If you are new to business, the first thing you need to know is that you can’t sell anything. You can’t. Approach your mom with a new product to sell her and she’s going to be skeptical. So how do you sell if you can’t sell? I mean because, come on, you can’t start a business and sell nothing right? Actually, you can start a business and sell nothing as long as eventually you will sell and have a profit. Take facebook and twitter for example. No initial product, no advertising platform, but they were definitely “for profit” businesses that made zero sales and zero profits. Their initial goal was to create traffic for their websites by providing value to their users. Users are not customers because they don’t buy anything, they just use their services for free. From the traffic, or eye balls, eventually facebook and twitter started using paid advertisements to generate income. Don’t think either one is profitable yet though.
Similarly to facebook and twitter, your initial goal when you start a business is to generate activity. What this may mean is that you give yourself (time), your materials, your samples, or your products away for free or at cost (no profit) until you generate some interest. Our big break this week came from a free stuff site that we got listed on, where we offered to give away free samples with a catalog request. This generated tons of interest and, truth be told, we are selling almost no product. But we will get our materials in front of people who will hopefully end up buying. Not all of them, but some of them will.
I know what you’re saying… “I can’t afford to give away so much without selling!” I tell you what, you really won’t sell until you give away something. People are just too skeptical of sales offers, they need something to dream with or to try. And they need a pressure-free environment in which to make a decision. If you keep bugging people they will never buy, because they will feel too much pressure. So the best thing to do is to give them sales literature and samples, and let them get back to you with an order. Eventually you’ll probably want to follow up, and you may want to ask for the order, but you want to try to do all of this without pressure.
Your best customers will ultimately buy from you because you give freely of yourself to them. You are not there to sell to them as much as you are to help them through the process. If you are the guy or girl they can go to and are satisfied with your service, price will not be an issue. So make sure to always serve your customer to the best of your ability.
So you want to generate activity by giving of yourself and your materials, but of course you need to budget for this. Realizing that your budget is too small for what you need to do is important, but not always because you need to fit your expenses within your budget. More often, you need to expand your budget by coming up with money from investors or from the bank. This is when you really need to sell, and you need to get your facts straight. Most of the time, investors want to know what kind of return they will get. How do you know what the return will be if you aren’t selling? Guess like crazy. Use your imagination to figure out what your business ultimately looks like and communicate that to potential investors.
A good problem to have is too much activity, and probably not enough sales. Be ready for it!