My father always told me that every job is a sales job. That’s at least a little bit true, but in my experience, most entrepreneurs are a little disconnected from their inner sales person
Harvard Business Review offered a special issue on Sales in 2006 (Vol 84, Issue 7/8) that included a number of articles that offers a number of quick reads that should at least help you purge whatever negative image you might have of sales and begin replacing it with an appropriate understanding of where it fits operationally across the life-cycle of an enterprise and as am integral part of the Sales and Marketing continuum.
Psychologist and Anthropologist G. Clotaire Rapaille is interviewed in a piece that presents a concise discription of the sales person archetype as Happy Loser, someone as motivated by the hunt as the kill. Usually entrepreneurs need to develop rejection coping skills, but they don’t enjoy rejection. Sales people love it…according to Clotaire anyway.
For entrepreneurs, I suggest you learn a few solid basics:
- Focus on zebras – Even though your business plan says you are targeting a huge market, chances are your initial offerings will only really appeal to a small portion of the market in a particular place in their life-cycle (there are lots of horses, but you only want the zebras). In marketing, we might develop a persona of the most likely customer so that the sales team can ask just a few qualifying questions to can help determine if they are talking to the right people at the right time. Remember each sales activity has a cost and spend your budget wisely. You’ll still face rejection for reasons you may not understand, but you can optimize your closure rate and minimize your funnel by maintaining focus.
- Mostly listen – The shape of your products and services and the way they are priced should evolve with your understanding of the customer. Listening to the way customers think about your product, what their expectations are, and what created the situation where they are considering your offering are invaluable as market research, engaging as a business development practice, and a time-tested means of closing a sale.
- Respond – Remember that “time kills all sales.” Respond in a timely fashion – think about the service you expect in a restaurant, except the tips you’ll get as an entrepreneur will likely be in the form of a positive referral.
It would be helpful for you to have an objective sense of where you are on your sales skills. I love the very affordable assessments available from the managment psychologists at Pradco. For $50 you get an assessment of your skills and attitudes and a prescription for improvement.