Techstars NYC Week 6 - Persistence & Early Customers

Persistence Pays Off

If Week 5 was the hangover, Week 6 was the reboot.  Most companies started to really hit their stride, and see the results of all the hard work in the first half of the program.

The persistence in business development, R&D, growth efforts finally started showing themselves for most companies, and really drove home what an investment it takes for long-term efforts to pay off.

Whether pursuing specific business opportunities, or reaching large product milestones, the focus required on a specific topic for a long time, especially with a cohort filled with mostly high-tech and enterprise-oriented companies, is longer than you think. 

Does Cold Work Anymore?

This was a question we struggled with this week, and we still don’t know the answer, but much of the feedback we got was no.  The consensus was that in a modern world, true cold sales doesn’t work, particularly for early-stage startups.  At worst, you’ll be yelled at, and at best, people won’t know who you are or what you’re talking about.

Building credibility and trust, as we talked about during Week 4, is important in enterprise, and the modern sales world.  People expect to receive value first, which is a shift.  As a result, you should determine how you’re going to provide that value and earn that trust – speaking at conferences, building content on your website and through other media attention, writing for industry publications, are all possible, but take some investment and time to pay off.

So How Do You Find Early Customers?

Referrals.  You must figure out a way to get customer 1, and then you need to leverage that into customer 2, and then you need to keep going, earning warm referrals from those customers and others, until you’ve established yourself.

The exception?  We’ve seen some success in building relationships, or getting in the door, by asking for feedback and advice.  Taking a customer research approach allows you to have the same style of call you would need for qualification anyway, but prospects are much less on guard than if you try to sell directly.

Make Your Vision Big

We had some awesome speakers this week – Hunter Walk, Scott Belsky, and David Tisch – and while all are different personalities with various backgrounds, they’ve all been extremely successful, and had some common advice.

The first was to make sure you convey the big vision up front – you need to get people interested, and to do that you need to convey the opportunity in an extremely simple way. 

Some keys to this:

  • Talk about the opportunity size, but limit yourself to one number.
  • Don’t talk about features.
  • Talk about what this product lets someone do (jobs-to-be-done) or how it benefits them.
  • Mention some credibility, or why you’re building it.
  • Your elevator pitch should only need to be a few sentences, and the goal should be to clearly convey what you’re doing and want them to ask you more questions.

Read about Week 7 here, or last week (Week 5) here.

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