When building your business from the ground up, you're bound to make mistakes. It's human nature. Luckily, many have come before you and you can learn from their past missteps. When working with young businesses, I love finding new ways to help them avoid making the same mistakes I’ve witnessed before and set them on a rapid path to success.
Throughout my career, I've been able to turn entrepreneurs with little or no sales experience into sales experts. Or at least teach them how to recognize and hire the right expert for them. Here are a few of the mistakes I see most often.
Setting Unrealistic Prices or Using Antiquated Pricing Models
Overvaluing your product is not a quick way to increase your profits; it’s a quick way to turn off potential customers. That’s not to say you should undervalue your product or become the “cheap” alternative—that’s just as bad, if not worse. Price your product fairly and align with market expectations. Be creative at the early stages and find ways to close fair deals. Don’t draw a line in the sand, but do be aware that you will be setting a “street price” by heavily discounting your offering. Be disciplined and creative in explaining deals designed to win reference customers and expand your early customer base.
If you don't have a realistic and sustainable pricing model, you need one now. Try different models in different markets and see what works best.
Failing to Prospect
Prospecting is one of the most important components of building a sales pipeline. Whether by email, phone, networking at conferences, social media or in line at your local coffee shop, actively searching for new customers is a must. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs avoid outbound sales efforts and leveraging their networks to find interested buyers.
You may have an important message and a great product, but if no one knows about you, you won’t be in business very long. Focus your energy on prospecting and shout your message from the rooftops. People will respect your passion and self-identify when they feel they’re ready to speak with sales.
Selling to Everyone
Many make the mistake of thinking their product or service is for everyone. It's not. Even Coca Cola with its large market share doesn't appeal to everyone. Plus, if you sell to everyone, how do you define your target market?
It’s okay to be choosy. Your product may appeal to a tech nerd in his early thirties or a CEO looking to impact her bottom line. It may appeal to both, but it probably doesn't. You have a target audience and associated buyer personas. Document your strategy and results, then revise your target markets and buyers quickly to improve performance when results don’t meet expectations.
Selling Features Instead of Solutions
People will not buy your product based on a brain-dump of features, bells, and whistles. People will buy your product if it solves a current business challenge. When selling to new prospects, take a step back and address the “why” issues rather than the “how” issues. Start at the beginning, tell your story, and don’t go into a deep dive description until your potential buyer signals you have something they want or need. The goal is not to sell product features—the goal is to find people who want to hear more about your product because it will help them do their job better.
If your audience can't immediately understand the ultimate business value, it won't matter how great the features are. That's why it's important to listen to the problems of your audience and give direct feedback on how your product solves their problems and gives value to their business.
Failing to Qualify Leads
Securing a highly qualified lead is tough. You want to find people with buying power or have influence over stakeholders. This involves a complex process of asking hard questions about their budget, buying authority, and purchasing process. You don’t want a pipeline filled with people who don’t have budget or authority to purchase. You will save a lot of time if you find connect with prospects and extract the information you need to properly qualify them.
Don’t make this into a tension filled Q&A exercise, but rather engage in a conversation that allows you to get the information without offending the prospect. People won’t simply tell you that they don’t have buying authority or budget if they really want to buy something. They will coach you into how to sell to their company as long as the conversation flows effectively.
Learn from those that came before you and correct mistakes quickly and decisively. There’s ZERO chance the market will respond the way you expect, but if you have a plan, you can process the data quickly and refine for rapid success.
And don’t be too proud to consult an expert. Sometimes it takes an outsider to separate the emotion and passion from the plan and the data.