It\u2019s a statistic that everyone knows.\r\n\r\n92\u00a0percent of\u00a0startups fail within the first two years. The single biggest cause for this failure (42\u00a0percent) is no market need. Everyone has been talking about these statistics for long. Then why haven\u2019t the odds improved? It\u2019s because the same story plays itself out over and over again.\r\n\r\nA person or team comes up with an idea. They spend months \u2013 sometimes years \u2013 building a proof of concept, debating which features to include and which to leave out. Finally, they launch the working product as a beta-model, call it a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and dive into building a full product.\r\n\r\nBut by the startup realizes that what they offer is a solution to a problem that nobody cares about, it\u2019s too late. Funds dry up, layoffs occur, and the startup shuts shop.\r\nHow To Avoid Failure\r\nFor a successful startup, the MVP lies at the fulcrum.\r\n\r\nAn MVP is not a product launched before the deadline. Nor is it one with certain features less so they can get added later. It\u2019s an ongoing process where startups refine their product again and again, and never really consider it as\u00a0finished.\r\n\r\nWhen WhatsApp launched, it had only text messaging and the Last Seen feature. As it evolved, it added the double blue tick, groups, image and video sharing, and so on.\r\n\r\nTwitter started without hashtags, @replies or Retweets. Those features got added later. Each feature added made users love the platform even more.\r\n\r\nHow can you avoid the deathtrap of failure for your startup? The answer is simple \u2013 collect feedback on features that users want. The simplest and most effective way to conduct feedback on your offering is sales.\r\nGetting Sales For Your Product\r\nSales is a surefire sign that your product works. It\u2019s the ultimate proof of concept.\r\n\r\nBut most startups spend too much time chasing PR or investor funding without checking the viability of their product. The result is often one of three outcomes.\r\n\r\nOne, the startup sees steep growth and becomes successful. (This outcome is as rare as an outrage-free day on social media.)\r\n\r\nTwo, the startup gets some traction. The press releases bring in people who either take up trial offers or order the product. But when it\u2019s time to\u00a0fulfil these orders, everyone passes the buck. This is because founders were so busy with investor pitches and PRs that they didn\u2019t design processes for sales and marketing.\r\n\r\nAs a result, a weak automated follow up offering the customer a \u2018discount\u2019 occurs after his trial period ends. Or a customer whose order gets fulfilled gets periodic promotional text messages. Startups fail to convince customers to buy from them\u00a0again\u00a0and bleed funds trying to get customers\u00a0onboard, either for free or through discounts. (This is a common scenario.)\r\n\r\nThree, the startup gets some initial traction, which dies down almost instantly. This often happens when the market has no need for what the startup sells. The startup tries to fix this by pumping in more investor money. But no sales are a clear indication that the product doesn\u2019t work. (This is the most common outcome among startups that fail\u00a0within 2 years)\r\n\r\nSuccessful startups go the other route. They design processes for inbound leads before they\u00a0assign\u00a0funds for marketing or begin looking for investors. Such processes ensure that leads get converted into customers. They ensure that customers get\u00a0high-quality\u00a0after-sales service.\r\n\r\nThe most promising startups I\u2019ve come across leverage technology to build sales and marketing processes. They use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software tools to collect leads and reach out to them. They also use these tools to collect customer feedback and check whether issues they raised got resolved satisfactorily.\r\n\r\nKrushit Shah, Founder\u00a0of Zoogyo.com\u00a0said,\u00a0\u201cThe real journey of a startup begins after developing the product, once you understand that sales\u00a0arethe most important element of\u00a0creating any business. Enjay CRM helped us understand our customers, refine our processes and draw useful strategies for the evolution of our product."\r\n\r\nAs a result, revenue begins to flow even before investors get onboard. And with sales as a proof of concept, it no longer becomes difficult to get investors onboard.\r\nSumming Up\r\nSeth Godin points out that this is a way to delay asking customers for payment. Not only does the startup take a hit on its earnings, but\u00a0it also cannot validate whether people want what it sells or not.\r\n\r\nInvest in sales and marketing processes along with product development and funding. This will slow down the time it takes for you to go live with an\u00a0MVPbut will speed up the success of your product. This is the most effective way to ensure that your startup remains part of the 8\u00a0percent\u00a0that\u00a0succeeds\u00a0in the long run.