If you don’t embrace the tactics that scare you, you’ll never know how much opportunity you’re leaving on the table.
Entrepreneurship is full of strange, conflicting dichotomies that can make us founders put on a brave façade, while we’re internally shaking in our boots. For the sake of our company’s reputation and instilling confidence in a client or prospective investor, pouring out our heart and laying those fears bare doesn’t always make the most financial sense. Nonetheless, we’re scared you-know-what-less, and that’s okay.
What are we scared of?
- Dissatisfied customers ruining our reputation
- Running out of runway and going bankrupt or personally broke
- Ruining our careers by making the risky leap into entrepreneurship
…that escalated quickly!
While it’s okay to be scared of some inevitabilities, what’s not okay is when we let those fears prevent us from implementing the intimidating, uncomfortable strategies that can actually move the financial needle.
They say you’re shortchanging yourself if you aren’t doing something that makes you uncomfortable every single day, so here are five high-converting tactics most entrepreneurs will let fear dissuade them from. Don’t be like most scared wantrepreneurs; embrace the discomfort.
As an entrepreneur — especially a first-timer or one who has limited sales experience — it’s easy to assume the key to a successful startup is to “always be selling”. While that may do you some good, most entrepreneurs create an uphill battle by their misguided approach.
If you planned to:
- Brag about your company
- Brag about your product
- Brag about yourself
You’ve probably lost from the jump.
It’s easy to try to assuage our own fears and quell a prospect’s doubts by rattling off a list of credentials, accomplishments, and features that reinforce just how great we, our product, and our startup is. The problem? Nobody really cares.
Customers don’t care about you; they care about them. Therefore, the quickest way to convert them into a more likely sale is to get on their side of the table and prove that their success is your success.
How? You can start by bragging about other customers.
I’m not talking about cheesy, superficial, not-so-relevant testimonials. I’m talking about going in-depth bragging about other former clients who would be most relevant and relatable to the prospect in question.
It can be scary to make your own business an afterthought in your conversation. However, it shouldn’t, since this approach conveys one thing: You consider your customers’ success tantamount to your own company’s achievements, and you plan to work with this new prospect to ensure they achieve a similarly valuable outcome.
Get more humble about yourself and your startup and more braggadocious about your former and current clients. Make your customer the star of the show, and prospects may be hankering to star in that show, too.
You know the saying about selling ice to Eskimos? While the idea of persuading someone to buy something they don’t need might sound clever or as if it speaks to your sales skills, it sets a very bad precedent.
If you approach a sales call with the mindset that the only successful outcome is a close, you’re immediately biased, with giant blinders on. You’re approaching the prospect with one “right” outcome top of mind, and thus you’re likely to fight their every rebuttal and objection in attempt to conquer them into submission. That’s not how the best sales calls work.
Instead of approaching prospects with the goal to make every one a buyer, a more authentic way to make a lasting and positive connection is to facilitate an honest assessment and discovery of whether or not they need your product. If you’re working in your prospect’s best interest, you need to be prepared to walk away if your product or service isn’t a right-fit.
A successful sales call doesn’t have to end in a purchase order. It can end with an honest and mutual discovery that the prospect doesn’t need your ice.
It takes guts to go into a sales call prepared to walk away, unshaken by the possibility that you might not get a purchase. A scared, desperate wantrepreneur will beg, plead, manipulate, and bully their way into twisting the prospect’s arm towards a “yes”, no matter how ill-fitting. A confident, secure entrepreneur with a long-term vision for their company will prioritize authentic selling, and they won’t want to waste their or a prospect’s time pushing a product or service that isn’t right for them.
The fallacy plaguing many newbie entrepreneurs is that, as the newcomer in their field, they need to enter the market with bargain basement prices.
These entrepreneurs are afraid to scare off customers with pricing that’s too high. They instead decide to shortchange themselves and saddle their company with an impossible dilemma: Thanks to their low prices and thin margins, profitability is rendered nearly impossible should they implement any paid marketing.
That’s what I like to call a recipe for perpetual unprofitability, and not one I’d recommend. While these entrepreneurs are scared of outpricing their target market, they’re equally scared of something else: Making their product or service unfathomably good, robust, and valuable.
