emerging organization again. I am doing what I love: Selling and marketing a new product and brand. As I go through the process of building a business again, I am learning and being reminded of a number of key points that I thought I would share.
My notes from the startup trenches:
1. Talk to as many potential customers or people who can help you get to potential customers as is humanly possible – When you “don’t know what you don’t know”, you have to start by talking to people, lots of them. You can’t be precise, you have to make some business guesses on your buyer persona and start talking. My old boss Stu Silverman who advises startups on building demand used to tell CEO’s to trade the budget for the extra sales guy and spend it on leads/meetings. He was right. You will figure it out, but you can’t do that sitting in a meeting room drawing diagrams on whiteboards.
2. There is no such thing as a conversion rate, not yet anyway — See above. If you aren’t exhausted, it’s not a startup. Conversion rates come with volume. You don’t have that yet.
3. You know how the buyer is supposedly 70-80% into their decision when they talk to a vendor? -At a startup they are 0% – Steady state rules don’t apply at startups. There is not BANT – you have to talk to people who likely haven’t thought about a solution like yours and certainly have not thought about you. Your goal is to find people who have a pain and get them to believe that you can solve it.
4. When they built pyramids, most of their population died along the way - That was saying my old coworker Steve Lilly used to tell me. This is HARD and some people just won’t make it with you to the finish line. All over Linkedin, you will folks who failed at startups (sometimes more than once) but made it somewhere else. The grind gets to some of the most talented people and unfortunately, there are casualties that you have to live with.
5. Humble pie, eat it — The best thing for me has been eating humble pie. One day you think you are the f-ing Funnelholic, and the next day you are wondering if you can sell anything. Startup selling and marketing is good for the soul and bad for the ego. Try it. Too much ego makes you arrogant anyway.
6. Bring your A-game every day — Yes, this is a corny one, but it’s an important one. I was whacked in the face with this mid-way through last quarter. You have to bring it because you can’t afford to miss opportunities and…
7. Time is the enemy — You have to make the most of every pitch, every call, every email, etc. No time to “check in”, every movement needs to have reason– keep your eye on the clock. In most cases, survival is predicated on taking long sales cycles down to less than three months. At Oracle, if someone misses their number, the ship still sails…at a startup, jobs are lost or worse.