The StartupBoost meetup last July 22 at Mercy College offered something new for a change. If you go to meetups regularly, it’s all about startup demos. But professor Mahmud “Wazi” Wazijullah honed in on early stage sales.
Guest speaker was Adam Liebman, EVP of Sales at SinglePlatform from Constant Contact who spoke after Wazi gave a brief overview of startups to prepare more than 50 attendees to the night’s main sales topic.
When launching your own startup, the eloquent Wazi gave his own list of tips. The professor, director of entrepreneur at the college, also serves as guest speaker in some meetups:
1. Apprentice first.
Figures show startup failures are high, with only 0.07 percent or 1 in 1,738 startups making it huge. So he said learn by being part of startups first. You’ll need to get some experience and obtain domain knowledge, because startups have successes and failures independent of industry/product.
2. Have a good team
Not a group think or a bunch of buddies. Complementary perspectives come from diversity and adversity.
3. Get the customer.
When at first you don't succeed, offer a minimum viable product. Test it. Get feedback. Improve on it. Look at how companies like Airbnb lowered fears. To generate sales, he suggested these steps: attract, convert, propagate, retain
And when it comes to propagating, it helps to raise your awareness:, because no matter how unique your concept is, competition will come. So be able to run on empty, but know where your money is coming and going
As the main speaker, Liebman kicked off his talk by recounting the time he wanted to be a host in a cruise ship. Instead, he worked at Yext and later SinglePlatform, which was bought by Constant Contact for 100 million in 2012. Liebman was at Mercy to share his thoughts about what it takes for you to succeed based on his experience working for SinglePlatform, an online provider of restaurant menus and local business storefronts.
“A startup is a meritocracy, so it doesn't matter whether you are 24 or 44,“ he said, just to de-emphasize his early success.
For Liebman, the way to go about establishing your early stage sales is by doing the following three steps: test, tune and scale.
· You won’t get it right the first time
· You get one shot with people
· Learn what not to do
· You want to own the test phase
Sales is really hard, so he suggested some of the following do’s and don’t’s:
· Do put a process in place from Day 1
· Don't set a goal that can be achieved under optimal conditions
· Don't set goals same as your goal for employees
· Do leave yourself room to be flexible
· Make positive changes
· Anchor and adjust
· Always easier to add than to take away
· Under promise and over deliver
· Do try to challenge your process
· Do stop selling sometimes
· Don't hire before you're ready
· Know when you're ready
· Have a working business model
· Have a repeatable process
· Do hire in groups
· Know value of peer-to-peer learning
· Bond only with groups (have 3 as minimum no. of people to hire, so they can bounce off ideas with each other)
· Do hire slow
· A players know A players
· You’re only as fast as your slowest runner
· Referrals are more likely to have success
· Don't hang on to dead weight
· Do change one thing at a time
· Think of sales as an iterative process
· Always be coaching
· Provide actionable specific feedback
· Make every mistake once
· Learn, apply
· Do create a place where you would want to work
· Give incentives you would want to get
· Your culture is, an extension of yourself
· Don't try to please everyone
· Homogeneity can be a strength
· People like people like themselves
· Do celebrate the wins
· Lead, don't manage
When it comes to celebrating wins, Liebman said it doesn’t have to be grand. “We have a gong.”