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Sales 101 for Startups

Sales! Probably that's the engineer's nightmare. The usually underestimated part of a startup created by a technical person. Quotes like "SaaS sells itself" aren't true. You built something that you deem useful and now what? To answer such question I started my homework and I'd like to share what I found so far and how to continue learning from here.

Sales in essence is providing help. Help to an extent that a person or a company would pay for it. They pay because you're selling something that has value. The higher the value you provide them, the higher they're willing to pay. This is why some people would spend much money on games for example and others don't. They don't see the same value on such games.

And you may wonder whether I should really be talking about sales instead of marketing. Well, Jessica Livingston, founding partner of Y Combinator, once said that startups should focus on sales, not marketing. Otherwise they'll die. They won't receive the harsh feedback sales give if they focus on marketing. And Paul Graham said "It’s better to have 100 people [who] love you than finding a million who just sort of like you. (...)". And to reach 100 people, you can do it one person at a time, right? As a bonus, you should read Do Things that Don't Scale from Graham as well.

But before going to sales, you need to clean your house, set up the website, make it presentable. When you get in touch with someone, they'll Google your name and your company name. This is why some SEO is important too. And when we talk about getting prepared, we have two very interesting concepts.

Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing. For Sales we're going to focus on the so called "Outbound Marketing". It has "Marketing" on the name, but don't bother. The main difference here, as the names suggest, is that inbound marketing is meant to attract people to you / your company and outbound marketing is meant to make you reach people. You can probably translate to "Passive Marketing" and "Active Marketing".

In this outbound marketing we have some interesting concepts which are not usually heard when we talk about technology. They're:

  • Leads
  • Prospects
  • Customers

Order matters in this list. Leads are anything that could bring an opportunity, for example a visitant in your website. Prospect are the ones who are more engaged and could potentially turn into a customer, e.g., someone who got in touch asking for a quote. And, finally, customers, who paid for your product. You'll see many variations of these, but that's the big picture.

You have to focus in getting leads and try move them to the next level until they become customers. That's a challenge. So is finding good leads. For that you can use LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, Conferences and many other tools to help you reach them.

You simply have to find someone who:

  1. Needs your product
  2. Can pay for your product [preferably now]
  3. Is the decision maker in the company

Then you'll need to:

  1. Explain how your product solves their pain
  2. Explain why they should buy from you
  3. Make the customer trust you and your product

It's pretty much it, but there are tons of concepts and lessons out there. If you Google such terms you'll have many articles to read already.

That's all for today, thank you!

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