Sell Something First

Make the sale first and build your product more precisely with an involved buyer.

Before you build something, sell something first. There’s a common safety zone which pseudo-entrepreneurs find refuge in when launching a venture or trying something new – they overdesign. It’s safer in that space. You can imagine what the world needs and wants and build it. There’s no rejection there. But it’s insulated and can easily miss the mark.

Build what is minimally required first and test via a sale. Your first customer provides a great amount of insight. What is minimum varies across industries. I can’t speak for yours in particular unless we conversed, however, the principal of it is to not invest in so much theoretical nuance. The reality of building something for a live customer has the highest fidelity requirements inherent in an accurate build.

Selling something puts first things first. You have to have demand and a customer. If you are hesitant, perhaps because you are wired or have the big company mentality of aiming a lot before firing, here are some tips on the selling part:

  • Clarify the problem. Spend much of your time ensuring you understand the problem and obstacles your prospective customer is experiencing. Get clear about the definition and pain the customer feels. If you don’t do this, then you miss the customer altogether.
  • Ask the “What If…” If you truly understand the pain, ask, “What if I can help you resolve the issue altogether? How valuable would that be?” Listen. Make it a dialogue. Keep probing if you are not hearing the excitement. You may be missing the pain.
  • Define benefits clearly. Articulate how your product or service will help your customer make more money, become healthier or grow their self esteem. Get tangible and appeal to what the person will have as a result of doing business with you. Emphasize benefits over technical features. It’s more human.
  • Get a commitment. Get clear on next steps – proposal, payment, terms, etc. – and lead. Ask for a commitment.

There are more nuances to every sales conversation. After you make the sale, get to work refining your offering for that specific customer keeping in mind the concept of scalability. Make the system, product or process work for the second, third and fiftieth customer afterwards.

When you sell something first, you are committed to iterating and refining as you go. It’s valuable as a process for an entrepreneur today in an ambiguous marketplace with much uncertainty.

Have you tried this? What has been your experience?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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