I have a startup called Snip that makes software for stylists and salons. At this point, I'm doing something similar to sales but not exactly. I'll explain: at this early stage, I have a product that works but it doesn't do enough to be useful. I'm trying to develop a relationship with a few different stylists/salon owners/salon managers so they can help me understand their business needs, so I can be sure my product meets those needs.
What I'm asking of these people is 15 minutes of their time, once every two weeks or so. Right now I have four people doing this for me. They were easy to convince because one is my girlfriend, two are my girlfriend's co-workers and one is a family friend. In exchange for this favor, I'm offering my product for free, forever. (For others it will be $20/month.)
Since I'm all out of friends who are stylists, I need to start reaching out to people I don't already know. It's tough. People weren't receptive to cold calling. I called one salon manager who is a friend of one of my girlfriend's co-workers and she was really nice, but she didn't call me back when she said she would, and when I called back today her receptionist wouldn't let me talk to her, and told me she might call me back later. Not too promising.
I know that persistence is important, especially with sales. However, I'm not actually selling a product yet. I'm just asking for a favor and offering a potential reward. So my question is, after this long-winded explanation, should I keep trying over and over when this happens or should I move onto the next lead?
I sincerely appreciate your challenge. I read your blog post that you provided on Mar 10. It gave me additional insight. I would like to offer two thoughts for your consideration:
A good start up should be able to clearly answer the following questions:
And of course-- the ask.
I would not be a good member of your team as I have no particular expertise in the salon or hairstylist business. My hair has all but fallen out and I can cut it with an electric razor in my bathroom. But if you are a software developer is search of a market and product trying to enroll potential members of the target market to provide you feedback in hope that you identify a problem -- well, that seems to be a mathematically highly improbably path to success.
If I have misread the situation I apologize. If they is a clear and present problem which all of the salons are having that you can solve-- you just need lots of user testing to ensure the solution exactly matches? Then find some and offer them an opportunity to partner. They get stock in exchange for the invaluable IP you need to complete production.
Oh, and as Melvin said -- lots of food! Or hair products. Or scarves. I am not sure -- what do salon owners and stylist want?
I would encourage you to keep trying other leads. Some people will be receptive to new ideas, but in many cases a larger number of people are going to be skeptical of new things, especially new "free" things. Try a couple of times, and if the person doesn't bite, keep moving. Keep their contact info though, so when you follow up in 6 months you can tell them about the progress you've made and how other salons are seeing the benefits of your product and how you'd like to offer them a second chance :) Take notes on your first call(s), good sales people do this so when you follow up the next time you potentially have something you can use as a conversation starter "I remember from last time you were extremely busy because you had just added 3 new stations. How is that going? Do you have a chance to look at something that could help optimize your shop management now?"
Salons and barber shops can also be common targets of random people trying to hustle random new products, concepts, and side-businesses. In many cases the owners are highly involved in running the business, often as stylist themselves. Their time is limited so don't be too surprised if it takes you a little while to make a connection.
It's not clear from your question, are you looking for salons to beta-test your software, or are you trying to learn their business better so that you can create a product for it?