The line between being a persistent salesperson and being a pest


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?


asked Mar 11 '11 at 05:10
Jason Swett
555 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

2 Answers


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:

  • You are asking early adopters to be unpaid members of your R&D department. You are taking from them their experience (intellectual capital) in order to build a product that then you will be able to sell.
  • Find one critical essential feature -- and make that the foundational application -- and give it away free to build a user base. Treat that user base as the group to design features for that they will pay for. Perhaps build a community engagement component of the service that allows them to prioritize the features that they would be willing to pay for. You could then track actual conversion of free to paid as those features are introduced. From that you will be able to develop a scalable development budget for yourself.

A good start up should be able to clearly answer the following questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the solution?
  • What is the opportunity?
  • Who is the team?
  • What is the ask?
So what is the problem right now? I see hundreds of software solutions for salons and stylists. From ERPs to client-facing scheduling sites. What is the specific and particular problem that you have identified? What is the actual cost of that problem to salons and stylist? What is the solution? Specifically what is it? How does it respond to the actual cost, and address the real problem. What is the opportunity? How big of a market is this? Who says so? And how is it targeted? What is a reasonable percentage of that market you could gain for what amount of investment (time/money)? Who is the team? Why is this team unique qualified to solve this problem and sieze this opportunity?

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?

answered Mar 21 '11 at 14:26
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points


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?

answered Mar 11 '11 at 05:34
Brian Karas
3,407 points
  • Thanks for the feedback. That's really helpful. To clarify, I'm looking for people who can help me understand their business needs, plus look at my software (in the form of a formal usability test) to make sure it meets their needs. A more detailed explanation here: Swett 12 years ago

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