The world of startups revolves around a seemingly incessant stream of pitching to potential investors. While not every pitch session resembles the ABC.com “Shark Tank” show, pitching can sometimes feel more like standing in rush hour traffic with your clothes off. Yikes!
The problem is that you are creating bad habits when you continuously focus on pitching.
The problem is that pitching isn’t selling.
The problem is that selling isn’t customer discovery.
OK, you are involved in a startup. You are successful winning some seed funding via the local business incubator pitch competition. So you enter another competition. Then another competition. You are successful once again and receive more money. You become the darling of pitch competitions.
Winning pitch competitions isn’t real-world selling.
Winning pitch competitions isn’t an indicator that you will even be close to successful, when selling to real, live prospective customers.
Winning pitch competitions is a means of encouragement to stick with your venture. However, having real customers who actually buy what you are commercializing should be the object of your startup. Not pitching to investors.
Investors aren’t real-world customers. They don’t represent the Voice of the Customer.
It could be that the startups who aren’t competing in pitch competitions are out there speaking with real, live customers.
It could be that the startups who aren’t as successful as you are in winning pitch competitions are actually taking their show on the real road and learning to have selling conversations.
It could be that what it says about entrepreneurship in a textbook doesn’t translate very well when you are in front of business owners in the real world of commerce.
That’s the type of customer discovery you must find out about. There is only one way that you can discover what potential customers think about the value of doing business with your startup.
That’s risky business, isn’t it?
Business is risky. There’s no straight line trajectory through the various stages of startup success. There’s no straight line path to investment, customer acquisition, and exit.
That’s when being a startup crashes into the realities of marketplace dynamics. That’s when your ability to have made the transition from pitch mode into selling mode will be on the line.
That’s when you move 1 millimeter outside of your startup comfort zone. Outside of the business incubator ecosystem. That’s when you move away from mentors, and seek coaches to develop your business and land you those all-important first customers.
Without first customers, future investor funding may be dangled out in front of you like the proverbial carrot. With paying first customers, you may find you can defer future funding because you have created a revenue stream for your venture.
Something to think about before you make your next pitch.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to startups and small and mid-sized businesses.