In my last Linked In post I talked about how entrepreneurs can scale up with a ‘self-funding’ model, rather than focusing on external funding as the catalyst for growth.
As an ambitious entrepreneur, if you’re trying to grow your business organically you’ll need to make sales (and lots of them!) to become successful. If you’re a funded firm, you’re likely to need to make even more sales to drive the growth, keep the investors happy and provide the return they are looking for.
Either way, to achieve entrepreneurial success I believe that you (and your fellow directors) should have a clear focus on making sales, as what your business needs most is sales revenue. And the good news is you can personally control and drive those sales using a practical, proven approach which I call ‘Founder Selling’.
Founder Selling will help you build a cost-effective engine to drive growth, create momentum and allow you to scale up. You need to step up to the plate and accept, as a founding director or CEO, that selling is your top priority and one that you must take responsibility for. You may already be doing some Founder Selling, but you can always improve your sales performance.
Passion makes the difference
My experience is this approach is so effective because you are the founders with the inspiring vision, the guys with the passion, and passion is a powerful tool to inspire people to buy your products and services.
Sequoia Capital’s Doug Leone, the legendary backer of Google, Airbnb & WhatsApp spoke about this recently at a conference: ‘What is the one quality all successful entrepreneurs share?’ an attendee asked. ‘They don’t do it for the money,’ Leone quickly responded. ‘They’re passionate about their mission.’
Believe me, your potential clients would much rather meet you (than some hired ‘sales director’) as a founding director to hear your passion first hand, find out why you set up the business, what your vision is and why you believe you can add value to their business.
Excuses to avoid selling
But I meet many Founders & CEOs who don’t think selling should be a part of their role and make excuses like “I don’t have time to sell", “I’m not a salesperson” or “my job is to run the company”. Well, you may think that way, but the harsh reality is that without sales there will not be a company to run.
It’s perfectly normal to have doubts about whether you can succeed at selling. You may feel that you are not a ‘natural’ sales person. And you’re probably not, very few of us are, myself included.
But if you are prepared to give it a go, it is really not that difficult.
3 steps to effective Founder Selling
I’ve always used this simple 3-step process:
1. Curiosity – a very simple concept, but incredibly important. Curiosity is asking questions and listening. If you talk less and ask more questions you will come across as authentic, intelligent and empathetic. Clients will love you.
2. Proposition - to be successful, you will need a strong proposition or ‘elevator pitch’. Your potential clients need to know WHY you have set up your business and WHY it is so special, and this needs to roll off the tongue in an impressive, high-impact way.
3. Passion - having laid the foundations with curious questions and an impressive proposition, you can then differentiate yourself by using genuine passion to make an emotional connection with your prospect.
Founder Selling to take control of your scale up
It’s important to realise you don’t have to be the perfect sales person to start selling and close some sales. By demonstrating your curiosity, delivering a compelling proposition, and using your passion to inspire your prospects, you will perform superbly in sales conversations and new client acquisition will start to seem much easier.
Once you’ve mastered this stage and the rewards of the first few months of high-value sales are in the bag, you can then start recruiting sales people to give your scale up a serious surge of momentum.
So, next time you feel that you need ‘funding’ for the first time or yet another round, stop and consider your options. Do you really need investors to provide that money in return for equity in your business?
Or can you go out and use your Founder Selling skills to make sales to that value?
It’s your choice, but if you do go for the latter option not only will you protect your precious equity but you will also gain confidence in your ability to take control and drive your own scale up.