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Asked a question 4 years ago

How I landed my first 5 high-ticket SaaS clients WITHOUT relying on referrals or being overly salesy, by using cold outreach in a relationship driven way So, this is gonna be a behemoth of a post, but I wanted to go into a lot of detail since it’s far more helpful to you that way. I think we can all agree that the first couple clients are the hardest to land. This is probably the biggest reason why a ton of founders fail and quit early on. Even if you create a great offering, unless people actually pay you, you’re going to go out of business. For context, when I began my company, I didn’t have a huge network that I could just lean on for early sales. I had to get scrappy and creative. Today, I’m sharing with you the approach that helped me during the earliest days of my business fill my calendar with sales meetings, land my initial couple clients, and truly validate that my offering was needed by the market. Cool part is, I did this all in a very cost & time efficient way. As a preface, this tactic is best used when you are pre-revenue or still trying to figure out your product market fit. If you already have a ton of clients and access to cash, there are other tactics that are more efficient. Before I get into the nitty gritty details, I want to give you some context as to why I used the specific growth strategy that I did (and on the flipside, why I chose to ignore certain leadgen tactics). My largest consideration was around certain constraints I had in my business: I had minimal cash, so I couldn’t buy ads or do anything for lead gen which costed $ At the time, I didn’t have digital marketing skills, so I couldn’t use fancy funnels or digital lead gen tactics As a new company, I didn’t have any client testimonials or quantifiable evidence that showed my offering could add a ton of value I had a ticking clock, so I couldn’t do anything which would take too long to generate results (ie. creating a ton of content, optimizing for SEO, and waiting for inbound leads to reach out to me) Given that those were my limitations, I wanted a fast way of getting my first few clients which involved very little money and didn’t need me to have a fancy website/funnel/content library. If you’re in the early days of your biz, these limitations may be true for you as well. After a ton of initial research, the only method which fit those parameters was to use free organic outreach (ie. directly messaging my audience on email/FB/Linkedin) Obviously, the downside to this tactic was that it’s manual and time-consuming, but I had the time and willingness the execute. As well, given that I spent my 7 years prior in enterprise sales, I knew exactly how to find leads, get their emails, and write compelling sales outreach which could net me meetings. I was confident that it would work. Below were the tests I ran, and the results: Traditional sales messaging DOESN’T WORK when you’re just starting your business So a really huge wakeup call for me was in my first month of outreach, I reached out to over 500 people and ONLY booked 3 total meetings. That’s an abysmal conversion rate. Frankly, it was a bit confusing because I had thought I was good at writing sales emails. But what I realized was that I was going about it all wrong. When you’re an early stage founder, traditional “pitch and persuade” cold sales tactics don’t work. (Note: When I say “pitch & persuade”, it’s when you reach out to someone asking for a sales meeting by claiming you can help them accomplish a certain goal or get to an outcome/ROI. If they actually value the goal you’re promising and believe you can help, they’ll accept your invite for a sales meeting.) After a ton of testing and feedback gathering, here’s why I realized this traditional sales outreach style didn’t work for me: I had no evidence or data to support my claims I couldn’t point to any previous client success stories I was unsure about what messaging would resonate best with my audience The truth is, the “pitch and persuade” sales outreach CAN book meetings in the right circumstances. Like I said, I used it effectively for 7 years. But the difference is, when a successful company or founder gets results out of that tactic, it’s ONLY because they embed legit proof supporting the “big sales claim” in their outreach. They aren’t simply saying “I can help you accomplish (insert big gaudy claim)” and ending their statement there. They’re also citing real customer testimonials as well. They can link videos, a great website, and helpful content. This all builds credibility. Once the credibility is provided and the seller builds an irrefutable and data-backed case that they can help, the buyer will have no choice but to book the sales meeting (of course, this is assuming the buyer actually cares about solving the problem in question). So why does a founder starting a new business/offering fail during traditional sales driven cold outreach? When you’re just beginning, you have no evidence. No client testimonials. No proof. Your website probably sucks. You may have only a few pieces of content showing your thought leadership (whether it be blogs, or videos). Hell, maybe you have none. So of course, if you straight up pitch someone, they’re going to ignore you. After all, would YOU reply if a stranger emailed you something promising the world, if they had zero supporting evidence or credibility? Probably not. Even if you’ve built a product/service that is really good, your prospect doesn’t know that. And you haven’t earned their trust for them to actually spend half an hour with you to find out. Here’s the crazy hack that landed me my first sale within a week of implementing this method So, once I realized that straight pitching doesn’t work, I readjusted