How to make sales early in your company’s life

It’s no secret that selling is tough, especially if you’ve never worked in small business sales before. But, as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be able to drive revenue early in your company’s life. It isn’t always fun, and it’s definitely not easy; but it’s certainly important.

Here are a few of our tips about how to make sales early, and how to make the most of those early sales.

How to Make Sales Early On

1. Start with your friends and family

Once you’ve developed your brand and your core messaging, it’s time to get the word out to the people closest to you. We suggest starting with a personalized email that explains what you’re up to and is written to prompt referrals. Here’s how to do it:

First, create a list of the friends and family members you’ll be reaching out to. Don’t be bashful – the bigger this list, the better.

Second, craft your message. Look back at your core messaging, and make sure your message is strong and confident. It might look something like this:

Hi George,

I’m writing to let you know that I’ve started a new business called Bethany’s Burgers and Beer. We focus on providing special in-house brewed beers and locally grown burgers for private clients, offices and special events, such as football parties. I’ve been refining recipes for the past two years, and I’m so excited to finally launch my business!

If you’re ever looking for catering services, please consider me – I would be honored to work with you. Also, if you ever have any friends or coworkers looking for a caterer, please feel free to drop my name and website address (

Thanks so much for your time – hope to see you soon!

Best regards,

Third, follow up with this group as your business grows. Wait a couple of months, but after you’ve made a few sales, reach back out to this group and let them know how you’re doing – let them know that your customers are happy, and even consider offering them a special discount.

2. Swing Doors

This is especially tough for entrepreneurs who’ve never worked in sales. The key here is to spend the time and effort up front to refine your list. This will help you minimize rejections and maximize the value of the time you spend “swinging doors.”

For Bethany’s Burgers and Beer, the business owner would want to research possible customers and refine her list accordingly. It probably doesn’t make much sense to go through a residential neighborhood knocking on doors: folks are annoyed by this approach. Instead, Bethany might identify 25 different nearby university organizations and approach each of them.

Don’t try to make your pitch right away. Instead, try to set up a meeting with the decision-maker. For example, Bethany’s pitch might look like this:

“Hi, I’m Bethany with Bethany’s Burgers and Beer – I would like to set up a brief meeting with Sally to introduce myself and discuss working together. I’d be happy to bring lunch by the office.” (If this approach worked for Bethany, she might consider bringing a sample of the dishes she provides at catering gigs).

If you get rejected, don’t get upset. Just make a note to revisit that lead at a later date.

3. Special Offers & Discounts

Pick a reason to make a special offer, and get it into as many (relevant) hands as possible. Maybe that means sending out a letter – maybe it just means telling everyone you talk to about the special offer. Either way, make it compelling.

For example, Bethany might offer a 20% commission to any event planner who contracts her service in the month of August (especially if August is typically a slow month for catering). Maybe it’s a simple 1/2 price offer. The goal here is to do whatever it takes to get initial customers.

Another great way to promote a special offer is through some inexpensive search engine marketing. Setting up a Google Adwords campaign is simple and very affordable. We suggest pairing the campaign with a special offer rather than simply driving more traffic to your website’s home page.

How to Make the Most of Your Early Sales

You’re going for a snowball effect, here – and along the way, you’ll be making the most out of every bit of information you can get from your customers.

1. Gather Information from Each Customer

At a minimum, keep a database of your customers with all of their contact information. If possible, segment your customer by gender, location, amount of money spent, and any other data points relevant to your business.

You should ask each customer about their experience with your product or service: were they pleased? Would they have preferred for anything to be different? Can they think of anything that would improve the product or service?

It is particularly important to ask each customer for a testimonial you can use in your marketing efforts. In many cases, you can write the testimonial yourself and email it to your customer, asking them politely to approve the testimonial or offer an alternative. In most cases, if they’re happy with your product or service, they’ll approve it.

Here are a few of the main reasons you should gather this information:

  • Sales Materials: use this information to create one-page case studies (see section 2 below)
  • Quality Assurance: use this information to ensure that your product or service is delivering the value you promised to deliver to your customers
  • Product Refinement: use this information to improve your product or service, and to help you think of ideas for add-ons or new products/services

If you want to understand what is truly important to your customers, you’ve got to speak with them. If you do so, you will continue learning more about the values you are bringing to your customers, and this knowledge will help you market, sell and grow intelligently.

2. Create Case Studies

Take the time to create one-page documents explaining instances in which your product or service delivered true value to a customer. Make sure to include their testimonial. You can use these case studies as content on your website, and you can offer them to potential customers as proof that your business can be relied upon to deliver the value you promise.

3. Develop Followup Schedule to Ask For Referrals

Follow up with each of these early customers on a regular basis and ask them for referrals. Depending on what your product or service is, it probably makes sense to call each early customer about three months after they purchased from you. Don’t overcomplicate this: just be cordial and thank them for their business, and ask them if they can think of any acquaintances who might be interested in your product or service. If they can’t, no worries – just thank them again and move on. If they can, then you have a perfect way to initiate a conversation with the new potential customer: “Hi, I’m Bethany, and I was just on the phone with Jane Doe – she suggested I give you a call. Is now an okay time?”