An entrepreneur is first a salesperson
I have been a sales guy in my earlier jobs and as the founder of a company, I have never stopped selling. The only shift that’s happened over the years is that today I focus more on creating an environment conducive to buying versus running behind someone to buy.
But, first a recap. The story started when I sold ad-space for my college magazine in Manipal. I knocked on the doors of all kinds of local vendors from stationary shops to restaurants. After listening to their business hardships, I usually found it easy to persuade them to buy. After engineering, I got sales jobs with ease – from selling pagers to cell phones – but my family thought it unworthy of me to be a sales guy.
They preferred that I put my engineering skills to use in the comforts of a modern office environment. So, I started my career as a software engineer only to get back to selling software projects for the same company in a few years. When I started up with NextServices at the end of my MBA, I was back on the street convincing doctors to try us out.
I am far from being a suave, smooth-talking sales guy who can sell, as they say, ice to an Eskimo. But, I can usually figure out what an Eskimo might need now or in the future and sell that to him sincerely. That latter skill has been particularly useful in building a business.
Here are a few takeaways for entrepreneurs who are also naturally the salespeople for their companies.
All rational buying is an emotional process. We like to think that people know what they buy. They don’t. From a house to a smartphone, people are driven by emotions while buying things that they care about. The heart makes the buying decision first and then the mind defends it through logic. So keep your spreadsheets at hand but understand your buyer’s emotional needs first.
Focus on the rose plant if you want to sell roses. Did you hear the story of the rose vendor? His business required him to find as many buyers as possible before the roses wrinkled. But, then slowly he started focusing on the rose plant. His attention shifted from selling roses to underlying matters such as the soil and environment that kept on producing roses that his buyers really wanted.
Congruence between your inner and outer persona matters. In wanting success of others, you try to become those people. But, the lack of congruence between your inner and outer selves comes through easily when you are selling. People buy you before they buy your product. Your best chance of selling yourself is by being yourself without conflict.
Be like that friendly neighborhood superhero. The biggest mistake salespeople make is to give up after a few tries. Create a system of follow up that never lets you lose your prospects after that first call or meeting. By staying in touch sufficiently enough, become that friendly neighborhood superhero that anyone can reach out to when they are in trouble. But, for that to happen they need to remember that you exist.
It’s about them, not you. No one cares about your needs, company or sales quotas. Learn to understand and speak from their point of view. So what if you are the Big Kahuna who sells to Fortune 500 companies, what is it that the person in front of you needs? Why is she investing her time with you right now?