In a recent project, I’ve been trying to sign-up venues here in Chicago to be on Foursquare. It’s been a fun experiment in sales and a wake up call to the difficulties of door to door sales pitches. Below I’d like to share some of the findings of the experiment and some of the suggestions that I would make to the Foursquare founders (in the next post) all based on venue feedback. These changes may make those local business partnerships a bit easier and more valuable. Also, note that I am not really a Foursquare sales rep, they are a 3 person startup and they don’t have sales reps, but if they did, here’s what that person would learn from bars & restaurants…
1) It’s tough to get in front of the person that makes the decisions – Over and over I would get deferred to a manager that wasn’t able to make a decision on any kind of promotion. I quickly learned that I need to get the right person before I give my schpeel otherwise the time was usually a bust. However, sometimes I found it really fun to just explain the idea of Foursquare to normal employees. In one situation I found that sharing the idea with an employee lead to a glowing review of the product to the manager, which eventually really helped in that important conversion conversation.
2) Brick and mortar is still confused about how the web will help them – With the blowing up of Twitter and Facebook, the offline crowd is becoming more open to the idea that a web based solution could help them. However, it’s still very new. Even though you and I are “savvy” it doesn’t mean that the value of the internet is understood by all. This will definitely take some hand holding. In order to reach the local business masses there would need to be a ridiculously large sales force, which is why most businesses won’t be able to make the economics work. There has to be a better way to reach these businesses than the tradition cold call method. (proposed solution in the next post)
3) You’ve got to relate the future with the past – These business owners don’t want to try the new things. That’s why they started restaurant/bar businesses and not web businesses, but that doesn’t stop their entrepreneurialism from thriving, they are looking for ways to beat the competition! If you are going to make a case to them, you’ve got to relate what your trying to do with something they already see the value in. Maybe for a restaurant it’s Yelp, or maybe for a bar it’s the economics of a Monday night drink special. Either way, connecting with something they already understand and buy into is mission critical.
During my experience in the shoes of a Foursquare sales rep there were many lessons learned, these are some of the main ones. I’ve really enjoyed this project for a few reasons. I believe in the product. I don’t understand how somebody could take a sales job when they don’t truly buy into the product, it would be a lie the entire time, nightmare. Also, I love convincing people of the webs value. I do think that so many people have not yet taking full advantage of the web and I will always promote it’s use where possible. Yes I’m a nerd. Lastly, I love talking to bar/restaurant people. Their businesses are very basic and they aim to serve. Similar to the game Foursquare, bars aim to help people have a good time, and I’m into that.