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Offer HN: FREE: I'll make your first 10 cold calls
56 points by jayliew on Aug 30, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments
s/customers/users/; # where applicable

Are you a developer with a MVP / prototype that you're still refining to make it more perfect before you show it to your prospective customers?

5-6 months ago when I started testing my startup MVP, I've had to do something I've never done: make a lot of cold-emails and cold-calls. As a techie, I know that uneasy feeling when you're about to pick up the phone to dial someone. We all know if you wait until you're NOT embarrassed to show your target market for feedback, you've waited too long to get feedback.

So here's my no-strings-attached offer: If you have a barebones prototype / MVP, I'll use that to test your target market for you. I'll talk to at least 5 people, max 10, for free.

If you haven't yet made contact with a single person in your target market, simply testing it with as little as 5-10 people will at least uncover the top 3 major objections that you might want to think of addressing. All the things Customer Development & Lean Startup champions for early stage startups when you're still finding a business model.

That's it. I'll make the cold call, and you'll get valuable early feedback. With luck, we might get a small taste of what a repeatable sales process would look like - can't scale up getting customers without a repeatable process.

s/sales/user acquisition/; # where applicable

Another way to think of this offer, pretend you've got to a point where you've gotten funding and have money to hire a sales guy. Do you know what to do when you actually have a sales person reporting to you? What would the sales guy be doing on his first day? I'm that very early 1st sales guy (where I'm also helping you figure out the sales process).

This can be a very time consuming activity, if you've done any of these initial interviews, you know they can be as short as someone hanging up on you, or as long as a few hours.

Minimum criteria:

* At least an MVP that you're embarrassed of to test with. Could be a landing page.

* At least have a hypothesis of what the customer's problem/pain is

* Give me a list of 5-10 people's contact info to call up or email (usually sales people focus on converting leads into sales, but someone still has to send them the leads to hit up in the first place)

* Specific for this offer, I can't do B2B and/or long sales-cycle stuff where you have to navigate the corporate org chart (time constraint). Maybe in future. My goal is to help as many very very early stage startups as possible.

If you're pouring your blood and sweat by coding day and night ... you owe it to yourself to at least say "I know people are going to love what I'm building, but let me just check-in with real live customers real quick"

Hit me up and let's talk to see if I can help! I would love the opportunity to cust-dev for you.

jay liew at jay liew d()t c()m

I'll take you up on it. I posted my MVP here a week ago for review. URL is http://cilantrosites.com (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2927607)

You can call/email/visit any indie (ie not Applebees) restaurant or cafe. Work your hometown or I have spreadsheets of leads in a few cities.

Email in profile if you have questions.

Thanks Jay for your contributions to the HN community. I sent you an email. I would love to talk further about it. Thanks

Forgot to add:

What I get out of this: I get to cust-dev & hustle for you - that is my prize. If you want to pay me, I won't say no to money :)

That's it. I'm not looking for a job. Or new ideas. Everything is private & confidential. I stake my real life reputation on it.

Jay's been volunteering with the Hacker Dojo for a while. He is honest and dependable. We trust him so much that he has access to all the stuff the treasurer does: bank accounts, admin controls, the works. You can trust him at his word.

Thanks Ms. Hacker Dojo Director :)

For how long your offer is valid? I'd like to give it a hit in about a month or two. And, can you hint on the area you are comfortable making calls in, i.e. whole country or a state. Thanks!

Currently a bit overwhelmed, but not as overwhelmed as I thought I would be. Hit me up in a month or two, I'd be happy to help if my work load permits then. I'll call anybody with my cell that doesn't cost me any more than what I'm already paying for my bill ... so my reach is anyone in the US. Prefer calling cell over land lines (since my cell plan cost me more when calling land lines). I'd be happy to make international calls via your Skype account.

Out of sheer curiosity, are there any companies that actually do this (abstracted cold-calling) and take a commission on converted leads?

http://launchleads.com/blogs/launch-leads Out of Utah, doing incredibly well.

I would add to this, that out-bound appointment setting (cold calling to decision makers, NOT gate keepers) or having clients understand the "value" of your proposition (appointment setting, the above company) is a highly valued, and difficult skill to master.

Very helpful, but unfortunately I won't need cold calls for a while. Do you have any good materials I could read in my spare time?

Honestly, I'm just applying stuff as preached by Customer Development & Lean Startup. I highly recommend those. Ash Maurya's Running Lean has some good conversation "templates" too. What I bring to the table here is not anything new that nobody has already talked about. What I bring here is the actual physical act of picking up the phone and applying those methods.

In a nutshell, I call someone up in the target market, within that first 15 seconds give them a reason why they shouldn't hang up on you, then get the actual conversation started to see if they have the problem, and if they're interested in a solution .. giving them the opportunity to object (you won't learn what the objections are if you keep trying to convince them otherwise).. and you'll either make a sale, or learn something new that you should think about addressing in the solution, or just in the way you pitch the next person. I'm not really doing any justice here, CD and LS covered this extensively!

In my haste, forgot to mention other key resources in my "toolkit":

* Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development http://custdev.com (cheat sheet to Steve Blank's book)

* Highly recommend Lean Startup Machine to get hands on practice with the guidance of lean startup mentors! http://theleanstartupmachine.com

Go Jay go!

Thanks Tristan! Let me know if you know of anyone who could use from free cold calls :D

Awesome Jay. Stoked to see this and let me know how it goes.

Awesome Jay! How's it going?

interesting offer - will definitely send you a message once we launch:)

You probably want to have Jay help you vet your idea before you pour enough into it to launch it.

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