The Insightful Leader

By September 30, 2023ISDose

12 Essential Leadership Insights

Are you ready to take the plunge and make the business idea you’ve been honing a reality?

If so, you’re going to have a lot on your plate—conjuring a compelling new product concept, iterating on your idea until you feel you are ready to go to market, and building a trusted team to help you test and launch.

But one thing that you’re going to have to do very early on—perhaps earlier than you would expect—is prepare to sell your startup.

No, this does not mean writing an exit strategy (though you may eventually want to do that, too). It does mean coming up with a plan to sell a variety of audiences on your idea and yourself.

In a recent article, we suggested a few ways entrepreneurs can prepare to pitch their startups from the start.

It’s never too early to develop your brand identity …
No matter how busy you are as you are getting your startup off the ground, branding still needs to be prioritized.

One strategy that Neal Roese, a professor of marketing, recommends is to give your brand a “personality”—in short, how it would behave if it were a person.

This means developing a clear sense of who your target customers are, both in terms of their demographic characteristics and their purchasing habits. This information can help to create a psychological profile of your customer, enabling you to determine which benefits you can provide them.

“Establishing your brand’s personality allows you to cultivate a vision of where the brand is going in terms of what it is and what it is not,” Roese says. “This helps startups anticipate future growth into other product categories.”

… Or to start practicing your sales pitch
With a clear sense of who your future customer is, you can begin fine-tuning your sales pitch and attracting customers—even before you have a product.

What? Sell your idea before you even know what you’re selling? If that seems impossible, know that Craig Wortmann, a clinical professor of marketing and head of the Kellogg Sales Institute, thought so too when he started his first venture after a career in sales.

But he learned quickly that it’s never too early to craft the language you use in your pitch.
“You’re trying to describe what you’re trying to do, the change you’re trying to make in the world, why that’s important, why you’re the one to do it,” Wortmann says. “As you do that, find the stories that you can tell that resonate with people, that land on them, that recruit them to your mission, to your vision.”

Essentially, Wortmann is recommending using sales conversations to take your potential customers’ temperature. If your idea is not resonating with them, you are early enough in the game to adapt your product with the feedback you gather.

You will need to sell yourself as well
As great as your idea may be, success often comes down to how you present yourself.

This means selling everyone around you—from friends and family to future employees to potential funders—on the idea that you have the personality to be an entrepreneur.

“Can you convince your significant other or your family to take this big leap into the world of entrepreneurship?” asks Rick Desai, a venture capitalist and adjunct lecturer of innovation and entrepreneurship. “To give up your 401(k), your health plans, and jump into the non-sexy ramen diet? That takes a lot of conviction.”

As a venture capitalist, says Desai, “the ability to inspire belief is the number-one quality I’m looking for.”


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