Around 30 Phase 2 participants from around the country joined us at Enterprise Ireland on Thursday for a special workshop that looked at how to find customers and the sales pipeline.
This is the first time New Frontiers participants from different locations have come together for a training session, so it was also an opportunity to meet and network with entrepreneurs from other Institutes.
How to find customers
Finding and retaining customers was the subject of Thursday’s workshop, which was facilitated by Alan Costello of Ruby Consulting, a strategy- and innovation-focused boutique consultancy. Alan has worked with numerous small/early-stage/HPSU companies, and as a founder himself has great insight into the reality of startup life.
Alan’s workshop looked at the different sales cycles that our entrepreneurs may be dealing with, and how to design and manage the sales pipeline, taking into account factors such as:
- Product vs Service
- B2B or B2C
- Regulatory impacts
- Cycles of the year
He also talked about ways to build an integrated process to manage marketing, sales and service, before discussing the sales process itself: the attributes of a good sales person; how to make a proposal; why deals are lost and the principles of selling, such as:
- People buy people, not products
- Sell the benefits, not the features
- Present your solution from their perspective
- Remember that buying is emotional and not logical
- Make your solution easy to remember
- The best place to validate your offering is in the market
- Think about the personal wins of who you are selling to
- Know what stage you are at and focus on getting to the next one
According to Alan, it’s also important to have a trade show strategy. You don’t necessarily have to go down the expensive route of paying for a stand; if you have clear objectives and are focused you can simply attend and make the most of the networking opportunities available during meet-and-greet sessions and coffee breaks. Trade shows should be part of your sales strategy: make a plan, research who will be there, be prepared and then network as much as you can.
Don’t think of trade shows as part of your marketing strategy and sit around waiting until your startup hires a Marketing Director before you hop on that wagon. Trade shows are an invaluable sales opportunity that you should be taking advantage of as early as possible.
Our participants also had the chance to hear personal stories from two entrepreneurs with very different companies, followed by short Q&A sessions.
Michael Culleton – Stayhold
Michael Culleton’s company, Stayhold, developed a simple but elegant solution to stop things rolling around in the boots of cars.
The original Stayhold product went from brainstorming session to manufacture in China in an incredibly short period of time. Michael mapped out the journey from production to launching and marketing the product and talked about how he manages distribution to markets around the world.
David Hurley – Tel Magnetic
David Hurley started Magnetic Solutions Ltd with his university professor over 20 years ago, and they were recently acquired by Tokyo Electron Limited (TEL).
Tel Magnetic produces the machines that are used by computer manufacturers to build most of the world’s hard disk drives and other semiconductor devices. David talked about the sales process they have developed – sharing the template used at Tel Magnetic to plan the objectives of every sales meeting – as well as how they manage their ongoing relationships with clients.
I’ve obviously only touched on the ‘highlights’ of what was covered during the four-hour session. Training and workshops form a vital part of the New Frontiers experience. Bringing participants from a variety of sectors together to meet seasoned entrepreneurs who bring real-life insights is crucial for developing skills and knowledge. The participants really valued the workshop and hopefully this format will be repeated at future events.
It was invaluable to hear advice and tips from experienced sales people who are familiar with the sales and client issues we face every day.
Shane Lynn, CEO, KillBiller
I found the meeting plans segment from David Hurley very useful, as I have sometimes finished meetings and only later realized I should have done or said things differently!
Eoin ó Fearghail, CTO, EnergyElephant
If you have a business idea and are interested in accessing the best quality support to help develop your startup, register your interest in New Frontiers today!