Sales will make or break your business. This is an unfortunate truth that many of us fight against, but the sooner you embrace being a sales-focused entrepreneur, the sooner you can make real headway.
It’s not rocket-science – without sales, there’s no revenue and without revenue, there’s no business. There are plenty of examples of businesses with crappy products that succeed mainly because of their great ability to sell, yet there are very few (or no?) examples of businesses that succeed with crappy (or non-existant) sales.
But more importantly, sales is the best indicator that your business is striking a chord with customers and meeting a real need (that they’re prepared to pay for).
After all, a business is a vehicle for selling something to someone. Without this component, you have a hobby or a community service – which are both fine, but don’t kid yourself you have a business!
What if you’re not naturally sales-focused?
Unfortunately, I’m the type of entrepreneur that would prefer to spend my time designing and building new products and features. Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that even great products don’t sell themselves – especially in the early days! Instead, it takes an incredible amount of hustle to pitch and explain your business, convince your target market to try it, and eventually decide to purchase.
We’ve previously detailed ways to sell when you’re not a natural salesperson, and also the reverse-engineering technique of selling by numbers. But before you get to those methods, start embracing the fact that being an entrepreneur means being a salesperson. (Yes, of course there are some rare exceptions, but for the vast majority of us, this is the mindset we need to adopt.)
What does it mean to be a sales-focused entrepreneur?
The most important role of an entrepreneur, is to talk to customers – on the phone, in person, and via email or messaging platforms.
It probably doesn’t sound like the cool role of an entrepreneur you’ve imagined! But to be a great entrepreneur, you can’t just understand intellectually that sales is vital. You also have to be prepared to spend the vast majority of your time in sales-mode. Yes, there are other important things competing for your time (like creating the product, trialling marketing strategies, delivering the service, building a team, managing your team, etc etc), but ultimately your business will succeed or fail based on the sales it achieves.
So repeat after me….
I love sales
I spend most of my days communicating with potential customers
Sales is the most important thing for me to do right now
I love helping my customers
I am a sales-focused entrepreneur!
Many of us have developed somewhat of an aversion to the idea of sales, but you can turn this around! After all, there’s a good chance you started your business in order to help people – and this is where you actually get to do that.
No, you can’t just outsource your sales function!
I know it’s incredibly tempting to try to outsource sales, but save yourself some time and money. It won’t work until you’ve mastered sales yourself.
In one of my previous businesses, we tried to employ experienced salespeople to run our sales function. At one point, we even attempted to outsource the sales function to third-parties. We also experimented with affiliate programs in a different effort to get other people to do the selling.
None of it worked.
It wasn’t until I embraced sales myself that we figured out how to scale. I changed my schedule so that I spent a large portion of each day making sales calls. This resulted in getting a deep understanding of what was going through customers’ minds and what needed to change. I literally had to put “3 hours of sales calls” into my calendar each day and force myself to stick to this schedule.
Of course, when the business is a lot bigger, you may be able to do sales differently. You might have a team or have developed more of a hands-off approach. But to do this requires a very hands-on approach first.
Sales is market validation
Sales is the ultimate feedback from the market. The sooner you can get this feedback, the sooner you can make changes to your business, product or messaging to get that elusive ‘product-market fit’.
I can’t stand it when I see new entrepreneurs worrying about getting business cards, setting up corporate structures, tweaking websites, or doing anything else before they have their first sale.
Take it from me, if you can’t make sales, something needs to change! If you don’t want to make those changes, then entrepreneurial life will be difficult. And yes, this is a big reason why not everyone is prepared to be an entrepreneur!