So, you’ve got a great idea, you’ve created a solid business plan and you even have a prototype ready to show off. You’re set, right? My guess: not quite.
When you’re just starting up, it’s often smart to spend some time also building up your nerve before making the leap. I’d argue that — aside from only the most assured and insanely confident founders (Richard Branson, anyone?) — everyone must perform a similar gut check.
1. Practice. It can be hard to walk into the office of a potential client and make your pitch, particularly if you’ve never done it before. So prepare by building your presentation, then try it out on friends, family and close colleagues. Be sure to address any issues of concern and any other questions that pop up.
2. Start with a small fish. It’s tempting to jump on your best potential buyer or client, but that’s risky. Instead, start with a client you can afford to lose. That way, if you can make any mistakes and discover any gaps in your service, you won’t burn your best prospect. Plus, bigger-fish clients tend to avoid working with new vendors who don’t already have a track record.
3. Make cold calls. No one who sells anything can avoid making cold calls forever, so it’s time to start. Understand the most important concept behind cold calling: It takes lots of rejections to get a yes. So try not to get discouraged. Take notes on which openings work the best and which you should avoid repeating. Then, set a number of cold calls you will make every day and stick with it. Eventually it will pay off.
4. Start blogging. This is a more passive approach to dipping your toe into entrepreneurship, but it can have a real impact on your success. If your blogs are strong and content-rich as well as engaging, you may get some positive industry attention from them. Be sure to promote your website and blog when you make sales calls and have the URLs on your business cards.
5. Network. If there is a professional association in your area that matches your industry, join and attend all of its functions. Those luncheons and meetings are a good chance to make contacts and turn cold calls into warm ones. Just be sure not to turn into mister salesperson at those meetings. It turns off potential clients and makes you look desperate. If an opening appears to mention your business, stick to your elevator pitch (you do have one, don’t you?) and only continue about your business if someone asks a question. Just remember, if someone shows an interest, don’t jump into your sales pitch. Instead, suggest a meeting later in the week.
6. Exhibit at a conference. If you’re far enough along to pitch your product or service at a conference and your budget will stand the cost, an exhibit booth can build interest in your business and you may leave with several good leads. Just be sure the conference is a good fit for your company and that it’s well-attended by people who match your buyer profile.
Bonus tip: Set a deadline. If you aren’t selling products or services in the next 3-6 months or year, you will give up on your entrepreneurial plans and go work for someone else. Now if that’s not a serious kick in the pants, you’re not really ready to be an entrepreneur.
How would you recommend aspiring entrepreneurs build up their nerve to launch? Let us know in the comments section below.
[Editor’s Note: This post appeared originally in the Entrepreneur Magazine]