I gave a seminar to a group of students engaged in learning about the psychology of entrepreneurship. You and I might have referred to this class as buyer decision-making habits.
They were very bright students, with great ideas. They asked wonderful questions. Including this one:
“What do you do when you talk to one customer and they tell you they hate your idea?”
The students nodded in agreement. They had just begun an assignment which required them to speak with potential customers. Not all of them had rushed out to speak with folks, some of these budding entrepreneurs clearly felt overwhelmed by the task. Yes, they considered themselves entrepreneurs. Yes they had a great idea and they were dissecting it, rigorously, within the classroom and in their discussion groups.
I answered the student’s question by responding: “n = 1.”
The class didn’t get it. So I repeated my response: “n = 1.” Then I embellished. Do you know how many folks thought the concept of personal computers stunk? What if the six gradual inventors of what we now know as the electric light bulb were defeated by the first person who told them “No?”
Their own light bulbs started to turn on.
Studying the theory of entrepreneurship is one thing. Going out into the real world (even if it is the world surrounding a college campus) and speaking with potential customers is another.
I told them that the next person they spoke to would make their sample population grow to “n = 2” then “n = 3″. And so on.
You’ll know whether your idea is a go, no go, or badly in need of a pivot when you get to at least 25 folks. 100 is better, I recommended.
At that point in the class, the students began to look at each other. Talking to 25 – 100 potential customers? They didn’t sign up for that experience when they registered for the course!
These students slowly acknowledged that they were introverts when it boiled down to getting their heads out of the theory and psychology of entrepreneurship written in books and walking the talk out into the real world.
That is the biggest battle they would face this semester. Otherwise they could comfortably develop and defend their pre-nascent startup ideas to each other, within the confines of the classroom, coffeehouse and campus bars.
Entrepreneurship is an applied field. It’s not an academic exercise.
These student startup introverts aren’t alone. One of the biggest barriers to startup success is the willingness of entrepreneurs to engage their buying public beyond customer discovery into transactional conversations.
Transactional conversations are when you are talking to someone about paying money for your products, services, platforms.
Are you a startup introvert? Let’s do something about it.
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. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business, is now available in eReader format!