Yesterday we had our first ‘drop in’ to the factory inquiring about a TinyOffice (T.O.). A nice man was interested in getting a 3x3m T.O. for his backyard in Melbourne. Now, people come into our factory all the time; delivery drivers, forklift repair men and the kids but this was our first impromptu ‘sales’ visit and we sucked!

For two people who spend a big chunk of their day creating content and taking phone calls in order to sell our T.O. we did an abysmal job of doing it on the spot without warning. For some reason our words got tangled, we didn’t explain the process well and as the guy was leaving Matt noticed the sample of a panel we had sitting on the shelf and remembered to tell him about the panels - which are the CORE product of our business and what sets us apart!

Gosh it was embarrassing, I’m hoping that we managed to keep it together enough that he’ll give us a call back! We were quite comical in our sales pitch so he at least likes us we think! After he left Matt and I looked at each other and agreed “that was shit, we have to work on our sales pitch!”

When entrepreneurs start a business there's a lot of hat wearing that goes on. If you are a one or two person team you have to cover all of the roles that a successful business would possess until you can afford to employ other people. Accounts, sales, marketing, production and management of all sorts still need to happen, even if there are just two of you.

What we realised yesterday is that our in person sales team sucks! We also realised that we are the in person sales team. This observation may sound obvious to an outsider but internally it can take a while to understand all of the roles required and how best to approach them. We can’t be too hard on ourselves. This was the first time our in house sales team was called into action. Despite their poor performance there is plenty of room for improvement, starting with a team meeting where we clarify the messaging and information we should discuss in such an encounter. Matt doesn’t know it yet but it's going to involve role playing because there is only one way to get good at anything: it's to practice, practice, practice.

Try. Fail. Learn. Repeat.

This is our mantra and we’ve been using it to define our sales system.

“A sales system is a step-by-step path your customers can take to make a purchase, and monitor the progress of every lead.” Donald Miller.

We have found that we get lots of inquiries but without a sales system set up the leads have nowhere to go. So we started adding in steps, and building our sales system. I feel like we are iterating on it after every new call but it's starting to reveal some patterns in customers behaviour which is exactly what we want it to do.

Today our sales system looks like this:

  1. Someone used the contact form on the website
  2. Matt calls them back and ‘qualifies the lead’ - do they need a T.O. or not? Yes, then a design meeting (30min zoom meeting) is booked in on that call.
  3. Design meeting is held to discover as much as we can about the project (purpose, size, finishes, delivery etc) so we can create the most accurate quote.
  4. Within two business days a quote is sent to the customer, with drawings of their T.O. design.
  5. We follow this up by a phone call to see if there are any questions.
  6. Ideally they say yes and we invoice for the deposit!

Having lined up the sales system like this it becomes more obvious where people are dropping out of the engagement. Our newest obstacle is between point  5 and 6. This is when people are talking to their local council about permits or now that they have a concrete price they are discussing it with their partners (business or intimate) and working on the logistics of actually paying for and placing a T.O.

Understanding that this is what’s happening in our customers decision making journey gives us an opportunity to help them out. If they need drawings to submit to the council, we can help them with that. If they are unsure of the size or quality (and they are semi-local) we can invite them to see the prototype in our backyard that does a marvelous job of showcasing the insulation properties and general awesomeness of a T.O.

We learn about running a business by running a business. Like every other entrepreneur out there we have to fuck it up so we can learn how to do it right the next time. Luckily we are both avid learners so we are always looking to people who have already walked the path and are willing to share their experiences, lessons and give advice on what to be wary of.

We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we have to go through it.
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