my approach entirely. I call it the “Customer Discovery Method”. Here’s the basic premise. Instead of cold messaging someone trying to pitch them, you should cold message someone on the premise of doing “market research and product discovery”. Here is the framework of a message that I literally have sent in the past: “Hey (name), Always exciting to meet experienced folks like yourself that have been in the (insert niche/industry) for a while. I'd actually love if you could help me out with some feedback. Currently, I'm working on a new project that helps (insert the target audience) accomplish/improve (insert specific goal you’re solving for, or problem you’re getting rid of). I’m still in the beta right now though. Not going to try to sell you or anything, but I' d really value your input so I’m on the right track and only creating an offering that people truly want. Would you be open for a quick chat this week (in-person or phone works)? Coffee on me if you can make the time” When I used this approach, I IMMEDIATELY started booking an absurd amount of meetings. In less than 4 days, I had booked 17 meetings with people who were in my ideal target market, and landed my first deal within a week. The reason why this worked was because I was triggering a few unconscious biases and psychological tendencies that people had. Because I was asking for help and telling them I admired their background, I made them feel good about themselves and their expertise People then wanted to help me because I made them feel like they had the power to do so, AND they liked me so they were willing I made people feel like they would have a part of something greater than just themselves When you get sold to, your guard naturally goes up. However, this methodology puts people at ease because it’s more relationship driven. You don’t need evidence if you’re just asking for help. Super profitable, super inexpensive, and pretty easy to do. Here’s how to actually implement this tactic in the right way to actually get results It’s important to realize that this is NOT a bait and switch. You do NOT get someone on a phone call and then jam your sales pitch down their throat. It has to be genuine. On the call, you need to be asking real questions to learn more about your audience, their problems, why those problems are impacting them so much, and their honest feedback about your product. The beautiful thing about this approach is that the feedback in it of itself is super helpful. Up to this point, you’ve likely built your features and tech mostly on your own gut feel and instinct. However, with the feedback you get from these conversations, you may realize that you need to add some features, or adjust the problem that you’re trying to solve, even change certain things in your offering, etc. This improves your offering, and even gives you a better sense of what messaging and copy will resonate with your core clientele. But you’re killing two birds with one stone here. Because inevitably, some of the people you talk to will be experiencing the exact problems that you’re solving for. As you’re chatting with them learning about their day, you’ll hear them say stuff like, “Ya. This actually is a big problem or me…” or “Honestly, talking with you is a bit of a coincidence, I’ve actually been having a hard time with this recently...” When you hear them give you that type of feedback, that’s when you pivot and say, “Hey! I can help. Can I share with you about how I (insert what you do)?” At that point, you share with them what you’re up to and get feedback from them about your services. A few things to keep in mind when you do this Just because you’ve followed this basic formula doesn’t mean that clients will fall out of the sky. You still need to be intelligent about how you find your prospects. If you’re messaging people who don’t care about solving the problem that you’re trying to solve, then you’re wasting your time. That would be like selling fertilizer to someone who lives in a manhattan condo. Message your ideal audience, the audience who likely cares. As well, volume matters. If you decide that you really want to get some early clients, but you’re only putting in the work to message 10 new people a day, then you’re still not going to get results. You need to have the discipline and commitment to find and connect with at least 50 people a day. Any less and you’re not working hard enough. In the early stages of your business, you gotta HUSTLE. Lastly, even if you get meetings, you still have to know how to talk on the phone. Now, I know this is scary. If you’ve never sold before, or maybe it’s your first time building a business, this is super intimidating. I can relate. My first sales experience was going door to door as an 18 year old selling window cleaning to pay off college tuition. I sucked. I probably stood in front of my first house staring at the door for 5 minutes before mustering up enough courage to ring that doorbell. But in the last 7 years, I’ve done over 2000 sales meetings. It gets easier and more intuitive over time. This post is already way too long to also talk in depth about how to run a sales call, but if anyone is interested in how a good sales call should be ran, just comment below and maybe I’ll write something up for next week. Either way, you need to be brave, tackle it head on, and practice. Research online how to sell. If you’re motivated, you can do anything. Lastly, I do want to emphasize that this tactic should NOT be relied on any longer than your first 5 clients. By then, you should have adequate client testimonials, data, content, and cash that other tactics are a more efficient way to grow your business. This is only meant for you to get off the ground. Hope this helped! Cheers!

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