If you’ve been reading our latest posts about the Plan-for-Planning process, you should now have a good business plan to kick off the next phase of your life. Having done this a few times, I want all newcomers to entrepreneurship to be aware of the impact your new dream will have on your environment, especially those around you. Read on to learn from my own experiences.
First, enjoy the excitement you have in your business vision. You should be very passionate about it and eager to get started. You’ll need every bit of that energy as starting a business isn’t for the weak minded. It will be one of the largest investments you’ll make in your entrepreneurial journey and you need to take it seriously. The reason I want you to feel the excitement is that every person you talk to about your business should feel your energy and passion. I remember a discussion with my plumber when he stopped by to make a few repairs. He asked what I was doing and I seemed to bubble over in my joy in just talking about the business. He said he could “feel the passion.” I really hadn’t begun the business yet but the plan was in place and I was obviously ready to start. That passion is critical at startup. When it comes to selling your dream, people must believe that you believe in that dream 100%. If they don’t feel it, they won’t buy it.
After you’re convinced you’ve got the best thing since sliced bread (or a really good business plan), you’re next step is to begin motivating your support team. These are the people around you that will support you physically, spiritually, mentally and any other way you need it. You will want them to have the same amount of passion as you do, but this is unlikely. Remember, this is your dream. When I say YOU, I mean YOU. No one will have the passion you do for this little idea. Not even your wife or kids. I started a business recently and it’s just beginning to take off. It took a little longer than I expected but it is gaining some serious momentum (more on that later). Do you think my wife and kids had complete faith in the idea? Not at all. You see, the world isn’t full of dreamers, like us. Some people just don’t like to take risks. They are happy with a paycheck every two weeks. Well, that’s my family. I’m the starry eyed dreamer and risk doesn’t bother me at all but my wife saw it as a big risk, at least until contracts started coming in and the business grew. Success was the proof that it was a good business idea. Until success came, I had to bear the stress that I was on this journey alone (or so it felt). Sure, everyone thought it was a good idea but they weren’t ready to jump on the bandwagon with me until it was a certainty. This behavior by your loved ones isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s normal. My risk-taking is out of the ordinary. Don’t get me wrong, my friends and family were supportive but they didn’t want to invest any energy into it until there was sufficient evidence of its success.
The hardest audience in selling my dream was my customers. After all, if your family isn’t “ALL IN” then it’s going to be difficult to convince complete strangers to buy the service. But, you already know that it will be difficult. That’s why most people don’t start their own company. Before I began reaching out to customers with my dream, I tried to create a brand around the service I was offering, which identified three key features that essentially made the question of buying the service all too easy to make. I was figuratively laying a brick of gold on their desk and saying “this is yours at no cost.” Strangely, no one touched it. I was confused. It’s free money and no one wanted it. I soon figured out that two things were missing: understanding and trust. These two factors were intertwined and stopped them from even considering grabbing the brick of gold. They didn’t know me so they didn’t trust me, even when I cited the specific laws that clearly articulated the legality of their right to the money. Trust was muddled by their lack of understanding of our service. I had assumed that many customers understood what we were offering, but they didn’t. Certainly, not in the detail I know it. So, I began to work on these. I got to know my customers better and created documents to explain the whole situation in detail (i.e. the problem and the solution). Here’s where I ran into another barrier. My customers didn’t realize it was a problem. They didn’t even know this option existed. Again, I put my nose to the grindstone and created more information to help my customers understand, specifically I captured information on how other customers were doing with this service so that they had a reference for the improvements it would make.
Eventually, they understood but the layers of mistrust were still as rigid as ever. At this point, I thought I had them sold and they would grab that brick of gold off the desk. But they didn’t. Something else was holding them back. But what could it be? The decision is a “no brainer.” It wasn’t trust or knowledge of the service. It had to be personal. But, I began to see this from many potential customers. What personal reason could be stuck in the minds of so many people? This was very strange to me. How could something so easy be personal? These questions bounced around in my mind for months.
Then, I began to think about it from their perspective. If I’m the customer, why wouldn’t I want my service? There are two circumstances where I might be worried. First, what if I buy the service and it turns out to be a disaster? Second, what if I buy the service and it turns out to be a huge success? The first question is easy to answer. The customer wants some assurance that it will work. This is where my references and existing customers come in. They can connect with potential customers to share their success stories. The second question is a little harder. My customer may worry that they will come under scrutiny for NOT hiring our service earlier if it turns out to be really successful. My customer would never share these thoughts with me as it may make them feel vulnerable. So, I began to help them see how to create their success story. When I say “see their story”, I mean I put it in a visual process flow map that shows how we’ll sell the idea up the management chain while providing information that will answer all of their concerns, including why this wasn’t done earlier. This process of brainstorming all of the possible barriers my customer can face, even the personal ones, has become a big part of my selling process. I include it in documents and presentations that I carefully share with my customers. I make sure to paint a clear picture of how this decision will impact their reputation or how others see them.
That’s it for now. Selling the dream once you’ve developed it will be challenging. You have this great vision in your head that no one else can see and you have to find ways to help them visualize it. And, of course, you’ll run into numerous barriers to materializing the dream. Many of these barriers I would have never dreamt of but luckily a continual push has brought them to light. Once you see the barriers, you have to resolve them. Your customer’s issues are your issues. The quicker you solve them, the faster you can get to the sell. Remember, business is always personal.
If you’ve got a story to share, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.