New Zealand is the land of opportunity. Small business entrepreneurs and ex-corporate types that have reached the outlying paddocks at 40 often have a desire to do their own thing. The former tend to start with a great idea and one or two ‘clever eddies’, whilst the latter often buy an existing business. This is a gross generalisation of course, but allows us to set the scene.
"But I can't sell..."
In my travels, I often speak to small business entrepreneurs and managing directors, and for the most part they say life is good, but the reason for my visit is a common problem not completely lost on business people in a much wider context.
One of the most frequent if not exacting comments I hear is "I have this business Sean but I hate the idea of selling and I’d never be good at it. What do I do now?”
Having grown up in the sales and marketing world, this concept, not to mention the fear, is not completely lost on me. In my early years, I was about as enthusiastic about a day of cold-calling as I was about the idea of placing a hot poker in my eye.
With some great training and many, many pairs of shoes later, I found my style, but more importantly, I realised that like anything else in life, there was a start and finish line to business that, yes, is always preceded by the sale.
Nothing moves in any business unless someone is buying, which means of course that someone is selling.
Now, depending on your perspective, the fun stuff is buying things, right? The hard part is the selling.
This inbuilt fear we all have of selling is built into our DNA. At the core of our being is the notion taught early in life that we should not talk to strangers. Starting a conversation with someone we don’t know is hard enough; to have a second agenda of selling them something makes it worse.
"I didn’t buy/create this business to have to start selling.”
Whether it’s a start-up or an existing business, I often hear this complaint.
To be fair, it is the owners of existing business that fall into the majority here. It has taken me a while to fathom that many people buy companies with a view to ‘managing’ others to do the selling. Many new owners of existing companies are from a financial and accounting background, where numbers and balance sheets are their friends. The world of selling is a foreign place to them.
I was recently sitting in front of a managing director - let’s call him John - who was beside himself with the poor performance of his two sales people. He had purchased the business two years earlier and things were not looking peachy.
"When was the last time you went on a sales call with your sales people John?” I asked.
The look I received was enough; he was clearly talking to a Martian. "Why would I need to do that?" he asked.
For start-up companies, the issue is slightly different. Sellling is not an activity contemplated (mostly) when the ‘clever eddies’ embark on their new business adventure. For them, the website is up, the widget is fantastic but where are the sales?
"What do you mean we need to get out there and start doing it? That wasn’t in the plan.”
The answer to this problem is found in the question - what is selling?
Most would agree that selling in its most feared form would be cold calling strangers door to door. For this reason many of us look at the Sunday Mormons walking the streets and cringe.
"How could they do that?”
They do ‘that’ because they believe in the outcome. For them, selling ( the visit) is the start line which must be crossed. Their higher authority is at the finish line and their mission is to have us join in the great race. For them, this starts with the door knock and kind word.
So there in itself is the answer. With a focus on the outcome, the selling part in itself becomes mechanical. Once we accept this, the next question is how.
"If I can’t sell, what are the options?"
My first and last answer is, get over yourself. Everyone can sell.
Lawyers, accountants, dentists, web developers, your mechanic, they all sell to some degree. Heck, we all sell something from time to time. Others just do this more obviously, and have a title to prove it.
Start-up entrepreneurs or new business owners should embrace the world of selling. Get in amongst it and get your hands dirty. At the very least, put yourself on a short sales course. Reading a book is great but really, it’s time to get serious. Remember, if your outcome is to deliver financial independence through a successful venture, is it not worth a small investment to ensure some degree of success?
So, get over yourself, get into it and have a great business. You will not look back.
About Sean McDonald
Sean is the founder and managing director of Sales Systems Ltd. His company and team of consultants help organisations improve the overall effectiveness of their sales and marketing operations through the introduction of new processes, tools and technology to ensure they are operating at peak performance in today’s highly competitive environment.
Sean is a regular writer and contributor to Techday.