How to Get Your First Ten Customers as a Startup

Varunram Ganesh

Varunram Ganesh · February 1, 2024

How to Get Your First Ten Customers as a Startup article visual

You’re done with fundraising, you’ve hired great folks, and now you’re at the daily standup wondering: how do I get my first paying customers? Where do I start? If that’s you, continue reading.

Many founders and startups have their own approach but here’s a list of things that we did at Warp, and thought would be useful to share with other startups that are getting started.

Make a list of people you know

Start out by compiling a list of people you know - friends from high school and college, people you’ve met at parties, your LinkedIn connections, Twitter anons, attendees at the alumni dinner you went to, and anyone who might potentially benefit from your product.

You don’t need to write this down (and for some people, this list could be huge and end up being a waste of time) but have a mental note of who could use your product. And don’t lose it.

Get over “selling shame”

An old saying goes: “you never get something if you don’t ask for it” (or something along those lines). No one ever stopped being friends because you asked them to use the product you’ve been passionately working on. If you feel ashamed or embarrassed about selling your product, rethink your product.

Be direct and be precise

Every day, reach out to fixed number of people from your contact list. Tell them you are working on something new and you want to see if it would be useful to them. Don’t say feedback, don’t say “would love to get your thoughts”, ask them if it would be useful. If yes, talk to them. If not, say thank you and move on.

Build confidence

Today, most founders and early employees at startups are highly technical and haven’t interacted with customers / buyers. It is key to build confidence in your outreach when you are getting started so you can build an impression of yourself as a good seller.

The easiest way to do this is to first reach out to people you don’t know that very well. Seems counterintuitive but if you reach out to five of your best friends and all of them don’t want to buy your product, it dents your confidence and creates a cloud of self doubt. By reaching out to people you don’t know, you don’t care if they don’t buy your product and you can wake up the next day and repeat the same process again.

It's okay to fail

You will fail a ton of times in getting potential customers, don’t let it get to you. Even Apple doesn’t sell iPhones to every person who visits the Apple Store, same with Figma or Notion. Think about how you can get a good enough number of people to buy your product.

Get actionable data

If people buy your product, ask how much they would like to pay for it. If they don’t want to buy your product, ask what would make them consider buying your product. Ask feedback about user journeys, flows, anything you can. At the same time, don’t get bogged down by too many data points. What you need is actionable data, not random data points that you ruminate on endlessly.

Don't panic

You have a team of people who are deeply committed to building your idea out, and you have a team of investors who believe in you and the team. Panic only results in bad decisions, and has no upside. So don’t panic, take actionable steps.

Don't spend your whole day on it

Even if your role at the startup is selling to people, don’t spend your whole day on it just yet. Talk to the product person, talk to the CTO and the designer, learn new things. They will enable you to sell better, especially at the early stage when everyone does everything.

At the end of the day, this is going to be a small part in your journey. So don’t hate the struggle, embrace it. And celebrate when you get your first ten customers.

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