When it comes to sales, there are two big challenges which come up time and time again. One is that selling can be scary, and the other is solopreneurs and small business owners rushing into selling, investing lots of money, time and energy and not getting any return.
Today I am going to share with you the one thing that you need to do to overcome both of these challenges, and set your business up for successful sales. It will also help you know if your clients will buy before you start to sell!
This blog article is a summary of the related podcast episode.
How to validate your business idea
The one simple thing you need to do before you start selling is to validate your business idea. That might sound like a complicated process but it is actually surprisingly simple. Taking the time to do it will not only stop you wasting time and energy, it will allow you to be more effective and more confident in selling.
Here is how simple it is – talk to at least seven people.
During these conversations, you aren’t pitching your business. You’re listening. You just want to ask questions to find out if what you are offering is actually something your potential customers are willing to pay for.
You want to interview them about their needs, their challenges and the results they want to see around the problem that your business solves. Don’t forget that every business should be providing a solution to a problem!
The information you need to get
1. The challenges and pain points
You need to be specific about the problem you are solving, and to understand how it impacts your potential clients. You need to really understand how they experience this problem, how they talk about it and what they want and expect in terms of a solution. Getting these insights will help you talk about it in a way that they can truly relate to.
2. The resources and solutions they have used in the past.
How can you be sure that your solution offers something different? This is a great way to find out about your competition! You want to find out what your clients have liked, what has worked for them and what has not worked for them. How does this fit with your idea?
3. The market ‘gap’ and the motivation to buy.
You need to ask questions that help you understand what has not worked for your clients. This is where your opportunity lies. This information will help you develop your offer. At this point, you need to try to get as much specific information to try to understand what is missing from the current solutions and what will motivate your customers to buy.
4. Validation of your offer
You want to be sure that what you’re offering is what your clients want and need to solve their problem! So make sure before you run your interview, that you are very clear about how to describe your offer. To achieve this clarity, you need to first be clear about what problem you’re solving, what solutions you’re providing and what transformation and results your offer is going to provide.
To help you understand how to talk about your offer without pitching, and what questions to ask, I have prepared a free workbook to accompany this blog and podcast. You can download it here.
The great benefits of running surveys before selling
Asking the right questions, and really listening to what your potential clients have to say can be a goldmine of information. Here are just four of the ways you can benefit from doing these interviews.
1. Getting your offer language and approach right
Gaining insight into exactly what your clients’ real pain points and struggles are, and how they talk about them will help you develop language and approaches to show that you understand their problems and correctly position your solution in a way that resonates with them. You should literally be able to ‘speak their language’!
2. Knowing your competition
I really want you to think of your competition as an amazing blessing. You can learn so much for your competition! Knowing what they are offering, how they are engaging with clients, what is working and what is not can help you refine and improve your offer. It can also stop you repeating their mistakes! And hearing how your potential clients view your competition is crucial to really them.
3. Finding the market gap
Getting to know your competition better and listening to your clients’ experiences will help you differentiate your product. And it isn’t always rocket science. Sometimes it can come down to who you are and your personality. But you should still be paying attention to where the gaps are so that you can continue to stay relevant and to innovate when you need to.
That’s why these interviews are so important and why I insist that my clients do them. You can see how your offer stands up against what else is currently out there, and find a way to address their shortcomings or add something new that they haven’t provided.
4. Starting to build interest in your offer – and maybe begin selling.
There is a way of starting to talk about your offer in these interviews that isn’t pushy or sales-y. There is a way to do this authentically at the end of these conversations and I share more details on how to do it in my free workbook.
And if someone really expresses an interest in your offer, then follow up. Don’t hesitate! The majority of my clients who follow this process usually end up with at least one sale from these interviews.
You can learn more about how this happened to Gertraud Eregger: www.tandemnomads.com/138
Taking it one step further with a beta test or pre-launch
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do these interviews and validate your business idea before you start selling, and to sell it before it is even ready! This is even more important if you have a new product or service that you will need to invest a great deal in time and money in before you sell it! I highly highly recommend that you develop a pilot or a beta version of your offer.
For example, if you have an online course and you need to spend a lot of hours developing its content, you don’t want to invest that time before validating it. You need to be sure that people are ready to buy what you are thinking of offering before you develop it.
