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A couple of times last week, I got into conversations with founders of startups about raising money or recruiting talent or finding customers. This topic also came up in a panel discussion put together by SLATE last Wednesday titled Invent Your Future as we discussed what were the most important skills an entrepreneur needs to have.
The most important thing you need to be able to do as a founder of a startup is the ability to passionately sell your idea. You need to sell it to potential employees to recruit great talent, to potential customers to sell your services or cut partnership deals, and to potential investors to raise capital. You don't need to have a lot of experience actually being a salesperson, but you do need to be so excited about your business idea that people want to join your mission to help you build it into a massive success.
Harper Reed talked about this in his talk at the CEC Startup Forecast in December - follow the ABC's: Always Be Closing. If you haven't heard of this concept, check out this Glengarry Glen Ross clip starring Alec Baldwin (3:23 marker). Whenever you are out at a startup event, a networking event, a panel discussion, an industry breakfast, a meetup, etc - whenever you are around a group of startups folks, engineers, developers, designers, angels, investors - always be closing them on why your idea is amazing and how you're going to create an incredible business out of it.
Here are 5 key points to cover when discussing your idea:
- Problem - Why is this going to disrupt? Does there have to be a better way? Why is this a big problem that really smart people will want to work on?
- Market Size - Why is this a problem for a large market? Let's just assume it's huge....
- Idea/Solution - What is unique and game-changing about your solution?
- Strategy & Plan to Execute - An idea without execution is a hallucination, ChicagoBooth professor Waverly Deutsch once told me. Where is the revenue going to come from?
- Team & Advisers - Who's going to actually get this done? Why are they uniquely qualified to do it? When you need advice, who brings domain expertise to help you?
When selling your idea, there are a million things you can share, but you usually have a short amount of time to keep someone's interest, especially if you don't know them. Having these key points prepared will make sure you can answer most questions or challenges to your idea that may come your way.
Lastly, but most importantly, passionately selling your idea takes some thick skin - not everyone is going to agree and you'll get a lot of feedback whether you like it or not - but you have to keep selling because remember, second prize is a set of steak knives!