(Note: This was previously a video blog)
Marketing is a challenging task in its own right. Marketing when you are just starting your business is downright daunting. How do get your first customers? Where do you find them? How do you get them to buy from you? Important questions to answer indeed.
I’m going to share three of the most common methods of finding your first customers that micro-business owners use and what you need to learn from those early sales.
Before I do that, let’s set the stage. The primary objective of the first few sales is not the money (though that is on the minds of most new business owners). The primary objective of your first sales is to learn how to sell. Customers will never be as convinced about the wonderful benefits of your offering as you. You have to guide them to that understanding and clear out any obstacles that stand in their way of obtaining those benefits. You do this by listening carefully to their problem and, after you are sure you understand it, present your solution to their problem. If you have successfully built the customers trust and they like you, they will do business with you.
So, how and where do you find those first customers? Here are three sources of early sales and how to learn from them:
1. Family and friends. Yes, they love and care about you. Yet their opinions are colored by their relationship with you. You can still learn from them:
- Call or send an email and tell them you are starting a business and need some feedback on your offering.
- Give them a mini-description of the key things they will get from buying it. Ask them if they would like to learn more. If they answer yes, set up a time and place.
- With your actual product or a clear description of it (if you are selling a service),give them a brief demonstration or read your service description, and then listen.
- Resist the temptation to force the sale and focus on listening to what they tell you.
- Write your observations down and concentrate on taking good notes. Were they positive or negative? Did you see an emotional reaction (emotion is critical)? What objections did they raise? You can improve your selling approach based on what you learn from this process.
Try to talk to as many friends and family as will tolerate you. You will likely sell along the way, but don’t put a lot of stock into it. You’re here to learn.
2. Friends of friends and family. The next step is to tap into the networks of your friends and family members. This is where things get more interesting.
- Ask your family and friends to refer one or more trusted friends who might be good prospects for your offering.
- Email is a good way to make the introduction and to set up the meeting.
- Same drill as in Step 1 but this time your selling steps should be more refined. Again the focus is to learn how to sell.
- Try to learn what the prospect’s problem is and what they are motivated to do. How does your offering fit their need? How does it solve their problem?
- Once you have your solution clearly in mind, your job is to help them see it as clearly as you do. If you have shown them that you have a solution to their problem, you will have built trust with them.
- As before, take careful notes. Pay particular attention to questions and objections the prospect raises.
You should make a few additional sales here and your confidence should be higher as you get more comfortable with the process.
3. Affinity Groups. Affinity groups are gatherings of people who share common interests. The idea is to locate groups of people who are aligned with the benefits of your product or service.
- Think about your customer’s lifestyle and ask yourself where they might go to share with others.
- Once you locate groups that your customers might be a part of, try to get in front of one of the group’s gatherings.
- There are a couple of common ways to get in front of these groups; 1) first, ask to attend the meeting as a potential member. For example, Rotary Clubs, Chamber of Commerce meetings, industry specific groups or other groups that are organized by someone or some organization; 2) For less formal group gatherings, try to get invited by a member.
Once you have been in front of 20-30 people, take stock of what you have learned by writing down:
- What patterns do you see?
- What are the common questions you were asked?
- What words did the customers use in talking about the potential benefits of your offering?
- What obstacles frequently arose?
This process of refining your selling method doesn’t stop here, it is something you continue to work on. By this time, you should have made your first sales and feel more confident about how to find and sell to prospective customers
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