Race to Saturn

Selling Customer by Customer - aka Door to Door Sales for Startups


In Do Things that Don’t Scale, Paul Graham provides the key insight that products rarely succeed because of how good they are - more often, products succeed because founders make them succeed. Often in the early days, this means building a customer/user base customer by customer: finding a potential customer, talking to them individually, hearing their perspective on the issues they face and the things they want, and providing value to them.

This is a lot like classic “door to door sales”. In some cases, it’s exactly door to door sales. Podium, for example, spent most mornings going door to (local business) door in their community, talking to local businesses and showing them what they built. Even in the cases where a team is not knocking on doors, they often have to reach out to customers directly, and so the strategies behind door to door sales apply.

This document lays out the leading strategies for door to door sales that can help founders.

Asking Questions Around Pain Points

This article from Spotio lays out some strategies, and includes this summary of a flow of questions to ask from the Sandler Selling. Founders can use these questions as jumping off points for talking to potential customers/users:

  • what have you tried before to fix the problem we’re discussing?
  • tell me more.
  • did that eliminate the problem?
  • why do you suppose that didn’t work?
  • why did you choose that approach the last time you made this decision?
  • what was the key issue that caused the alternatives to be ruled out?
  • why was that the key issue?
  • why was that so critical?
  • what lessons came out of the experience?
  • how much did it cost you?
  • what was the most important to you personally?
  • how did it make you feel?
  • have you given up trying to fix the problem?
  • how will your earlier experiences affect the decision on the solution you choose?
  • what will you do differently when choosing a [vendor / new solution] this time?
  • how committed are you personally to resolving this problem?
  • is there anything else I should know that would be helpful?

more to come…