Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the privilege of meeting with two separate groups of business owners. It’s always great to connect with other entrepreneurs. I really enjoy helping people navigate through the challenges of growing a business, and I find that most folks share similar struggles, especially with how to approach sales and marketing. I’ve had my own misconceptions about sales and marketing through the years, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned over the next few posts.
Years ago when I was fresh out of college and going through the orientation process at Arthur Andersen, a guy in my start group told me he thought I had picked the wrong profession. He told me I should be in sales. I was offended. I thought he meant used car sales. All I could visualize was a cheesy, cheap suit type of guy wanting to make a deal. Didn’t he understand that I was a going through training to be a technical consultant?
As my career progressed, his voice occasionally popped into my head. I finally understood what he meant years later. You have to understand the sales process and drive revenue in order to be successful in business. He was right all along, and it had nothing to do with hustling used cars off a lot. When we first started Tribridge I used to keep two spreadsheets. One was sales pipeline and the other was a list of current projects and clients. I reviewed them often to ensure we were balancing the ability to sell with the ability to deliver. If anything it kept me in touch with how much revenue we needed to help generate to maintain the balance and stay afloat. Once we were able to invest in a sales manager our business went to a whole new level.
Most CEOs and other entrepreneurs start businesses because they are really good at something like technology, services or distribution – something that gives them an edge over the competition. But what about the skill set it takes to sell your product or service? Like it or not, if you own a business you are a sales person.
I believe one of the most common mistakes leaders of small companies make is not taking personal responsibility for generating revenue. It’s easy to put sales on the backburner when you are busy, your team is engaged and business is great. But we all know that the pipeline inevitably dries up and you are left scrambling for the next deal.
The thought of putting yourself out there can be uncomfortable, but sales is one of the most important investments of time and resources you can make in the business. If you’re not in touch with what your customers want and need then growth will be exponentially hard.