How Startups Close Their First Big Sales

Don’t ever discount, but do throw in freebies

Joe Procopio
Marker
Published in
6 min readDec 30, 2019

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A woman shakes another woman’s hand as they close a business deal.
Photo: Georgijevic/E+/Getty Images

NoNo matter what your startup is selling or who you’re selling it to, in order to survive you’ll need big customers and you’ll need lots of them. But how do you land million-dollar deals with limited resources and no credibility?

In over 20 years of building companies and products, I’ve learned that in the grand scheme of the startup lifecycle, acquiring your first customer is relatively easy. Any good salesperson can sell a good product to the prospect of their choice. Hell, any mediocre salesperson, even when they’re hawking complete crap, can get lucky once. Your first customer is a great signal, but it’s just a signal, not a savior.

What actually matters is what we learn from that first signal and all the signals that follow.

Aggregate value to target prospects

The process starts way before the first sales pitch. Your chances of closing your first big sale are going to be directly related to how well you’re targeting your prospective customers. So let’s begin with a discussion of aggregation and targeting.

All product and service sales come down to usage and aggregated value. It doesn’t matter if your target customer is a consumer or a business. It…

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Joe Procopio
Marker
Writer for

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com