I just wrote an email today to another entrepreneur that folded his business (my team and I had built his product from day 1)
“Here’s what I have told every single entrepreneur..
Figure out sales first then the rest will follow.
Figure out how to sell vaporware and have 10 clients sign up even without existing software.
Why? Because no customer ever accepts the first version of what you sell.. ever startup has the same problem.. they think the customer wants something, they develop it.. to find out that the customer will pay for something else.
Make 10 customers sign a letter of intent that if you give them A, B, C, they will pay $X or $Y or $Z / month to you for a 1 year deal.
if you can do that — you have a business… else you don’t“
I had built his product and had seen it through iterations over years.. It still hurts every time I see one of my entrepreneurs having to shut down.
Granted, I am not a Silicon valley expert that has exited multiple times or built multiple successful product companies.
But I have been doing product engineering for multiple startups for the last 5 years.
I have also started and folded my own SaaS product firm 6 years ago.
One common theme remains among all these software startups that i worked with.. They didn’t sell, they couldn’t sell, they couldn’t market.. They couldn’t get the first customers to even validate their product.
None of these products sucked.. They were actually pretty darn good.. But each one of these companies found out after they launched — the customer didn’t want it.. Didn’t want to pay for it.. At least didn’t want to pay for what they had built.
Why do entrepreneurs / product owners leave sales and marketing to the very end of their product launch?
Why not lead with sales?
No matter how many contacts you have, you’re still going to have to figure out how to sell your software to strangers..
You are going to have to get used to convincing complete strangers that they really need your product (or service) and then you are going to have to convince them that they should pay $X for it..
Even if you start with selling through your 1st/2nd degree contacts.. You are going to have to scale this anyhow.. You are going to have to figure out how to market to the next set of prospects..
Sure, you can say that “if I had customer A or customer B, then I can leverage that to get more customers”.. But trust me on this.. You are still going to have to figure out how to sell to strangers.
So, why not start selling before you even invest any time into building the software?
What’s the worst case scenario?
That you find out your idea is a dud?
That you figured out how to build a list of prospects to email?
That you figured out how to really, really use LinkedIn Sales navigator?
That you figured out cold emailing isn’t easy and you have to deal with a lot “go to hell” responses?
That you figured out cold email wasn’t going to cut it and you really needed to get better at your pitch?
That you figured out how to create landing pages?
That you figured out how to write ad copy?
That you figured out how to write website copy?
That you figured out how adwords or facebook ads or bing ads work?
That you spent a few hundred $s in adwords or facebook campaigns before you found out your idea was not going to make it?
You’re going to have to know at least the basics of all these when you launch anyway.. Why not do it first?