If you Don’t Like to Sell – It’s Not a Problem. Until it is.
When you consider what the most crucial skill for an entrepreneur is, you’ll probably say creative thinking or problem-solving. By far the most crucial skill an entrepreneur needs to have is the ability to sell. It doesn’t matter how good your idea, product, or service is. If you can’t sell, then you have some big challenges ahead.
Sales is the engine that keeps your startup running. Many entrepreneurs fail, not because they had a bad idea or a bad product, but because they didn’t sell themselves and their product properly.
Entrepreneurship starts with an idea. All successful entrepreneurs are creatives who are solving a problem. But what happens when you have a great idea but can’t sell your idea to get the best talent to work with you. Or can’t sell your MVP to your first customers or sell an investor on investing in your startup? Well, you might say, “I’m not good at selling naturally.” Good news, you can learn to sell. You can’t replace your inability to sell with a sales or marketing team.
All the best sell
Every successful business you admire is successful because they know how to sell and sell devastatingly well. Here’s an example, To sell their cloud products in 2019, Google built an impressive sales team, increasing headcount by over 4000 employees in a single quarter, with most of the hires in the cloud sales teams. By February, the cloud business was making $4.0 billion in annual revenue. Another tech giant, Apple, increased its global advertising budget by 50% in 2015 to a record $1.8 billion.
Build- And they won’t come
Mo matter how good your product is unless you can sell it, and sell it well, you’ve got a big problem on your hands.
While you might not be a natural salesman, you can learn to become better at selling. Here are some ideas on how to sell your ideas, products, and services better. I’ve seen them work, and I’m convinced that they can work for you too.
Almost everyone thinks that sales is about talking, but it’s really about listening. The easiest way to get someone to buy from you or give you their money is to make them feel listened to. Nobody wants to listen to you drone on for half-an-hour about your ‘hot new product.’ As a new entrepreneur, take the time to listen to your customers. From the engineer working on your product to that customer that leaves a bad review on the app store, to that venture capitalist that you need their money, learn to listen. Figure out what they are saying and not saying, and then use that in conversations with them.
Talk to listen ration 20/80
Treat each sale like a conversation because that’s what it is. There should be dialogue and conversation. The #1 reason why sales put many people off is that they feel like they have to behave unnaturally or act out of character to ‘sell.’
Ask your audience questions and be genuinely interested in what they have to say. Position your product, service, or idea as a solution to any problems that they’ve raised. At its core, all selling is simply a conversation between people. Just be honest, open, and natural. You won’t win everyone, but you stand a better chance of succeeding by approaching a sales pitch as a conversation.
Even if you’ve never sold anything before, you can’t afford to show it. James Howard, the managing director and founder of Yorkshire Payments, advises unseasoned sellers to invest time in perfecting their sales pitch before meeting a real-life prospect. And that’s great advice. Create a presentation on your product’s major benefits and features, and then ‘test-pitch’ to at least three groups of people: Your friends, family members, and your accountant. Your goal is to reduce the slides and prompts used with each group until you can confidently pitch without any pause.
You’ll probably never have to recite your pitch word for word, but you need to have everything you want to say firmly planted in your mind.
In conclusion, remember that selling is the lifeblood of your entrepreneurship dream. You must be able to convince people to take a chance on you and your products, which means learning how to sell.
Enjoy Rejection – There’s lots of it
No matter how good you are at selling, you’re going to get rejected a lot more times than you would get accepted, and that hurts a lot. Rejection is a bitter pill to swallow, but you have to learn to live with it. Your business plan can get rejected; your loan or funding request can be rejected; your target audience can reject your product. How you react to that reject will decide if you will succeed as an entrepreneur. For example, Fred Smith, the CEO of FedEx, got a C on a writing assignment where he outlined the strategy for FedEx. Today, FedEx is one of the biggest companies on the planet.
As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve gone through more rejection than I care to count. In my 30 years in the entrepreneurship space, I’ve heard a lot more no’s than yes’s, especially when I was just starting. As painful and daunting as it was at the time, looking back, I can see that each rejection helped shape my business’s success.
Here are four tips that helped me handle rejection.
Don’t Take It Personally.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of taking rejection personally. And that’s understandable. However, you have to recognize that rejection is a normal part of the business world. It’s not a reflection on you. Just because your business plan or partnership was rejected does not make you a failure.
In 1985, Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, the company that he helped create, after a series of product failures that cost the company millions of dollars. He would later return in 1997 to make Apple one of the most successful companies in history. Speaking about that period in a 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, Jobs said that the time away from Apple was beneficial for him. In his words, that time allowed him to enter one of the most creative periods of his life. The lightness of starting afresh replaced the heaviness of being successful. That is a man who learned to deal with rejection positively.
Understanding that rejection was not a reflection of your worth will allow you to be objective enough to figure out what went wrong and enable you to move past it.
Learn from it
Humility is a dying trait among entrepreneurs, but it’s an essential one. When you receive a rejection, ask yourself what you could have done better and implement it. The goal is to learn and constantly keep improving.
Ask questions if you can, on why your product was rejected. Many times, you might even realize that it had nothing to do with your product. It could just be that your audience wasn’t ready for it.
At any rate, assuming the posture of a student who is willing to learn and fix their mistakes is the best way to handle rejection and turn it into a force for change.
I have made several changes in my business that turned out to be the best thing after a rejection. By paying attention to what people want and are not interested in, you can build better products and services that’ll make you a successful entrepreneur.
Educate your audience
Sometimes, your product or proposition gets rejected, not because it was bad, but because the world wasn’t ready for it. If your audience does not understand what you are trying to do or sell, you are more likely to get rejected. As much as you can, educate your customers or audience on what exactly you are trying to do, and then watch their reactions. You might be pleasantly surprised to realize that a lack of understanding is what caused the rejection.
If your product gets rejected, you can produce content that explains your value proposition and positioning more clearly, and then watch the reaction that the content gets. At the very least, it’ll tell you if you need to move on or keep trying.
Pivot and Move on
If you continually hear ‘no’ from the same crowd, then maybe it’s time to move on. It could be that you’re trying to sell the wrong crowd, or you’ve created the wrong product, and you must be humble enough to admit it.
Remember that an entrepreneur finds problems in the market and creates products to fill those gaps. Meaning that the market, and by extension, your customers are the judge of what is wrong or right. Sometimes, you are getting rejected because your product is not the right fit for the market. At this point, you need to swallow your pride, admit that you got it wrong, and pivot to creating something else.
A famous example of startups that pivoted includes YouTube. YouTube started as a video-based dating platform where users upload videos describing their ideal partner. After seeing the potential in hosting online videos, YouTube pivoted to becoming a video hosting powerhouse that Google acquired for $65 billion. Slack is one of the biggest names in professional communication and task management. However, they didn’t start there. Slack started as a strange but popular game called Glitch. However, it wasn’t profitable, so the team pivoted in another direction: A chat app for coworkers and the rest is history.
Rejection does not have to be the end of your entrepreneurship journey. If you can learn how to use it to get better, you stand a better chance of succeeding as an entrepreneur.