“I’m a hustler, baby; I sell water to a well!” ― Jay-Z.
One of my mentors and CEO at my previous startup had a profile & job-description, I never wanted to understand. He was responsible for our B2B SALES efforts.
I never went to a B-school and my knowledge about selling is as limited as any other techie on the street. But, over the years at that startup while I was working on aspects of product, operations, support, customer satisfaction, design and so on, I always had a very alien view towards SALES.
I thought like many of you that it was a necessary evil which someone else will get it done.We just sit in the comfort of our A/C rooms, intellectual debates & product strategies and feel we did our part effectively. Off-course we did.
Today, I am a full time entrepreneur and I reflect on my former CEO’s role. I have slowly started to understand its gravity & the art. I understand the pillars which defined his approach towards SALES. It was mainly about just two things “DISCIPLINE” & “EMPATHY”
A Zen like discipline to acquire & understand customers day in and day out.
I share some of the learning I have had as I started my Sales life few months back. Its an ongoing learning process and will evolve. A wise man said that “Co-Founder should and must be the first salesperson…” Boy I understand this better than anyone today.This is more relevant when you are doing a B2B enterprise sales. God it bleeds you over time and teaches you hell lot but patience more than anything.
There are 3 acts of Sales for getting started as a Co-Founder salesperson.
WARM UP | GEAR UP | ACTUAL SALE
In this Part 1 article I talk about the first act WARM UP — preparing yourself psychologically for this transition and starting the ground work.
Every choice you make has an end result. The first act is to accept this responsibility and let it sink in.
1. Decide who’s gonna sell FIRST
Decide among your core team members ( mainly among Co-Founders ) that who will be selling primarily.
Taking responsibility is the first step of the first act. You are the salesman, telephone boy, smooth talker, brochure designer, amateur photoshop artist, icon finder ninja & so on..
Give a date, time & target to this exercise.
e.g. Abhishek will be responsible for sales from Mar’14 to Sept’14 cycle and target is to bring 18 customers with the average ticket size of 1,00,000 INR. With a sales target of 30,00,000 in this 6 months sales cycle.
Have a weekly meet with Co-Founder’s to establish a go to market & customers strategy.
2. Break your own office room comfort zone
“Going to work” is rootly embedded in our psyche as we sit in front of a PC or meeting room with comfort of the familiar walls of the office etc.
You got to break that completely once you take up the Sales responsibility. An easy tip is start developing a habit of sittting at different places at your work place. Destroy this is my seat and my space adage. Sit in coffee houses between calls and work whenever you get time at places you can find conducive enough. While at Sales you have to find time between time to complete your task lists.
3. What Sales Collateral do you need
You met a prospect at a gathering. Can you describe your business in a simple comprehensible line and garner his/her interest to hear more ?
Selling is telling a compelling story, its your value proposition. Your clear value proposition written and regularly iterated is your first sales collateral.Think who you are selling to and how do they reach for information.
Is it a landing page, sales brochure, video demo or just an interactive short slide -deck ? We use the below mentioned artifacts which we iterate and use based on various circumstances of our sales cycle.
- E-mail/pitch introducing us, problem we solve & our value prop
- E-mail/pitch talking about team, technology & product.
- Short slide-decks / videos etc with key benefits
- Our product/solution brochure.
- A complete list of features.
- A compelling and minimal landing page with a call to action.
4. Perennial selling mode : selling to friends, family & colleagues
This is a must for any rookie sales person like me. Pitch it to everyone around you till the time they tell you to stop.
Family, friends and startup colleagues do not judge you, they are honest, blunt and will be patient with you. Keep on sharing & pitching your value proposition and keep asking the question “What do you think ?”
Your passion to solve that problem, belief in the solution, handling objections, citing real life examples & compelling argument skills should be tested here at these several practice sales pitches.
5. Write it down & prepare handy notes
As a Co-Founder you learn by making mistakes and learning more about your business & market. You iterate on your value proposition by conducting customer interviews and sales pitches.
DOCUMENT IT for all to see how things are evolving. We use Evernote, Trello & Asana in various capacities to document all customer interviews, feature prioritization, sales collateral, sales cycles & steps to reach the buyer, customer funnel & insights on an ongoing basis.
Remember the idea once on a paper is hundred times better than muddled and hidden somewhere in your head.
Write it down, share, iterate & create a repeatable process for the next rookie in your sales team.
6. Read Zig Ziglar
Ziglar on Selling is your gita, bible & tora for the next 6-12 months. The quintessential guide to Sales.
Buy it, carry it with you on the field, read it, read it again, understand it, apply it & keep repeating this process.
Zig Ziglar was the author of more than 29 sales and motivational books, including Ziglar on selling, See You at the Top and Over the Top. He is a legend and has motivated so many marketers and salespeople throughout his more than 50-year long career.
I haven’t seen so much practical wisdom and actionable items for a professional in many books I have read on business. This is a dynamite must have for every salesperson especially a rookie.
8. Control your Physical & Mental fitness
Most underrated but the toll a startup sales takes on you is unparalleled.
Yes, sales will take the toll on you. You will travel to remote places, irregular food habits, lack of sleep, fatigue of sun, heat, cold , rains and the constant objections & rejections. Build a exercise routine, do yoga or whatever meditation suits your habits & sensibilities.
The idea is to be fit physically and mentally. Read, talk to other folks selling & be alert to opportunities in media & on the web.
Be happy, agile, constant in a learn|help|share mode & a with a sharp focus on closing.
I personally recommend a brisk run in open followed by some basic meditation to keep yourself alert & agile.
A goal properly set is halfway reached.
Zig Ziglar once said “Remember that failure is an event, not a person. Yesterday ended last night.”
I wish all Co-Founders and Entrepreneurs best who are adopting the sales role and grinding it out to build a loyal customer base. A customer who you care about and who cares about your products & solutions.