Fifteen years ago I stood in front of a class of entrepreneurs and presented my personal business vision to a mentor who at the time had been instrumental in my advancement in local founder circles. He listened to me, and paused. I held my breath waiting for feedback.
“If you could just focus, you’d have the Midas touch.”
He was right. Focus on one thing, be awesome at it, and super-niche down to what you really do. At a time when I was running seven different businesses at once, my mentor and others told me to focus – and I didn’t. In the years since, however, I’ve learned that that was good advice that I should have followed.
When you specialize, you stand out from the crowd
It can be scary in your early business life when you start to narrow your niche. You’re justifiably worried that you might be turning away potential revenue. If you stick to your guns it pays off, making it super clear to the market what your company does and doesn’t do. You’ll find yourself taking on only the clients that will make you the most money in your chosen niche.
In the case of Add1Zero, we’ve learned that our niche is to deliver an outsourced managed sales solution to founder-led B2B tech-enabled services firms. Our target founder has done the hard work to drive revenue into the mid-six figures – what we now know we’re good at is helping them to scale and grow to the mid-seven figures.
Our niche is founders who want to get out of the selling seat so they can focus on being a CEO.
There can be value in an activity in your business that you take for granted
Sometimes you almost stumble across your niche, because it derives from an activity in your business that you find so easy to do that you take it for granted. It can be easy to assume that every “smart” business does things the way you do – but then you realize that, in reality, nobody is doing that thing that you do, and it comes easily to you.
Suddenly – and this is definitely the case with the history of Add1Zero – you’re doing something that people think is unique, novel, and innovative. It makes me wonder if that’s the case for most knowledge-based work. You have a particular set of skills and the key is identifying that and finding a way to productize the value you provide and take for granted.
How we built Add1Zero’s unique sales proposition
When I was first in business, I started several companies and hired a team of people, and then went out to try to sell things. I jumped into sales and it was horrible. I was awful at it. Fortunately, I was enough of a student to learn from what happened at those early sales meetings.
I kept going, kept pushing forward, and ended up in a VP of Sales type of position with a startup. I did that again, and again, and several times I took companies along that path from six to seven figures.
One aspect that taught me a lot about selling was having to do a lot of written work. I developed long 400-page RFP responses for technology projects. That really persuaded me of the importance of language. Being you-first focused and talking about the value-based reality of a situation – that was a revelation to me. Along the way I built up a playbook that I could bring with me to the next challenge, and eventually I realized that I could make a business out of that.
There’s a lot of work that needs to happen to scale a business from a revenue of $500,000 to $5 million. Part of what we do is to create the operational systems that make that possible.
It seems like common sense to us – but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of people doing that. Which is good news for us.
We don’t want to be consultants, we want to close revenue
At Add1Zero, we don’t want to be a consulting service. It’s not our aim to teach a founder how to sell better – we want to work with founders who need to get out of the sales seat and focus on other activities.
It’s so satisfying to go into a company and, along with our team of revenue operations experts, build systems and, at the same time, close deals and bring in revenue. We don’t want to charge people money for anything except making them more money. We close deals, help you to grow your revenue, and do it as efficiently as possible.
We also work closely with our clients’ marketing teams. We record everything, all the questions and objections on calls, and feed that back into the top of the funnel so that they can create materials that answer those questions earlier in the buyer journey.
We love being aligned with our clients
We’re now at the stage in the life of Add1Zero where we do business only with businesses whose products we really want to sell. They align with our values and deliver services that actually make people’s lives better. There’s nothing better than getting on a call with a prospective customer and saying: “Honestly, it makes no difference to me if you buy this. However, I am so confident that this will make your life and your business better, that if you get off this call and don’t buy this it will be your loss, not mine.”
I don’t have “commission breath.” If they don’t buy this thing, the person on the next call will. It’s a very validating position to be in when you know what you’re selling is valuable and the world will get better when we put it in play. It’s not good to be desperate to make a sale, especially the big sales that will genuinely change your business. You may find yourself twisting into pretzel loops to make sure you expand your services to be able to make that sale. In the long run, that’s not a healthy position. Compromising your niche is deadly. Don’t do it.
Our first client is our biggest client
I’m so pleased and grateful that I picked up our first client immediately after I left my previous work. To this day, they’re our biggest client. We’re proud of how we’ve helped them to grow their business, their team, and along the way made them a lot of money. I’m just grateful to those who gave me the time, listened to my pitch, and then took a chance on this new business. To see them double and triple in size and make millions of dollars based on what we do has been very rewarding. We got a lot of our core metrics out of that, as well as validation. I was pretty sure we could add a zero, but it was great to see it happen – and to have someone who will vouch for it.
The second hardest thing you’ll ever do
If you have plans for a startup, my advice to you is to go and find a founder – and work hard for them, so you can experience what it’s like. You’ll see that starting a business is not all glamorous. As I always say, it’s the second hardest thing I ever did. The hardest thing of all? That’s being a parent – I call my kids my “organic startups!”