Steal the Tricks I Used to Make My First Sale

Photo by Ramiro Mendes on Unsplash

I tell my students that the most important task for a new business is to make the cash register ring. Go out and try to make a sale today. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a website or a business card … it doesn’t even matter if your product isn’t developed yet. Just make the cash register ring!

This scares the crap out of many of my students, especially if they are not experienced salespeople. Make a sale today? What if I’m not ready?

You will never be ready. How do I know? Because I was a crap salesperson too. Every objection my students have to getting out there and selling, I had too. I’m introverted, I hate small talk, and I don’t want to feel like a used car salesman in a checkered jacket selling someone crap.

But I got past it … and not because I set myself some Herculean task to overpower my insecurities. Instead, I found workarounds to make it easy … and now I invite you to steal them from me.

The first sale is the hardest sale. Here’s how I got it …

1. Sell to People You Have Sold To Before

This won’t apply to everyone reading this, but it will actually apply to many of you. Some of you may have had previous business ventures. You may have been a freelancer on Fiverr or Upwork. Maybe you didn’t make enough sales to hit your financial goals … but you did have clients who bought from you.

These previous clients are your warmest leads. It is a million times easier to sell to someone you have already sold to. Even if your previous product or service was nothing like what you plan to sell now, hit up your previous clients. They already know you and (hopefully) they trust you.

Maybe they have been looking for someone to provide the product or service you intend to offer but they haven’t had time to shop around. You could make their decision for them by offering them the convenience of a preferred vendor.

Before Ogline Digital came to be, I performed any and every web service imaginable. Needed a logo? I’m your guy. Needed a PowerPoint presentation? I’m your guy. Needed a website? I’m your guy.

It wasn’t a high-margin approach to business development, but it did leave me with a roster of reasonably satisfied clients. I was able to message dozens of people with a simple message — “Hey, I did some work for you in the past. I’m now offering digital marketing services. Are you interested?” Many of my past clients passed, but a few accepted … and that’s all it took to get my agency off the ground.

2. Define Their Problem Better Than They Can

People don’t buy things because they hate money. They buy things to solve problems.

Want to sell anything to anybody? Figure out what problem they most need to solve, and then convince them that your product or service is the solution.

There’s a concept I drill into my students’ heads from Day One — If you can define the problem better than the client can, they will ASSUME you have the solution.

Some of my happiest clients are plumbing and heating service providers. I credit the success to the time I needed my own heater fixed. The vendor who arrived to fix it not only did a good job, but we hit it off. I invited him out for a beer, and he accepted. We are still friends to this day.

A little tipsy, he confided in me “I don’t mind repair jobs, but what I really want is more install jobs. I make much more profit per hour doing install jobs than I make doing repairs.”

Just like that, I knew how to market to plumbing and heating vendors all over the country.

Yes, you could probably get some business by saying “I help plumbing and heating companies get more jobs.”

But it’s much more powerful to say “I help plumbing and heating companies get more install jobs.”

I am able to define their biggest problem (to many low margin repair jobs) better than they can, which goes a long way to convincing them I’m the right service provider. By the time they schedule their free strategy call, they are 90% sold already.

3. Confirm Product-Market Fit

This is a big one — make sure your target market wants what you have to sell.

The easiest way to confirm this is to actually sell it to them.

Yes… get them to pull out their credit card and pay you money for the product … before you invest the time and money to actually develop the product.

Many of my students hate this. “How can I sell someone something that doesn’t exist?! It’s dishonest!”

No, it’s not. You sell them a product you intend to build. Be honest with them about how long you expect the product to take to develop. Promise them their money back if you fail to deliver. Bonus — this will give you extra incentive to deliver! You don’t want to have to give the money back.

But the fact that someone is willing to pay you for the concept alone tells you something important — a segment of the market is dying for your solution and willing to buy it. You can plunge yourself wholeheartedly into the development of the product, confident that at least one person wants to buy it, and many similar people will probably want to buy it as well.

There’s no need to be afraid of sales. Every business relies on them, and the first sale is the hardest. If you steal these techniques I used to make my first sale, the hardest part of building your business will be over before you know it.

Adventure seeker. Founder of Ogline Digital.