We who dream of running/do run our own social venture have all been there before…you experienced all the incredible highs of launching your idea, creating the business of your dreams, maybe even found some seed funding from somewhere, and then the moment comes. It’s that moment where the rubber really meets the road and you actually have to sell something. For many entrepreneurs, this can be one of the most awkward stages of building a business. It’s like Ray Edwards says “Mom taught us never to talk to strangers and never to ask people for money, but when we sell, we usually do just this – ask for money from people we don’t know!”.
A few weeks ago, I launched a coaching program for startup social entrepreneurs. I’ve never done this before, so it was a pretty terrifying experience trying to launch such a high value, high touch service. I was full of fear and self doubt…could I sell this? Would people buy it? Who am I to do this? Fortunately, I have a bias for action, so I started selling the program March 17th. Here’s how I plan to sell the program and create awesome value for new social ventures no matter what:
1.) Create synergies with leaders in your space. Social Change Nation is gaining momentum, but I knew we couldn’t generate this level of value on our own. Thankfully, I had already established relationships with the world’s leading Social Entrepreneurs via my podcast, so I reconnected with the top dogs and asked them to team up and create the Social Entrepreneur’s Dream Team. Every single entrepreneur I emailed signed on right away. All of a sudden my credibility went up exponentially because I now had a team of rockstars ready to mentor the next generation of Social Entrepreneurs.
2.) Ask people what they want. I interviewed over 100 new Social Entrepreneurs about what they’d like to see in a coaching program tailored for them. Don’t think you could find 100 people? Nonsense. There are online communities for every interest imaginable. Find them, and start asking people where there pain points are and create a service that relieves that pain. It really is that simple to start.
3.) Sell it before you’ve got it. Take my mentoring program as an example – I have a landing page, pricing structure, commitments from a team of rockstars to participate, and the skills to make this happen. But what has been my investment so far? The answer is zero. I have everything in place to make this happen but I’ve covered my ass too. If I can’t close the seats, we don’t launch, it’s really that simple. Even more importantly, the package is organic. We launched it a week ago, but if we find we are adding enough value to get people buying, we can just figure out what they’re missing and add it.
4.) Adapt, adapt, adapt. I didn’t stop listening to prospective customers once I launched. To the contrary, I found the conversations got more serious once they realized I was serious. The beauty of having an organic product is that if someone tells me ‘I would buy if you had this…’ a lot of the time I can just adapt the mentoring circle some and come back to them with exactly the program they want. Now, obviously, you’ve gotta be careful with this. If someone tells me something ridiculous like “man, I’d do this and pay $300 if you had the Toms Shoes guy there!” I can’t pull that off (yet). So you do have to strike a balance between what you’re holding your ground on (like price and structure) and what you can flex (like adding a new feature or benefit). Bottom line: keep listening & keep iterating. Your first product won’t be perfect, but you can get it close if you keep adapting until you start closing sales.
5.) Make the sale no matter what. Here’s how I’m going to do that: let’s say I can’t close the mentoring program in its current form. Game’s not over. We’ll record the sessions anyway, make them really high quality, and sell this as a self contained online course. We could shift it to a total one on one coaching package. We could get people to name their own price, close it, break even (or even take a bit of a loss) developing the online product, get tons of awesome testimonials, and use all of that to sustain the long term by selling those recordings on an on-demand basis. The bottom line is this: I’ve gotten to know my prospective customers and their pain points. I will keep creating synergies, keep asking them what they want, keep adapting, and keep selling until I make the sale.
Remember, that you work for your customers. This is not about what you think they want or need, it’s not even always about what they tell you they want or need. It’s about uncovering pain points, understanding the people you serve, and then adapting until you find the best way to serve them. Do this and you’ll make the sale no matter what.
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