In my previous post “Why entrepreneurs should focus on sales, not funding” I urged entrepreneurs to take control of their own scale up by focusing on driving growth through sales. The first stage of that is for founding directors to step up to the plate and do some ‘founder selling’.
But I’ve met many Founders and CEOs who don’t think selling or focusing on sales growth should be a key part of their role. You too may well have reservations about whether you should or can sell, so let’s look at some of the common excuses to see why this attitude can be a barrier to successful scale up and how to overcome it:
Excuse #1 - I’m not a sales person! I didn't believe I could ever be a good sales person either, but having plunged into it accidentally, I would definitely say that it's been the Number 1 skill in driving my career success. I hear this excuse all the time, but strongly believe it’s your job to sell. Once you master selling, you will have greater control and confidence in your ability to grow a successful business. Excuse #2 – I’m the CEO, my job is to focus on strategy Business doesn’t exist without sales. Strategy without sales is meaningless. As the boss, you need to set the example. If you believe that your skill set lies elsewhere and have co-founders it is imperative that at least one of you is fully focused on sales. But if you are the CEO, a good rule of thumb is to spend as much time in front of clients and prospects as you do in the office. Excuse #3 – I’ll hire a salesperson to start the selling when we have more budget Where do you think the budget comes from? Sales! You have to realise that no recruit is going to have the same level of passion as you. Good sales people command a premium and until you start filling your bank account, you will not be able to afford anyone in your league. If you’re looking for funding to drive your growth, you may also find that that investors push back against their money being spent on star sales people. Better to decide when and who you recruit from a position of strength. Also, if you haven't mastered sales yourself, you won’t be tuned in to your team. You can (and must) recruit and develop a sales team as you scale up – but it starts with you. Excuse #4 – I’ve already got a sales team, so sales is sorted Even if you've already hired a Sales Director/Manager and small sales team, sales is never “sorted” as you can always improve performance. Get back out there and sell your vision to prospects, customers, partners, in fact anyone who is prepared to listen. Gain ultimate respect for yourself (and from your team) by leading from the front and making the ability to sell your core skill. At my technology firm BigHand, I continued to sell (as well as lead) from day 1 right up to my exit day. Excuse #5 – I don’t have the time to sell Unless you’re speaking to customers or serving customers you should always make time for selling. If you think that you don't have time, what are you doing? In our frenetic world it's easy to fill our days emailing, firefighting, posting...and just responding to all those messages on multiple communication channels. "I'm just too busy" is the ultimate, modern-day, cop-out excuse. If you don’t take make the time and take the responsibility to drive sales you may find yourself with a nice office, cool brand, great processes, but little sales revenue, no profit and no business. The best of the best entrepreneurs always make time for selling! Fear as a barrier It's fair to say our excuses often mask our fears. I know, it's hard to admit that you may have fears! But we are all scared of something and our fears related to selling are likely to include:
Rejection - this is a primal fear but pointless– rejection is normally not of you but a reflection of the fact you need to make some tweaks. Treat rejection as "feedback" and you will keep improving
Humiliation - you don’t have to be totally shameless but you do need to lighten up and not take mistakes or knock backs personally – they’re lessons to reflect on and learn from
Success – people don't like to admit this fear, but it can often be a deep-rooted fear at the heart of the subconscious. Success can lead to hard work, hassle, raised expectations and, oddly, fear of failure when it comes to delivery
Focus on selling to take control of your scale up
You will have some fears; you are human after all! But be brave, get stuck into selling your vision and any fears will quickly disappear. As you focus more on selling (personally and as an organisation), your confidence will grow and your stress levels will decrease. You will feel a surge of momentum, as perhaps for the first time you take control of your own destiny by selling your way to scale up success.