Wearing All the Start-up Hats: From Techie to *GULP* Making Sales Calls

by Mary De La Garza, Co-founder and CTO

Making sales calls is SCARY. Pretty sure everyone besides actual sales professionals feel this way, don’t they? At least it seems like it. We ECR Logic co-founders will admit it – it is scary! Very little in our public service academic/scientific careers has prepared us for diving into the world of cold calling to convince someone, “Hey, you wanna maybe buy this product?” And it’s not just the stress of selling something… it’s the stress of knowing that your business will only succeed if YOU are successful at selling something. No pressure, right? But in a push for higher ed faculty and staff to become more entrepreneurial, we’ve got to start somewhere. We’re starting from a place of authenticity. We really believe in our flagship product, ECR FieldPro, and we are invested in the success of this company because of our value of and appreciation for environmental and cultural resources. These resources are irreplaceable, and consultants need the best tools to do the most thorough and efficient work to document and report potential environmental impacts.

Here’s a personal perspective on making sales calls from our CTO and co-founder, Mary De La Garza, who has about 20 years of experience in IT:

Turning my Fear of Sales into Great Customer Discovery for ECR FieldPro

What is ECR FieldPro? It’s a multi-platform, mobile fieldwork application that aggregates map data for field use to facilitate compliance investigations. ECR FieldPro reduces the total amount of time from project start to completion and streamlines fieldwork and compliance reporting to help our clients obtain competitive contracts.

Sounds great in print, right? However, my fear of getting out there and talking to people about ECR FieldPro is holding me hostage! Why?

Because I am a “Techie”

Being a techie is my superpower. This is my software. Even though I am a pretty balanced “left-brained/right-brained” type of thinker (I think of this as logical, disciplined techie versus emotional, flexible humanist), the techie side of me is really scared to do sales. I need to change the way I think! Otherwise my application — that is AWESOME — is going to sit around with just a few users.

I could just think of sales as customer discovery…

I’m not afraid of customer discovery. We did this extensively in Venture School, and our team collectively talked to over 100 people! The process was simple. We called friends and colleagues to learn their thoughts about using mobile technology in the field and asked them who else they thought could benefit from our product. Calling them back to make a sales pitch still sounds scary!

Would It Be Better to Hire a Salesperson? 

Hiring a salesperson would be great! Or do I think that because I’m still working through my fear of making phone calls? Here are some of the pros and cons of hiring a sales professional:

  • Pro: My time remains dedicated to doing what I do — the tech stuff.  
  • Pro: They make the cold calls, while I’m on hand to dive into the tech specs if needed. The sales person then closes the sale.
  • Con: Anyone we hire will have to be trained to be able to talk about the advantages of our tech and GIS portal.
  • Con: I would have to do most of that training. This means less time for me to do the tech stuff. 
  • Con: Funding. As a start-up, funds are limited and what we have primarily goes to tech development. How do we balance both? 

Progress!

This past month, I made over a dozen calls, connected with several people, and am also waiting for some call backs. Remarkable? No, but at least I am getting past my fear and making calls! These efforts have resulted in several meetings, both with existing customers to test new functions in the software and with potential clients to assess their needs. 

… Calling potential clients is hard, but I must do this! 

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