So You Think You Can Sell?

By Ida Apel

View on Boston Startup School's Sunset Cruise Courtesy of Boston Best CruisesA heat wave struck Boston last week, but that wasn’t going to hold the Startup Institute sales students back from hitting the pavement to put their sales skills to a test. The challenge had a few simple rules: find lunch sponsored for 75 hungry students any day within the next weeks, the catch? No type of payment or exchange of labor can be involved.

Having learned about cold calling the previous day, some of us jumped right to the phone to call restaurants interested in getting on board. Some teams, like mine, starting hunting through the hot summer streets of Harvard Square to find restaurants to approach in person. We were lucky to land some victories early: Peter Ahn from Bon Chon (57 JF Kennedy St, Cambridge) was immediately interested in promoting his Korean Barbeque restaurant, having just opened up the location in Harvard Square and is looking to spread the word.

Startup School students lining up for pizza from Stone Hearth Pizza

Over the course of the day our students were able to secure partnerships with Anna’s TaqueriaBejing TokyoBon ChonBoston Best CruisesFive Hour EnergyPita PitGrendel’s DenStone Hearth PizzaSweet Idea and Wagamama.

What seemed challenging at the beginning of the day turned into a validation of our sales lessons at the Startup Institute: Identify what values most for the prospect and structure your value proposition accordingly. Don’t sell yourself short - you have something to offer, which means you are not asking “for a free lunch”, it’s a quid pro quo. Be persistent with following up. Always try to figure out if there’s a fit or not, and qualify in or out quickly.

Lunch by WagamamaOr use reverse negative psychology, as our sales trainer, Jim Kearney, would have approached the challenge: “you wouldn’t be interested in reaching out to Boston’s Entrepreneurial scene and Startup leaders, that could potentially grow your business, would you?”


Photos by Jingni Wei from top to bottom: View on The Startup Institute’s sunset cruise courtesy of Boston Best Cruise, Startup School students lining up for pizza from Stone Hearth Pizza, Wagamama comes to the iLab