I wrote this to a friend of mine who is creating a startup and I figured that it's worth sharing:
...My advice to get early sales is to figure out what your market really is: 1) who is willing to pay for this stuff 2) where are those guys spending their time? 3) are there partners who are in the same verticals who you can leverage? I would suggest getting hands on with people and investing into good flexible sales people first. Early in the game you don't know how people feel about your software. The best way to find out is to meet them in person. When you do a demo you can sense when people start drifting off. You can see how people react when you present them pricing options. I don't believe you "create a market" as a startup. I believe you find a market that emerging or that already exists. What is your market? Until you can put quotas on sales people you probably don't know for sure. Once you have an educated guess for question #1 and #2 I would suggest that you find a trade show. That's a great way to get in front of a lot of people right away. You can get a modest booth or a table top space and also walk the expo floor. Meet people, talk about your software, set up some meeting for after the show. 70% of communications is non-verbal and you can get a pretty good scientific sample at a big show.