It’s a common saying that to effectively manage a startup project, you should spend 50% of your time selling and the remaining 50% building. This advice is usually given because most startup founders intuitively spend too much time building and too little selling.
The reason is that making sales is usually extremely uncomfortable for people who have no experience in this area. This effect is doubled when you have to sell a product in its very early stages of development when it is far from presentable. After all, if you put your name and reputation behind a product and try to get people to give you money for it, you want it to be as perfect as possible.
For inexperienced startup founders, this seems like a perfectly reasonable excuse to delay the sales process and instead focus on building their product until it’s polished and presentable. However, doing this is a trap – it becomes too easy to close off real market feedback and build something that no one needs, which is the most common reason for failure of startup projects.
Raid Hoffman said: “if you weren’t bothered by the first version of your product, you launched it too late”. While this quote is about launching a new product, it fully applies to sales – if you’re not shy about selling your startup’s product, you’ve probably started the sales process too late.
It might sound a little counterintuitive – don’t you want to deliver the best possible version of your product?
If you think about your reputation and how easy it would be to close a sale, then yes. However, the sales process for start-ups has another more important goal – validating that there is a need in the market for what you are offering. And unfortunately the only way to do that with a sufficient level of certainty is to try and sell it.
Taking this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, as an early stage start-up founder, you should spend as much time as possible selling rather than building. So why not spend 100% of your time selling?
The obvious answer to this is that you have to build something in order to have something to sell. However, this is where presales come in to save the day. You can define your offering, create a simple landing page (possibly with a wireframe prototype or a video explaining your product idea), and you can start selling immediately.
If you pre-sell your product, at the very start of your project, you can realistically spend 100% of your time selling without building anything.
Of course, you have to be open to the fact that you are selling something that is not yet developed. This usually means that you need to offer a money back guarantee, incentive, early access, and other perks to justify a financial commitment.
While this can make the selling process more difficult, it has a huge benefit – it allows you to validate your idea and even receive market feedback before you devote time and resources to building, which is the part. expensive.
Coping with some discomfort is a very small price to pay if it can save you the heartache and waste of time and money of a failed startup project.