TL;DR: Add more value than you extract. Build real relationships. Follow up humanely.
Jul 28, 2019
I started Loki.ai in September 2017 as a solo, bootstrapped entrepreneur. Since then, the business has rapidly grown and become profitable — with no investment in marketing or PR.
All of our business has come through direct sales, which seems to be norm for products at our price point (≥$1,000/month). As a mostly introverted programmer, learning how to sell has been my biggest challenge.
Have gotten slightly better at the process over the last 2 years, and have tried to distill lessons learnt in this post — with hope that they might provide some value to others.
1A. Don’t send a standard sales deck to a potential customer you’ve just met. Instead, take the time to understand her problems, identify whether your product will be the right solution for her, and customise your deck/sales-document to ensure that you address her team’s need.
This takes longer than simply sharing a standard sales deck, but tends to result in higher conversions and shorter sales cycles.
1B. Don’t abandon the relationship after a sale has been made. Stay in touch with customers. Share interesting industry insights, share product updates, and check in to to see how your products are being used.
1C. Provide exceptional customer support. Help your customers extract value out of your products. Often, this means resolving integration issues, making minor customisations, and giving suggestions about improving the status quo.
This takes time, but creates enormous goodwill, along with opportunities for up-selling. Ensure that you budget time and resources for post-sales customer support.
2A. Don’t abuse people’s time. When someone is gracious enough to give you their phone number or email, don’t abuse it by spamming them with requests every day. Never call people without their permission, use text rarely (never text someone to ask “Did you receive my email?”), and be cautious with your email frequency. Try to limit emails to once a week (or, at most, twice a week).
2B. Know when it’s time to give up. If you have emailed someone thrice and they haven’t responded — they’re probably too busy or not interested. Don’t try to force the issue immediately. But do follow up a month or two later to politely check in again.
Create more value for clients (either in additional revenue or in cost savings) than what you’re asking them to pay you.
3A. Don’t use your cost-structure to justify your price: If a client wants to negotiate on price, never say, “This cost us $X to create. Please pay us $1.2X so we can serve you while making a small profit”.
Instead, do the math to identify value for your clients. A pitch like “You’ll get $Y in savings with this product. We propose a fees of $0.5Y. It’ll cost you far more to develop in-house, and our competitors are less reliable than we are. Come work with us.” is a far more compelling.