For most of us, the thought of selling can elicit a powerful and negative reaction. Our well-conditioned minds immediately conjure images of that awful used car salesman all but forcing us to sign papers for a car we all know will ultimately turn into a lemon the moment we drive it off the lot. That is simply one sales experience. And, if you expect to build a fundable, scalable multi-million-dollar entity, not the one you want to create for your customers or for yourself.
However, the mind is a powerful thing and we often find ourselves doing everything we can do to avoid selling. In a recent unofficial poll of our Track 2 clients, the majority stated they feel comfortable talking about their products and solutions; however, several stated that they’re not so keen on making those initial sales calls and/or asking for the sale and closing the deal. The problem: without prospecting (making those initial calls) and asking for the sale (getting the money), your company will fail.
This is not an abnormal problem for startups according to Inc.com. Also, keep in mind, experience shows that in the early days no one (especially an outsourced, contract or commission-only sales person) can sell as well as you, as the founder, can and must.
So, what can you do get yourself in the sales mindset? I like to start with the numbers. Since they don’t lie, they provide a very clear picture and make it hard to deny what you should be spending your time on. Sales. Here are three things you can do to put sales front and center:
Do the Math
If you expect to generate $1,000,000 in annual sales this year, and you sell an average of $10,000 in product/solution per customer, how many customers do you need to have this year? 100. If it takes you 3 months from first contact to first check, then you should have at least 50 qualified leads in your pipeline ready to go through the buying process right now, and another 50 leads by September 30th.
Oh wait! What’s your close rate? Do you convert every single prospect into a sale? Probably not. For this discussion, (until you generate your own stats) let’s say you have a 20% close rate. This means that to close 50 new customers by September 30th and another 50 by December 31st, you need to have 250 prospects in your pipeline right now and another 250 new ones identified by September 30th.
Build Your Sales Pipeline
Your pipeline is the sum of all people who may buy from you. You can use something as sophisticated as Saleforce or as simple as an Excel spreadsheet to track and measure this information. Your list should be prioritized by likelihood to buy, and the amount of money you expect to generate from the sale.
You should also be tracking key data points about your customers/prospects and the sales process. This information can be used going forward to make better decisions about how you run your business. For instance, knowing that your average customer is a small business with 10-20 employees means you know exactly what types of companies to spend your marketing dollars on. If your average customer spends $10,000 a year with you, you know how many customers you need each year to hit your sales goals.
And if you know that the average deal takes 3 months to close, you know how to better manage your cash flow. These are just three of the data points you want to collect. If you feel like you might be missing something here, you are. This is where marketing comes in. It’s what you do to get the right people into your pipeline, but we’ll talk more about that next week.
Practice makes perfect. Or near perfect. The only way you’re going to get good at selling is to start doing it. And yes, that probably means, you’ll royally mess up your first sales. Keep going. Eventually it will get easier. (Here are some tips.) The only way is through. Don’t stop until you’ve got your sales pitch and process down and you’re closing deals left and right.
Once you have that ironed out, and you understand how sales work for your organization, you can hire someone to do it for you. Until then, you are your company’s head sales person. Just one more way you get to practice getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just remember: you’re not alone. The rest of us entrepreneurs are doing this, too.
I look forward to seeing you over here at ASU Chandler Innovation Center soon!