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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Advice on handling new sales prospect

The purpose of this post is 1) to solicit pats on the back and encouragement from my fellow bootstrappers and 2) to ask for advice on how to best handle this new opportunity I have.

I have a hair salon scheduling product ( http://www.sniphq.com/ ) that currently has two paying customers (and one special free user). I used to do canvassing to acquire new customers, but my current time constraints don't allow that, and so I've been working on marketing my product online. I've had many dozens of "prospects" (many "prospects" evidently being e.g. curious BoS members) sign up for free trials, but I haven't yet had an online prospect turn into a paying customer.

Last Saturday I had someone sign up for a free trial and, when I googled the person's name and email address, I discovered that the salon was incidentally just a 2.5 hour drive from me. (I'm in Grand Rapids, MI and they're just outside of Detroit.)

Like I do with all my identifiable prospects, I sent a thank-you card in the mail and called the salon on the phone. I offered to drive over and do an all-day training session with the prospect, answer any questions she had, etc. The salon owner agreed and I'm scheduled to spend this Wednesday at her salon. I've done this four times before and each time it has resulted in a paying customer relationship (except the first salon who got it for free). One of those four salons eventually dropped off, but they stayed for multiple months prior. Needless to say, I'm pretty pumped about it.

I do have a couple concerns. One is that this salon has 16 stylists but my schedule screen can just barely handle 12 stylists. I guess all I can do there is work as much as I can between now and Wednesday to make the schedule page fit 16 stylists.

My other concern is that the product just isn't good enough. Snip works fine for my existing customers who have 1, 8 and 12 stylists each. I guess I just have this nagging feeling that getting more customers is too good to be true. I know that's a lame attitude but I'm having a hard time shaking it for some reason.

Despite those concerns, this is not my first rodeo (it will be my fifth rodeo, to be exact), and I know how to run an onboarding/training session successfully. As long as the salon doesn't have an absolute need for something I can't make Snip do anytime soon (which is unlikely since they're just using pen and paper now), I think it should go fine. I think I actually just alleviated all my own concerns. Snip is unquestionably a significant step up from pen and paper.

Anyway, any advice or words of encouragement would be helpful. Thanks in advance!
Jason Swett Send private email
Saturday, August 03, 2013
Ask them for some feedback on your website at the end of the training session, after you have secured the deal.  This is your target market after all, so it's a very good time for some market research!
Andrew Gibson Send private email
Saturday, August 03, 2013
That's a really good idea, thanks. I will do that.
Jason Swett Send private email
Saturday, August 03, 2013
> One is that this salon has 16 stylists but my schedule screen can just barely handle 12 stylists.

Make it be able to handle an arbitrary number of stylists. 

I have other comments, but I'd rather not put them here.  Email me if you want.
Racky Send private email
Saturday, August 03, 2013
Racky, I don't see your email listed anywhere. If you want to email your thoughts to me at jason@sniphq.com, that would be appreciated. Thanks.
Jason Swett Send private email
Saturday, August 03, 2013
You can click the email symbol next to Racky's name at the bottom of posts.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Saturday, August 03, 2013
This seems really straightforward. You go through your hands on demo and set up and mention that you noticed they had 16 and you only comfortably handle 12 per screen. You mention that you are thinking of adding a tab so that one can select between 1-12 and 13-24. Or maybe even 1-10 and 11-20 and have a little room. Maybe it's even configurable how many tabs per screen since someone using this on a phone might only have room for 4 slots per tab.

You ask if they would be willing to test out the new version when it's ready. They'll say yes. Then you go home and work your ass off this weekend to get this done. Then next week you install and  train on the new version.

Your software is pricey, but if you are showing up, talking, getting feedback, training, and making modifications, you will very likely have a customer for life because they are going to weight the amazing opportunity of having you in the area and being able to talk to you on the phone and stuff if there are problems. They will know you're not some faceless support person using broken english who doesn't know what a stylist is.
Scott Send private email
Saturday, August 03, 2013
Oh yes as Andrew mentions main goal is to seal the deal there, definitely so. But you'll really seal it, meaning they commit to staying with the product for a long time, when you do fast delivery of something they need.
Scott Send private email
Saturday, August 03, 2013
>My other concern is that the product just isn't good enough.

We all suffer this from time to time. But no product is perfect. Try not to compare your product with your idealized perfect version of it. instead compare it with your competitors and the dog eared appointment book they are probably using right now.

BTW I understand that supermodels look in the mirror and just see imperfections. It is human nature.
Andy Brice Send private email
Monday, August 05, 2013
@Andy: Yes, you're right, we do.  :-)
Richie Hindle Send private email
Monday, August 05, 2013
Thanks for that thought, Andy. That does make me feel a little bit more confident.
Jason Swett Send private email
Monday, August 05, 2013
I've had a gnarler of a day, so take this with a great of NaCl, but I think, though Andy's point about supermodels is legitimate,

  ** sometimes the product really *isn't* good enough.  **

Sometimes the producer knows that, sometimes s/he doesn't.  And if you extend the word "product" to encompass the web site that sells the product, you have an even stronger case. 

So there is a good trench between being irrationally self-critical on  and having Dunning-Kruger -like over-confidence.  This forum ought to help navigate that.
Racky Send private email
Monday, August 05, 2013

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