It’s the single most important skill to have as an entrepreneur
By Allon Raiz
The trend among many of the top MBA degrees in the world is that they are now including sales training as part of their programme. I believe that the chasm between on-the-ground entrepreneurial experience and the academic curricular of many of the top entrepreneurial MBA programmes is so vast that the business schools had to move from purely an academic approach to a far more practical approach.
One of the obvious essentials that is missing from these programmes is that, as an entrepreneur, you can have the best business model in the world, with the highest margins, the biggest differentiators, and the highest barriers to entry, but if you can’t sell, none of these would make any difference. I believe that the ability to sell for an entrepreneur is the number one skill to acquire and the number one skill to keep on honing.
Far too many struggling entrepreneurs have a bad relationship with the idea of being a “salesperson”. And if you are one of these struggling entrepreneurs, here are five points to keep in mind to ensure you move from a struggling entrepreneur to a sales entrepreneur:
1. Sell yourself that you’re a salesperson first
Too many (unsuccessful) entrepreneurs believe that there are better people to sell their product or services than themselves. They have ironically sold themselves the myth that they are not salespeople based on a misconception they have about what a salesperson needs to “look like”. The first step you, as an entrepreneur, need to take is to sell yourself the absolute belief that there is no better person suited to sell in your organisation than you. This, importantly, must not preclude you from building a sales team. In my experience, when the entrepreneur can sell (what I call a sales entrepreneur) the probabilities of the business’ success are multiplied tenfold.
2. Be the authentic you
There is no one specific “look” that a salesperson has. They are introverts, extroverts, tall, short, technical and non-technical. Sales entrepreneurs who try to look and act like someone else come across as inauthentic and uncomfortable in their own skin. Those sales entrepreneurs who are authentic to their personality produce far better results because they come across more authentic, more passionate and more trustworthy.
3. Read, listen, train, watch
Sales entrepreneurs understand that the sales skills journey is ongoing and never ending. They read about sales techniques and processes in books, magazines, on blogs and websites; they watch training videos on YouTube; and they attend sales training courses focusing on skills and sales strategies that resonate with their personality and their product or service. An entrepreneur who is obsessed with sales techniques and strategy is an entrepreneur to back.
4. Create and record your sales process
Sales entrepreneurs are deliberate about their sales processes.
- Firstly, from an improvement point of view. Once a sales process is documented and understood, one has the ability to reflect on its efficacy or strengths and weaknesses.
- Secondly, a documented sales process is more easily transferable to new salespeople joining the business.
- Thirdly, a sales process that is documented implies a more deliberate and thought-through approach to selling.
5. Get feedback, take a colleague
Every one of us has a blind spot and we all perceive reality differently. Sales entrepreneurs understand this and embrace feedback as often as possible. The most practical form of feedback that you will receive is from a well-briefed colleague in your business who is tasked with critiquing your sales pitch, with a 70/30 bias towards what can be improved.
Two important questions to ask your colleague after your sales pitch are:
- Do you think the potential client understood what I was selling?
- Do you think they will buy from us and why?
Feedback should be continuous part of your journey as a sales entrepreneur.
Starting today, change your relationship with the concept of selling, become obsessed with sales techniques and strategies that can be implemented in your business, and keep honing your selling skills. Only then will you experience sustainable growth in your business.