Beyond the Pitch

Helping Entrepreneurs Close the First Customer

One thing that entrepreneurs agree on is that it’s not enough to have a good product – you must also have a customer who wants it.  In fact, more than four in 10 startups say a lack of market for their product was the reason their company failed, according to a study by CB Insights.

That’s why, as part of Rev1’s innovative First Connect network, Rev1 is dedicated to helping its startups connect with first customers, and why 100% of my time is dedicated to helping them close the deals.

Entrepreneur Steve White, CEO of Clarivoy, a marketing technology firm, has witnessed this first-hand.

“Rev1’s First Connect network was an important component of our early success,” he told us. “The program helped us build the foundation to help us scale, including how best to sell. Rev1’s relationships and market insights enabled us to win our first national customer in a relatively short amount of time. That business led to more opportunities with other prospects in the market, and proved we were ready for prime time.”

The Rev1 team is sharing its top advice for selling, so that more startups can benefit from their unique approach to closing the first customer and beyond:

o    CEO Tom Walker says: Never take any meeting with a potential customer for granted. Do your homework. When you’re working on your company’s first sales, you may spend a week studying the customer and the competition just to prepare for a 30-minute call. Over time, your customer and industry knowledge will build, but problem solving and preparation, those will always be the keys to successful sales.

o    EVP of Investments & Venture Acceleration Wayne Embree says: It’s when you really understand your customer’s business that you can sell to them. They will trust you because you demonstrate that you actually recognize that their business is more than the problem that you are trying to solve. When you put it in terms of how your product makes their relationship to their customers better, that will secure them to you as a customer.

o    Managing Director of Ohio TechAngel Funds Parker MacDonell says: Look for prospective first customers who have a track record of doing business with early-stage companies.  Ask someone who knows you personally to introduce you to someone she or he knows personally at the prospect company.  That removes some of the uncertainty the prospect might feel at doing business with a young company led by an entrepreneur whom they’ve never met.

o    Chief Marketing Officer Kristy Campbell says: Your first customer is extra important because you’ll need them as a reference to land your second and third customer. So it’s critical your product or service can provide the value required to ensure they come away from the process as an active advocate for your work.

o    I say: Be bold and ask obligating questions of your prospects in order to understand their intentions  and your opportunity for working with them and growing with them. It also helps you identify the early adopters – the visionaries and technology enthusiasts. Those are the customers who take a risk when no one else will. They help you make your product what it needs to be. They give you credibility, and often times, they become your friends.

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