I’ve talked with many seed stage entrepreneurs, generally with revenues of $50k – $500k, that say sales is their biggest challenge — not raising money, not product development, but rather, selling their stuff. Of course, I like to drill in and find out how they currently sell their product or service. Inevitably, it is from word-of-mouth referrals or a partner that brings in business. It is almost never from outbound marketing and lead generation.
When I probe deeper to find out how they meet people, the response is usually trade organizations, chambers of commerce, or general business networking events. My recommendation for these entrepreneurs: hire a sales assistant to set up and manage sales appointments. No, the sales assistant isn’t the subject matter expert that is pushing the product. His or her only responsibility is setting up appointments, in-person or conference call, for the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have a fear, rightfully so, that if anyone other than them tries to sell on their behalf, they’ll misrepresent the business and potentially embarrass the entrepreneur. It is unfounded. With the right value proposition, and demeanor, a good sales assistant can set up relevant appointments and help start the process of taking the business to the next level.
Many entrepreneurs fear hiring sales people. The idea that someone likes to sell means they can sell themselves well, so sales people come across as someone who will be successful, and the entrepreneur can’t tell which ones will actually succeed. Most sales people fail. A simple solution is to hire an intern for $10/hour to set up appointments and then pay some performance compensation of $50 to $100 for every completed appointment with a prospect that fit the ideal customer profile. If this works, great, hire someone full-time and invest in it. If it doesn’t work, read The Ultimate Sales Machine and try some different ideas.
My advice: hire a sales assistant to set and manage appointments to facilitate growth during the seed stage.