Louisiana Entrepreneurs Share Their Strategies for Sales Success


A diverse panel of entrepreneurs shared the strategies that have helped their businesses land customers and thrive in the marketplace.

The “Sales, First One to the Big One” panel at BREW 2019 was moderated by Greg Accardo, program director of LSU’s Professional Sales Institute. Accardo, who teaches sales at LSU, says entrepreneurs often have an idea for a product but no concept of who the customer would be for that product. “Whose problem is this going to solve?” he says.

The panel discussion offered an inside look at how technology startups and industrial companies have acquired and retained paying customers. Here’s some of what these founders shared.

Keys to Success

Laney King, founder of The Crawfish App, a mobile app to find prices and reviews for boiled and live crawfish, says the company decided early on that it wouldn’t impose subscription fees or in-app purchases to generate revenue. Instead it focused on selling display advertisements to companies that have connections to crawfish boils, such as beer brands and seasoning companies. The app also allows its 1,300 vendors to upgrade to list additional prices and specials beyond the free standard listing.

King says display advertising was in her comfort zone because she had worked in digital advertising sales for years. “I knew what people would pay to be on an app, especially if I could deliver them in the palm of their hand 100,000 of the exact target they’re looking for,” she says.

Matthew Armstrong, founder of on-demand lawn-care app Block, says the company has taken steps to retain a personal connection with customers and avoid acting like it’s at scale. “We still place a massive value on the customer themselves,” he says. “Those first 100 jobs or so, every single one of them was getting a personal email from me.” These days the company still sends those personal emails but has automated part of the process. “We didn’t want to be a cold technology company,” Armstrong says.

Nhi Nguyen, founder of software firm Agilify, says the company initially relied largely on word of mouth to obtain customers. She says the company has also found success partnering with larger competitors to win competitive contracts that favor local firms, as well as with targeted advertising through Facebook and LinkedIn.

Randall Tolbert, CEO of industrial remediation company Thermaldyne, says passion and relationship building were keys to landing early customers, particularly for someone like him who was coming to Baton Rouge from another city and entering the oil and gas industry from an unrelated industry. “Passion drives energy and energy drives success,” he says.

Best Sales Advice

Accardo closed the panel discussion by asking each entrepreneur for their best sales advice.

Tolbert suggested just asking the customer what they want and delivering on that demand. “It really is that simple,” he says. “Too many times I see entrepreneurs create something or devise something (for) what they think the customer wants.”

Nguyen stressed that it’s critical to know who your customer is and what their needs are so you can tailor your company to meet them.

Armstrong says to “focus on the customer in front of you” because acquiring new customers is significantly more expensive than retaining existing clients. “We have really just tried to knock it out of the park for every single customer, and when we botch it — because we have — we make sure that person, whether they’re going to use us again or not, has nothing against us,” he says.

Iam Tucker, president and CEO of ILSI Engineering, a New Orleans-based 100% female, minority-owned civil engineering firm, says to always be sure you’re trying to accommodate your existing clients. “I get repeat business and constantly get asked to be on teams from the same kind of clients over and over again because I do value a personal relationship with them,” she says.

King says entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to get creative with their sales process to help their company stand out in the marketplace. For example, her company in its first year drafted news releases for The Crawfish App just before the kickoff of the spring season and distributed them to media outlets. Local television stations covered the story, which was subsequently picked up across the nation.

“Next thing you know our story was airing in North Carolina, Texas and Nashville and all these different places. Downloads just started rolling in.”

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