Your Startup Is Going To Sell To Everyone, Even If It Kills You

Use these tactics cautiously. They’ve worked wonders for me. And also gotten me into a lot of trouble.

Joe Procopio

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Most successful entrepreneurs are driven by a single mantra: “I’ve gotta sell more product.”

Taken in the “corporate” context, that sentence can evoke images of faceless companies steamrolling everyone to push a few more units out the door — and into this quarter’s earnings report. But for a smaller startup, selling additional product is more about flexibility than brute force.

Thus, “I’ve gotta sell more product” becomes “I’ve gotta sell a product more people want.”

But that mantra can be just as dangerous.

Riding flexibility until it breaks you

A small company has a lot of disadvantages compared to its bigger and more robust competitors, but one advantage every startup should lean into is flexibility. I’m not telling you any secrets when I bring up the power of a startup to bend to fit the needs of almost any customer, at almost any time, for almost any order.

But there’s a point at which that flexibility is taken too far, and the startup can sink under the weight of its own bloat — the end result being a product that does a lot of things, but none of them very well.

Luckily, you’ve got another flexibility superpower up your sleeve that can stop that from happening. And that power isn’t about being flexible in building your product, but rather how you sell it and even who you sell it to.

Call the bully’s bluff

Look, a lot of big, old, crusty customers will try to force you into a bad deal because they can — because they have the checkbook and you need the runway. What they don’t realize is that you started your company with a mission and a vision, and you’re not afraid to fail as long as it’s on your terms.

Every once in a while, you need to threaten to walk away from an offer you can’t refuse.

I’ll go back to an example in my past where a Fortune 500 company wanted me to “erase” certain transactions from my invoice because people…

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com