Founders reveal how they made their first sale – Part 1

Posted on Aug 1, 2011 - 7:00 AM PST

This post was written by Aditya Shukla, who’s been doing founder outreach at Mixergy.

After receiving a warm response on the last post, Andrew and I went into a small brainstorming session, the topic of our discussion was what should be the next question for the founders. At the end of it we decided to ask the founders about their first sale. It is a very interesting question as it digs into the actions of past which have led to present success.

We also encourage you to give us new ideas which we could take to founders and bring back the lessons to you.

Till then, enjoy and learn from these stories.

Relentless Neil

Niel Patel , Founder of KISSmetrics and CrazyEgg

My first business was a SEO company. So when I was trying to find clients I looked for companies who were spending a lot in paid search advertising. I went to a site called Overture, looked at which companies where spending a lot of money and I cold called each one until I could get someone on the phone who was interested in talking about SEO.

Out of a few hundred calls I was able to close a handful of clients, but the first one happened to be a DVD duplication company. It wasn’t a big contract, but I was able to close them by showing them how I could save them money.

Neil Patel’s interview

Breaking Ice

Scott Lahman, Founder of GOGII INC

In the early days of JAMDAT, we were very fortunate to have Sprint PCS as the lead investor in eCompanies Wireless (which was our Series A investor). At the time, Sprint was very interested in mobile games, and their investment came with a lot of access to their team.

In early summer 2000, we were visited by three Sprint marketing execs – Chip Novick, Jeff Hallock and Laurie Thomspon – to brainstorm game ideas for their WAP platform. We didn’t really know many carrier execs at the time, and worried about a potential culture clash. Because of this, we pitched a pretty conservative slate of standards like Blackjack and Trivia.

At one point, Chip suggested we make an app called “send a fart.” That suggestion certainly broke the ice! From there on out, the mobile gaming and carrier walls were broken down, and the ideas started to flow. What came of it? Gladiator, a multi-player fighting game that went on to generate a bazillion minutes of usage on the Sprint network, and, in many ways, set the table for JAMDAT’s future success.

Meanwhile, we never really explored the fart genre, but it continues to be huge today. Chip was certainly a visionary.

Scott Lahman’s interview

Polite Pestering

Scott Gerber, Founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council

When I was 18, by relentlessly cold calling a top executive at a Fortune 500, I was able to finally pester him (politely) enough to get a face to face meeting. How? I promised him that if he gave me 10 minutes to meet with him in his office I would never call again (unless he wanted to me to, of course).

At the meeting, I asked him how much money his advertising agency charged him for his last industrial video. He shared the ball park figure with me, which was roughly 8x what I would have billed out. I made him a deal on the spot. If he let me take on his next project, I would charge half the competition and guarantee its delivery ahead of schedule. Most importantly, if he didn’t like the final product, he wouldn’t have to pay me. He took the deal. Ten years later, he is still a client.

Scott Gerber’s interview

Pre-Launch Mailing List

Gauri Nanda , Founder of Nanda Home

Our first sale was made direct online. Because of all of the publicity we received prior to the product’s launch, we created a mailing list on our website where people could pre-register to order a Clocky.

Gauri Nanda’s Interview

Referral Works

Noah Kagan, Founder of AppSumo

My first sale for my last startup happened with Andrew. I called him after we launched our first product and asked him to refer any person who would be interested. He gave me Chad’s number and I called him on Thanksgiving. After a week we had our first revenue generating customer. Always ask for referrals, even from rejections. Chad was critical in getting our next customers.

Noah Kagan’s Interview

We will bring part 2 of the series very soon. In the meanwhile, feel free to share your first sales experience and yeah don’t forget to ask each other for referrals.

Credit: Stock photos (in links to this page) are from Fotolia

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I’m really loving these posts. At first I was a little nervous about having someone else put together posts for this site, but Aditya has been doing incredible work.

  • http://twitter.com/RMRStyle Real Men Real Style

    Great to see you heeding the advice of your interviewees Andrew – Did you follow John Warrillow’s advice and create a system that clearly outlines your expectations and procedures.  I’m doing that in my business with my content creators and it’s working!   R/S – Antonio

  • Steven Goldbaum

    August 10th deadline approaching. With more than $1
    million in cash winnings, plus in-kind awards, the Accelerate Michigan
    Innovation Competition is the world’s largest business competition. 
    Entrepreneurs world-wide are eligible to participate. The competition targets
    mid-to-late-stage business start-ups. Grand prize is $500,000 plus in-kind
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  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    I’m starting to systemize everything. This is still a little newer, so we don’t have a solid system yet, but we’re working on it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mfarhan1 Mohammad Farhan Riaz

    Awesome as always!

  • http://www.luckyotta.com tony bordonaro

    enjoyed this a lot ….sales are not easy when you are starting out ….thanks again

  • http://www.aaronwulf.com/ Aaron Wulf

    Liking these short, digestible posts, Andrew! 

  • http://www.writerviews.com Michael Alexis

    I closed a deal with a spa owner. If it fits your business, target spa owners (nails, hair, makeup, whatever). They a) know A LOT of people, and b) chat with them all the time. That one sale led to three referrals in the first week.


    Michael

  • Kobra

    Great post Aditya. Great compliment to the normal mixergy content. Also short and sweet, right to the point. Thanks.

  • Totally Alive Online

    Insightful :)

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