Thursday, November 16, 2006

The first sale is the biggest

Think about this: you are a startup, and have spent months or years and scads of capital building your business-to-business product or service offering. Now it's time to sell it.

How much is that first sale worth?

Now look at it from the other side. Imagine you are the prospective customer. You are bringing this purchase in front of your executive committee for approval.

They ask:
"Who else is using it?"
"What is the track record of the company?"
"How do we know it's going to work?"

Does this give you an impression why the first sale typically requires significant discounting, intensive support... and delicate, high-performance selling?

The salesperson sits in front of the customer and convinces him/her/them to buy this unproven product. Most of the tools he relies on to sell--references, success stories, company reputation, honors and awards--are unavailable. Yet, at the end of the day, what closes the deal? Not the discounts, not the incredible capabilities of the system. It is the reputation, trustworthiness and power of the salesperson.

At the end of the day, that first customer buys the salesperson, not the product.

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