Constant changing market realities, increasing amounts and availability of information, that lead to faster changes in consumer/customer requirements make market intelligence vital to your company’s survival.
In order to quickly react to your environment, your company needs to capture pertinent information, process and present it in a useful way and have it become a conversation in and outside your company.
Capturing pertinent information
There is more market intelligence than any single brain can process out there. Your company needs to focus only on the information that is pertinent. Information is pertinent when it is tied to your mission as well as your short, medium and long term objectives. In order to capture all the pertinent information all your ‘’sensors’’ must be on. These sensors come in the form of processes put into place to capture information as well as every single employee’s sense of observation. Employee contribution can only happen when they have assimilated the company’s mission and objectives. It must also be part of all your employees’ task to gather and share market information.
Processing and presenting
Process and present information in ways that will be both attractive and useful to the different areas (management, finance, marketing, production, HR, sales, customer service, etc.).
Processing data coming in different formats, from multiple sources represents an enormous challenge. Look for the various applications, often free for smaller users, which can assist you in this task.
In order for people to want to read and retain the pertinent information it must be presented in an attractive and simple way. Case in point would be the rise of infographics in the last few years.
Have your data flow become a multi-way conversation internally as well as with key players, partners and customers.
This implies that non sensitive data is flowing freely in all directions. It also implies that everyone in the company can and should add to the information that is processed. It should then be shared and stored centrally. It also means that you need an infrastructure to get constant feedback from your key partners and customers.
It is very much akin to the human nervous system. The entire company must be wired (with applications and processes) to capture and process information (locally and centrally) then programmed (i.e. be part of your culture) to act on the pertinent one quickly or store it for future use. Otherwise your company is evolving in a world without any of its senses functioning.
What is the big secret to selling when you are a start-up? I won’t make you read the entire post. I will tell you right now.
Go out and meet people. Talk to them. Build relationships.
Wait, wait! Don’t run away. It’s not that hard. OK, it’s hard but you can do it. I promise.
Most entrepreneurs I know (including myself) hate selling their products or services face to face.
Why is that? There are multiple reasons. The most common ones are related to being introverted and a fear of putting ourselves in a vulnerable position. However, let me reassure you. As humans we are hardwired with the capacity to create relationships. It’s easier for some than for others but everyone can do it.
Let’s dig a little deeper into this big secret to selling.
Go out and meet people
Find or create an environment where people, who are potential customers or who would know them, will gather. Business settings, such as conferences, association events, local business meetups or presentations by business leaders are the perfect venues. You can expect every fiber in your body to scream at you to turn around and run the first couple of times you do this. It does get easier with time I assure you. It even becomes second nature to most experienced entrepreneurs.
To make it easier the first few times bring a friend to those business events. This tactic can however work against you if you end up only talking to your friend.
The ideal scenario is to go with a friend or contact that already knows a bunch of people at the event and who will introduce you.
Talk to them
OK, you have managed to beat all your fears unconscious temporarily. You are inside the doors, looking around, feeling like you’re the only one who isn’t having an engaging conversation, when someone approaches you and starts the conversation with an eloquent (or not so eloquent) way of saying what’s your story? This, ladies and gentlemen, is THE time for your elevator pitch.
I don’t care what any great minds may say about this. Elevator pitching IS rocket science. There is no such thing as the perfect pitch. There is a perfect pitch at a given time for a specific audience and purpose. This means that you need to think about it long and hard and practice it to see what pitch gets the best reaction with which audience in what circumstances. It can be 5 seconds long or an entire minute long. In general, you want to answer as many 5 Ws as possible in the time you have without sounding like an auctioneer.
As soon as you have delivered your pitch, the first thing you want to do is get the other person talking about themselves. Listen intently. Find out all you can about them. Get your wheels turning and find concrete ways to help them. Psychologists, as well as the most experienced networkers, will tell you it’s the best way to make a lasting impression.
Usually once you have talked about the other person and their issues, they will naturally ask about you (if not, move on to the next person). Now that they are genuinely interested, give them your elevator pitch once again. They have most likely forgotten your first rendition by now. Make sure to let them know you are starting out and are trying to grow your business. Before ending the conversation ask for their business card or information. Then make sure to follow up with a LinkedIn invitation and/or an email stating that you would like to keep in touch. Do it! Keep in touch. Build a relationship based on the desire to help them. It often takes half a dozen meetings or more before a business relationship becomes a commercial one. I assure you that most will want to give back to someone genuinely trying to help them by either buying from you or referring you to their contacts.
I see there are still a few skeptics. My business is virtual you say. I sell only on the web. I don’t need to talk to people. Wrong! In your case you need to meet people face to face AND virtually. Ensure your site has chat (video is better) or other applications that allow you to interact in real-time with your site visitors. Your chats should focus on helping them. Not on selling. Do online conferences and interact with the attendees. Create a LinkedIn group and exchange with the members. These are only a few ideas of how you can create relationships virtually. The important message here is to meet people, talk to them and build relationships.