I have a personal example from my own business that I can share with you. I have an online course called the Portable Business Accelerator. I have not officially promoted this course at all yet. What I have done is asked members of the Tandem Nomads’ community, podcast listeners and members of the Tandem Nomads Facebook group if they would take a call with me so that I could ask them some questions about how things were going for them in their business. I wanted to make sure that the problems and the challenges that I planned to address with this course were correct. But I also want to make sure that the course that I imagined would actually give the results that I want for them.
This is why after these interviews, when I analyzed the challenges that were shared with me and the answers that I got from using the questions in my free workbook, I realized that I actually needed to tweak my product. And then once I tweaked it, I followed up with the people who answered my questions, specifically those who really validated the challenges that I wanted to address and said that they would be interested in such a product or service. I offered them the opportunity to become my beta testers.
On this, beta testers should always, always pay a small portion of the price. If people don’t pay, they will never give you the feedback you need. I often say, people will give you their real honest opinion with their wallet. You will know if your product or service is effective and if it will sell properly, once people have paid, even if it’s just to test it.
The Portable Business Accelerator is ongoing and my beta course members are just amazing. I’m really excited for them, but I’m also very thankful because through working with them, I’ve realized that there are some changes that I need to make to the way I develop and use content to help my clients grow their portable businesses.
Through this pilot program, my beta testers and I are co-creating this program together. So in addition to saving you time, money and energy developing something that will not sell, the experience of going through this journey with your beta testers is incredibly powerful.
If you do this from a place of genuinely seeking to serve you clients, you will have such an amazing pool of people who will be willing to share their experiences afterwards.
In fact, another very effective way to sell is to have social proof. So if you have a list of testimonials and people willing to share the success stories, you have more chances of selling than if you try to sell something where you have not yet proved that it works.
Finding the right people to interview
The most common objection that I hear when I recommend doing these validation interviews is that it is hard to find people to take to. Here is a hard truth – if you can’t find enough people to just talk to, how are you going to sell your product or service?
If you don’t have access to a network of people who are potential clients, that’s an issue that is something you really need to think about in terms of the potential success of your business. You need to make sure you are running your business in a way that allows you to build authentic relationships and nurture a network that can help you answer these questions without it being difficult or complicated.
When you do start to reach out, don’t forget that people are busy. Don’t take refusals personally and bear in mind that you might need to ask a lot of people to end up talking to just seven.
But you do need to be willing to reach out to people and to have these conversations. Also if you are reaching out to people and there is a way to thank them for having the conversation with you, I would recommend using that incentive. If you’re a coach, for example, you could offer them a free session. This creates a win-win situation. They’re getting your information and you’re giving them support or any kind of freebie or great resource that you can offer for free as a gift.
Once somebody says yes, and you have completed a call or the interview with them, don’t hesitate to ask them to connect you with somebody they know who might be in the same situation that you could interview. Also ask your friends, ask your networks, ask your previous clients to help you out and connect you with the right people.
One important point.
You need to interview people but you need to interview the right people. You must make sure to talk to people who are your ideal clients. It is great to get feedback from family and friends, but you are cheating yourself if you don’t push yourself to find people who are actually potential customers!
And this means that you have to invest some time in being clear about who your ideal customers are. If you try to sell to everyone, you will end up selling to no-one. You need to find your niche in order to be successful. Once you know your niche, I recommend that you take the time to sit down and write a short profile of your ideal customer, putting in as much detail as possible so that you have that clarity on who you are looking for!
This whole process of interviewing these potential customers can be an amazing way to start growing your network and your audience, if you don’t already have one. And even if you have one, it can expand it considerably.
I can truly guarantee you that if you take the time to do these interviews, you will have a wealth of knowledge to help you grow your business.
You will also get value from connecting with and having these important conversations about your business, discovering how you can improve certain aspects of it or discovering totally new ideas.
But ultimately, this is the best way to actually sell. Knowing your clients and their needs is the best way to convince them that what you’re offered can really make a difference for them.
Take the seven day challenge!
I have a challenge for you! I hope you will accept it.
Once you have downloaded the free workbook that accompanies this blog, I want you to do the exercise with all the questions that I prepared for you. And then in the next seven days, I want you to reach out to seven people to get insights that will grow your business!
When you download this workbook, you will get my email address. Respond to that email with the phrase “challenge accepted!”.
I can’t wait to hear about what you learned and your results when you take this challenge!