I just had a very interesting conversation with a good friend of mine and an excellent startup founder, Milan Vrekic. He just founded a new startup called Zora that helps making renting easier. And since we were both working in the rental industry, me with my short-term cottage rental startup Bungalo and him with his long-term rental startup Zora we started talking about sales and throwing ideas back and forth. This is basicly just a cleaned up version of our email conversation that started with the question “any advice on sales?”.

Cold Calling

HG: We’ve seen the best results by creating lists of possible customers and then just cold calling all of them. Phones are old school but they work!
MV: Yeah it should be easy to create “hunting lists” from various sources online. We used tools like Clearbit in the past to get some background info about the person we are reaching out to. Or we can also be a bit sneaky, and have a person that would inquire about a listed property and ask the owner if they have a Zora profile 🙂

Different Approaches to Different Locations

HG: Each location is different in what works best, we have to change up our sales pitch between areas, currently we are finding that what is working in Nova Scotia isn’t working as well in Quebec. You have to adapt to the country and area you’re currently working in.
MV: Makes sense. 

Small Markets = Increased Word of Mouth

HG: The reason we focus on well defined geographical areas such as Nova Scotia is because that way we get the benifit of “word-of-mouth. For example if we call somebody who knows another cottage owner who has signed up with us they will be much more likely to list with us as well. As soon as our areas become to big and our customers spread out to wide we lose that value. So I would suggest starting of with small and very specific areas.
MV: You should offer some incentives to customers to refer other customers.

Being Local

HG: Having people feel like your a local company and they could come into your office to meet up with you in person (even though they never do) creates trust.
MV: Ah yes. The appeal of the underdog. Every potential customer would like to be part of (and a reason for) a success story. I know of a few successful stories where a startup picked a “fight” with a larger, existing incumbent and created a little bit of “positive controversy”. In your case, having an office at Volta also meant that you had a constant, “in your face” reminder that if someone was to book a cottage – Bungalo is the way to do it.

Make It Easy to Say Yes

HG: Offer to do absolutely everything for your customers to begin with. When you are starting of you must be willing to do all the work, which in our case fore example would include listing the property, taking and uploading the photos, writing the text description and anything else they might need. This is true until you reach that minimum number of properties when owners are actually ready to do it themselves.
MV: I assumed as much. I bet that also makes for an excellent learning experience. I am afraid to underestimate the effort it will take to provide excellent customer service to the seed group of customers. I think it is in human nature to underestimate these things. I should play on the safe side and commit extra hours. At the end of the day (at least initially), we exist to help Landlords find good tenants. That means that every action we make them take on our site is just a distraction that is in the way of them just getting to their goal – finding good tenants.