FIRST CUSTOMER, B2B STARTUPS
B2B startups take note!
If you are crazily funded start up like the 0.1% of start-ups out there then this post is not for you and please stop right here! But if you are like those 99%+ of entrepreneurs who have to bootstrap with self-funding or with less than 50L to 1 Cr of initial funding, then you need to worry about how can you get your first customers. I’m talking here more about B2B Enterprise start-ups.
At this early stage of your start up with no customers, you start up has zero credibility and no track record to talk about. The only thing special it has is you, the FOUNDER! So that’s what you will have to leverage when talking to early prospects. Rather than talking about the start-up talk about your personal expertise, experience and track record.
Use statements like “I have been in this domain for over X years and have personally served prestigious customers like A, B & C” or “I have always had over 80% customer retention as I always believed in selling exactly what customers need” etc etc. to build your credibility. Another thing to focus on is using relationships and references shamelessly. Never go to a sales call unless someone has put in a word or given a reference, personal or professional, however tenuous that ref is. Use LinkedIn to the hilt. Get its paid membership that gives you unfettered access to the whole network. Also be willing to do special deals for the first few customers. They are putting their trust in your startup and they deserve something special.
The first 3 customers are the toughest. The next ones are easier to get. Once you have sold to one company, talk to their competitors and ask them if they would be interested in knowing more. I remember after selling to Airtel, one of my earliest customers in my startup, it was easy to get a meeting with Vodafone when I called them to see if they would be interested in knowing what amazing work Airtel was doing with our products – rather than trying to sell our stuff. Everyone wants to know what their competitors are doing… and soon we had Vodafone as our customer!
Also, never ask for business from a weak or emotional stand point. I have seen start-ups try to play the emotional card with customers saying as they are a startup the customer should support and buy products from them. Customers buy because a product adds value to their business… It helps them save $$ or make extra $$… nothing else! So focus on that and sell value.
*Disclaimer: This article has been published with the prior permission of Mr. Anil Chhikara.