The sales conundrum…
So, you think sales is not your job and that you couldn’t/shouldn’t do it? Well, think again…
For the past few years, I have been telling this to founders: You are in sales. It doesn’t matter if you are a techie or a finance geek, if you are an entrepreneur, you are in sales.
Of course, a lot of other people have said the same thing over the years. And most of the times, their advice has fallen over deaf years (just like Mr. J’s advice and me). But, irrespective of how many people advise and how many ignore them, the fact of the matter cannot be denied — If you are an entrepreneur, it doesn’t matter what your title says, but you are in sales.
Every business is built on relationships. Companies don’t buy and sell with other companies, people do. You buy something from someone because you have some of relationship with them that is built on faith or trust.
And all relationships in this world, irrespective of what they may be and whom them include, they are all transactional in nature. There is always something that is needed or wanted for which someone does something. You need a ride, you are nice to your friend. You might need something in the future and so, you are nice to people now. You want to feel good and hence you do nice things for others. True altruism is a rare horse.
And because all relationships are transactional, someone, somewhere is always trying to get someone else to buy or take a bait. That is sales — you are always trying to sell your stuff.
As a teacher, I used to try and sell my ideology and viewpoints to students. Apart from my salaries and fees (which I get for my time and not my effort), my real currency was the satisfaction that I “molded” some minds that day.
As a friend, I was always doing things to convince others that I am reliable and trustworthy, and at times really good fun to hang out with. My returns? Maintaining my social order and status.
As a business/startup coach/mentor, I am convincing startups to look for better alternatives and to accept my suggestions. My returns? My pride on the value of my advice.
As a son, a lover, a husband, a boss, an employee, an Uber passenger, I am always trying to sell something to the other person, whether it’s my views, beliefs, perception, or reputation. And everyone is doing the same grind.
So, if we are to believe that businesses are built and run on relationships and all relationships are transactional, we also have to believe that we are always selling or buying things to or from others. And it doesn’t really matter what role in the company you play.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, here’s one more that you cannot ignore.
As an entrepreneur, you may have co-founders, one of whom may be delegated the role of sales. That’s great! You can punch away on that keyboard, hammer that nail, grind that axe or blow that glass without ever having to sell anything ever. But here are things you missed.
- You had to convince your co-founders of your idea and to join you.
- If you were the one that was convinced to join, then you had to convince the other that you were worth X% of equity or salary.
- Every meeting with your co-founders has been a meeting where one of you have been trying to convince others of their plan, strategy or decision.
- If you wanted to make a change in your product, you have had to convince your co-founders first of the idea first.
- You want your team to work on something. Harder, faster, better, longer? You had to convince them the dream and the stick or carrot.
What is all this convincing if not sales?
And you still haven’t met the investor. Yes, it will probably lie on one of your co-founding team to talk, explain and negotiate with investors, but every investor I know wants to know if the team is great. And that’s where, even if you decided to be a fly on the wall, your sales pitch kicks in.
- Convince that you are passionate and believe in the product
- Convince that you believe in the team and its vision
- Convince that you have the necessary skills
- Convince that you are not redundant or obsolete
- Convince that whatever your (charismatic) co-founder just said about the company and its product/service is true.
- Convince about this and convince about that.
And all this convincing is sales!
As an entrepreneur, you can never be free of sales. You are always selling. And if you have lived this long, and partly on your terms, then you’ve been doing something right during certain parts of your life so far.
Also, here another interesting thing: Yes, some people are born sales-persons. They are smooth and charismatic and could sell sand to the Bedouins.
But, sales is not a skill that cannot be developed. If you break the sales process down, it call comes down to a few elements, one of which is understanding human psychology, the role (or lack thereof) of personal egos, some controlled temperament, appearance and patience.