The Not-So-Magic Sales Formula For Startups
At least since the time of famous bestselling books like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, or Richard St. John’s “8 to Be Great: The 8-Traits That Lead to Great Success” we have loved knowing what the best of the best among us think, and how they act. We love to study golden methods and “secret” techniques.
By the way, both those books are an absolutely must for every salesperson. They very accurately present a set of patterns of thinking and acting that can make a sales process not only extremely effective but also fascinating.
However, if you do not have the time to read the whole books now, I can recommend that you, in the first place, put in into practice two of seven habits Steven Covey’ book, and three from Richard St. John’s text. From “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, develop a habit of “being proactive” and a mode of “seeking first to understand, and then to be understood”. In “8 to be Great” you will find an absolutely fantastic concept to “focus” and then to “push” yourself.
I will get back to ideas from these book a bit later, but now let’s move to the main topic of this short analysis for salespeople who work in startups.
You can divide all your sales activity into three areas. These are highly interconnected, they influence and support each other. You cannot do just one or two to be successful in sales, you need to implement all of them. It is like a triathlon: if you want to win you cannot only swim, or swim and run or bike only, you need to swim and run and bike. If, for some reason, you do not like sport (although, please remember that for the good overall condition of every salesperson sport is absolute must!), imagine your favourite drink. If it is gin with tonic and ice you cannot drink tonic only or gin only, or tonic and ice without gin. In order to have a proper, tasty drink you need to prepare a liquid with gin and tonic and ice. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “everything connects to everything else.”
The formula is very simple; in fact, it is possible that you have already heard about it. But even so, think about it again and hopefully use it in your sales process management.
This formula consists of your attitude, your behaviour, and your skills.
Attitude is made up of beliefs, mindset, self-image, commitment, courage and mental readiness, to name a few of its most important components.
If you want to sell in a devilishly competitive and complex startup environment you need to develop a proper attitude. Carefully study everything which could help you comprehend what attitude is and how you can practice the best attitude for you sales performance. I can recommend you two books. Firstly, “Attitude is Everything: Change Your Attitude…and You Change Your Life!” by Jeff Keller. The second book will help you overcome probably the greatest enemy in your sales career, your own ego! Read “Ego is the Enemy: The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent” by Ryan Holiday.
In our world, everyone is focused on themselves, giving lots of tender loving care towards theirs selfies and social media updates. The only thing that counts is the number of likes, or hearts, or comments with expressions of praise.
Do you want to be good at sales? If so, forget about this cheap online fame. You are not a member of a boy band or girl band. You are a professional. Your mission is to make your company profitable. Your goal is to direct the rains of money into your company’s bank account. Notice that people who earn big fat money don’t spend 24/7 on Facebook. You certainly should build your personal brand, but only as a means to make a business and not as an end in itself.
The most laconic description of a professional sales attitude could be, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. If you keep sales rules you will be selling successfully. Your successful sales are your hope. Hope is the foundation of rational thinking and acting. But at the same time you should prepare yourself for hundreds and thousands of “NO!” Most of time, especially in the beginning, you will be dealing with rejections, and “No, thank you” or “No, maybe next time”, or even “Yes, sure, I will let you know soon” which is in fact another kind of “No.” Be well prepared for rejection and you will earn a fortune through your sales.
Behaviour is your everyday routine. It is your hard work.
It doesn’t matter whether you feel great, tired or down, you always — let’s repeat again, always! — do things that need to be done. You never miss calls, emails or meetings because you don’t feel enthusiastic enough. Can you imagine that Lionel Messi or Robert Lewandowski could have developed their footballs talents and scored so many amazing goals without regular, systematic, everyday training, and often mundane, difficult daily activities? As Aristotle famously said, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”.
Sales is a process. Very often a long and complex process, especially in new tech companies.
In order to be mentally prepared to effectively work on long, difficult processes, have a look at another book that can be quite useful: “Mastery” by George Leonard.
Skills are what tigers like the most, right? Sales success depends on good strategies, creative tactics, golden rules, smart tricks, tested methods and “secret” weapons.
Some of which we can learn from books or training courses, webinars and articles written by experts such as Brian Tracy, Robert B. Cialdini, Grant Cardone or Jeff Thull and many, many others. But what especially counts in startup companies, which are mostly new tech businesses, is the ability to build a proper perception in a prospect’s mind through variety and complex arguments and “mental stimulus” used within a sales process. Sales is an activity which comprises many, many fields, such as emotional IQ, NLP techniques, communications strategies, marketing, finance, art, and science.
First of all, you have to know everything about what you are selling. Read every blog from your industry, every book, and take a part in every webinar and conference. Buy a lunch or invite every expert in your area for a coffee. Nowadays, salespeople are in fact great consultants. They understand the complexity of the business systems of their prospects.
When you finally know everything about your product or service, your competitors and your prospects, then it is time to ask your prospects great questions and learn how to listen. (A time for fantastic presentations and cool speeches will come, but later.)
The majority of us love to speak about ourselves and our great businesses. However, if you are a salesman you are certainly not part of a majority! You are in an exclusive, elite and special sales & business club. When others speak, you can understand their needs and learn about their expectations. When they don’t speak enough, then you can use the best stimulus for effusiveness — questions!
To better understand how questions can help you in your business, you should read “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life” by Marilee G. Adams.
And to be a great listener, grab a book by Michael P. Nichols called “The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships”.
Let’s conclude. The best you can do for your sales management is to constantly pay attention to three elements of our sales formula: attitude, behaviour and skills. There will be days when you will focus on behaviours (your daily routine and hard work), especially when nothing spectacular is going on in your company and you have to sell anyway. At other times your most valuable asset will be your attitude, for instance when you must face extreme situations, both big failures or huge successes. And the crown in this simple system, your ultimate power, is your skills; these will help you the most in the mature stage of your sales process, when there is time, and room, to use the most sophisticated weapons from your sales arsenal
This article was written by Andrzej Manka and originally published in LinkedIn.