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“Get people really interested in buying it before you invest too much time and effort.” Even founders who started selling early said they were too focused on convincing prospects of the new product’s merits and not concerned enough with finding out what prospects thought of the idea.

Some realized that their passion and ego made them respond negatively to criticism and discount ideas for changes that they later saw would have increased the marketability of their offerings.

And if you’re going to offer temporary discounts, they told us, it’s smart to put the terms in writing.

Making early sales to family members was especially common among entrepreneurs outside the U. and for those in the restaurant, clothing, and wealth management industries.

As one CEO told us, “You’ll learn more from talking to five customers than you will from hours of market research [at a computer].” The goal should be to gauge customer reaction to the general concept you plan to build.

“Don’t make anything until you sell it,” advised one entrepreneur.

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Both attitudes fail to recognize a simple fact: Salesmanship is central to the success of any young company, and entrepreneurs ignore this at their peril.When they did go on sales calls, the entrepreneurs fielded tough questions about the efficacy of their products, their credibility and experience, the size of their companies, their prices, and the cost of switching to an unproven offering.A sales model geared to entrepreneurs accounts for the fact that information gleaned during the sales process can be crucial in designing (or redesigning) the product itself.For cash-strapped entrepreneurs with no sales record, the thrill of getting the first “yes” can blind them to other considerations.Can this customer open new doors or provide referrals?

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