Making the most of your network for your first sales
Sounds scary?! Well it doesn’t have to be, petpreneur! When you’re just starting out, it’s hard to leverage your reputation, customer satisfaction and reviews to help build trust with a prospective customer. Instead, you’ll probably need to look to the people you already know (and meet a few more!) to make those first sales.
Why? Because you already have a relationship with people in your network. Even if they are a friend of a friend that you added on social media and never met in-person, you still have a relationship with that person. You can bypass a lot of natural distrust we have as humans by approaching people you already know.
It’s not nearly as big and scary as it sounds, I promise! Here’s some simple tips you can use to start mustering the courage, finding the right people and getting down to relationship building. Bet you thought I was going to say business, petprenuer—
Tip 1: Business is about relationships, not sales.
It’s sales too but that comes secondary to the relationship. Most people love to buy but they HATE being sold to. Salespeople are (sometimes) thought of as pushy or scam artists or money-hungry. But that is probably only true when the salesperson hasn’t taken the time to get to know the potential customer. People rarely buy from salespeople they don’t like, and they don’t like them because they probably didn’t have a sincere and natural conversation where they felt heard, seen and understood.
When talking to a new prospect, get to know them. Ask questions because questions open up the mind and show a genuine interest in the person. Questions also direct the other person’s mind and encourages them to reflect on their situation and what they may need. Without them saying it directly, they will tell you exactly what they need to hear to feel secure enough to buy.
Tip 2: Courage is rewarded in the long-term.
Many people dream about dropping their 9 to 5 and opening up a business they find deeply fulfilling. But most people don’t take action towards it. Clearly you’ve taken action, petpreneur so I know you have some courage in you.
- Go to industry events and network up: when you go to a networking event, have a handful of goals in mind. “Meet cool people,” though probably something you will inevitable do, is not a good enough goal because it can’t be measured and it isn’t specific. “Meet 3 people who work in administration at 3 different pet companies within 100 miles of my storefront who give me their contact information by the end of the conference” is a goal.
- Check out local organizations or events: The local chamber of commerce or entrepreneur club or dog-walking club are all places you may find could be customers or people who know could be customers. Make sure you really understand your ideal customer so you don’t waste your time OR other people’s time attending the wrong events. If you approach these events with the mindset of “what can I give” instead of “who can I sell to/what can I get?,” you’re likely to give off an attractive vibe, the type of person people genuinely want to get to know and eventually work with. People can sniff a fraud a mile away.
- Don’t sell on the first meeting: Go slow. Relationships take time and people will buy when they are ready to buy, not when you’re ready to sell.
Tip #3: You’ll make mistakes. You’ll be rejected. You may even be humiliated. But then you try again…somewhere else, with people who have no idea what happened before.
Every failure is an opportunity for growth. Cheesy, right? But I’m serious. The best thing though—your network is probably going to be super generous and forgiving with you, no matter what blunder you utter or bad joke you tell.
The farther you reach out in the network, the less these people know you personally, and the better the opportunity to reflect on a missed sale or even to reflect on a win. Why did something fail is as equally important as why something else succeeded. Know both sides through-and-through and do what you need to do to be better next time. Maybe you need to do more research before the pitch or maybe you need to ask more questions of your prospect or maybe you just need to relax more and be authentic.
Tip #4: Ask well-connected people in your network for introductions.
People want to help. Ask key people in you network, people who have large networks and work in your industry OR may know people who are your ideal customer, to introduce you to them. Really do your research on this because you don’t want to waste your time nor theirs. Asking the right people is crucial here.
When you do ask, be very specific. Do you know any dog moms who live in the suburbs that like jogging? Can you introduce us? Getting a personal introduction helps alleviate any distrust the dog mom jogger may have because she will trust you more if she already has a relationship with your mutual contact.
Tip #5: Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
On your very first few sales, you really don’t have much leverage. Negotiating price or putting in additional security features such as a 100% money back guarantee can help you close that sale. In that initial stage, you really do need the customer more than they need you. Remember, they are in a position of vulnerability. You have no business cred yet and they are putting their money on your words, not your reputation. It’s a scary position for them.
But after you’ve begun to make a few sales, if you find yourself with a rather challenging prospect, who is trying to nickel and dime or discount the value you bring by asking for a price reduction, you’ll need to think if this is the type of customer you want a long-term relationship with (let alone a short-term one). It’s your business. You decide who you work with and who you don’t work with.
Don’t be too hasty either, petpreneur. This could also be a reflection of their lack of confidence in you, the business, or the product/service, which may be a reflection of your own confidence.
Tip #6: The sale is the beginning.
Sales is like all other natural events—a process. Building a relationship takes time and effort and when you finally land a sale, your relationship has just been solidified. Now your product or service has to meet or exceed expectation. One happy customer can write one positive online review that leads to ten new, happy customer. Every customer matters at every stage.
Tip #7: Take full responsibility.
For your learning, for your growth, for your business’s growth. When you take full responsibility, you have full access to change what needs to be changed.
Honestly, petpreneur, you probably know or are one email away from knowing everyone you need to know to make your first sale, to build your business and to find the real freedom you seek. So go ahead. Say something dumb. Send an email with a typo. Make a few mistakes on your way to your first sale. We got your back.
Get Your First-Ever Sales With This Checklist:
- Write down who your are trying to reach (as a customer), what you can help them do or achieve (or stop doing!), and how you can help.
- Start with everyone you know – reach out to your existing network of family, friends and colleagues and let them know who you’re trying to reach, why and how you can help them. Ask for THEIR help connecting you with anyone who fits the bill.
- Follow-up at least every 2 weeks.
- MAKE IT EASY TO BUY. Do NOT require a prospective customer to jump through hoops to buy your product or service. If they’re ordering online, don’t make them print things out. If they’re booking into your schedule, give them access to see your availability to avoid back-and-forth-emails.
- Give them a reason to buy now (and not “later.”) Consumers suffer from the same sense of overwhelm we all do, so giving them a reason to take action and buy now is important. Make sure you’re giving them a reason not to wait.
- Follow-up and make sure any prospects know when time is running out.