Plainly put, the solution for avoiding price objections is to make your product or service offering so unfathomably, unbelievably valuable and robust that your price — though far from the floor — seems like a bargain.
However, you can’t just start with your product. If you’re going to make your product unreasonably good, you need to demonstrate to customers that you carry this standard across everything you do. For example:
- Give away a mind-blowing and unreasonable amount of value with your lead magnets
- Make your sales calls unreasonably educational, informative, and personalized
- Once prospects see you make everything “unreasonably good”, they’ll assume or believe that your paid products or services will be the same
To many entrepreneurs focus on cost-cutting and scalability, when at the beginning, your goal should be to build a reputation of raving customer fans. The only way to do that is to strongly overdeliver, and that may mean spending an “unreasonable” amount of time building rapport and checking back in on those early customers. Nonetheless, those customers could be the testimonials, referrals, and proof points that skyrocket your company into a word-of-mouth mushrooming machine that grows like wildfire in your sleep.
Don’t be afraid to give away too much. Don’t be afraid to overextend yourself to early customers. Don’t be afraid that you’re setting an unsustainable, unscalable precedent. It doesn’t have to be this way forever, but the early days are vital for exceeding expectations. If you do this, price will seldom be an objection.
In case you were unaware, customer trust in companies — including startups — is at an all-time low. What that means for entrepreneurs is that disarming those cynical, guarded prospects and overcoming the trust barrier to arrive at a sale has gotten harder than ever.
Prospects have been burned, some companies are bad actors, and everyone’s afraid of getting scammed. Therefore, the fastest way to cut through this sales-hindering obstacle is by reducing friction with a guarantee that ensures you won’t run off with their money or provide a subpar product.
Here’s the problem with money-back or satisfaction guarantees: They can incentivize bad actors to take advantage of them to the detriment of your company, and that’s what most entrepreneurs are afraid of. But here’s the good news: Amazing guarantees, coupled with overdelivering offers will put the good actors (ideal target customers) at ease enough to purchase from you, and that’s the goal!
Guarantees are there to reinforce and publicly declare just how confident you are in your product’s efficacy. If you’re too scared to promote a no-brainer satisfaction guarantee, it’s probably because you don’t feel 100% sure your product will live up to the guarantee. If that’s the case, your first assignment is to fix the product! An outstanding product that under-promises and far overdelivers should withstand even the most liberal and generous of guarantees.
It’s okay to be scared of your guarantee; a great guarantee will incentivize bad actors to smile menacingly and take advantage. That’s because they’re bad actors, not because your guarantee is too generous. That also doesn’t mean you let them.
Offer amazing guarantees, but also keep stellar records to ensure you’re well equipped to fight disputes and put those bad actors in their place. So long as you get exponentially more good actors than bad actors, the guarantee should pay for itself (and offset the bad actors) many times over.
As a former finance person who’s still incredibly pro-profitability and high-ROI activities, this has been one of the hardest for me to get behind, but it’s paid off big-time. I’m talking about prioritizing a few customer-centric activities that have no direct return on investment, don’t get you any new leads, and don’t necessarily increase sales.
Am I off my rocker with this suggestion? If done poorly, perhaps, but hear me out: Creating opportunities to give back to your audience and shine a spotlight on customers, former customers, or even just people who your brand would like to elevate, can be both an altruistic, tax-benefitting, and reputation-boosting activity that reaffirms why customers love, admire, and respect your company. If they don’t, they will now…
These activities can be:
- Offering a scholarship relevant to your target market and industry
- Offering a pro bono service to one (or a select number of deserving or under-resourced) party one or a few times a year
- Shouting out client wins in paid-for PR that doesn’t highlight or even mention your company
These activities aren’t mean to be self-serving for your company, but they will likely come back to you in many ways. They can result in free press, positive word-of-mouth growth, and reminding prospects and customers that you actually care about your audience and the people you serve.
Customers don’t leave glowing testimonials for companies they view as predatory, money-hungry, cold, or purely transactional. They evangelize the companies that are impactful, bold, and influential enough to move them to make their own selfless act of kindness (like leaving you a review). Reciprocity is real, and sometimes you need to detach yourself from the ROI to see the full effect.
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