Laura Diane Hamilton

Technical Product Manager at Groupon


Selling Your Startup: Tricks of the Trade

You've built the perfect solution to your client's problem. Your software is simple, elegant, and well priced. You know it's the best solution on the market.

But customers aren't beating on your door asking to sign up.

You need to start selling.

Below are some tips to help you land your first sale—and your hundredth.

Be Yourself

Whether you're networking, cold-calling, demoing, or pitching, be yourself. Don't be shy about letting your real personality shine through. If you try to pretend to be someone you're not, people will sense that and they will be turned off. Instead, be authentic.

Practice your elevator pitch

Practice a 30-second "elevator pitch" that explains what problem you solve, why your company is awesome, and why you have credibility. (The elevator pitch should be natural and authentic, not memorized.) That way, you'll be sure to put your best foot forward during quick chance encounters. Also, having the 30-second pitch in your back pocket will make you more confident when meeting new people. People will pick up on that confidence.

Keep the ball in your court

If you meet a key contact at a conference, meetup, or networking event, come up with a reason to follow up the next day. For example, perhaps you ran out of business cards and you will email him your contact information. Or you will email her the news article you referred to. Perhaps you will make an introduction to someone else in your network. Maybe it's a restaurant recommendation. It doesn't matter—come up with a reason to follow up. Keep the ball in your court so that you can continue to drive the relationship forward.

Find the person whose problem you're solving

If you're cold-calling or cold-emailing, do some research beforehand to find the right person to contact. Find the person whose job it is to solve the problem that your software solves.

Aim high

If your target buyer is John, the Director of HR, you'll have more success getting introduced to his boss than to one of his subordinates. For example, let's say you're introduced to the CEO of your target company, and she forwards your email down to her HR director. You can be sure that the director will read the email, take a look at your site, and probably at least give you a call. But what if you got introduced to an entry-level recruiter instead? Would he forward your email up to his boss? Maybe, but probably not.

I've been in the John's position before. One of our investors emailed the CEO (my boss) suggesting that we take a look at such-and-such software. CEO forwarded the email to me. So I went ahead and I launched a trial with the new vendor, because the first month was free and I didn't really have a reason to say no. But if the vendor had cold-emailed me, I would have said "no time."

Listen more than you talk

When you're in front of a potential customer, shut up and listen. Ask the customer what his pain points are—what his needs are. Let him do most of the talking.

Then, once the customer has described his needs, repeat back his list of needs, including the various ways that you can relieve his pain. If you can't solve all of his problems, be upfront about what you can and cannot solve.

This post was inspired by Barbara Hyde's talk at the Chicago Freelancer's group tonight. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to