SALES FOR START-UPS AND SCALING UP : 5 LESSONS LEARNED
Lesson 1 :
Sales should be at the top of your business plan!
Do you remember the 4 Ps of the marketing mix?
3 out of these 4 factors refer to sales, and only 1 to the product. The sales plan is as important as the product and the financial plan! Sales, as product development, has its cost. Never underestimate it and take it into account from the very beginning.
A product does NOT sell itself, however unique, all-performant and appealing it may look.
There is a whole process to go through before a contract is signed and an invoice paid.
AWARENESS needs to be created
INTEREST needs to be triggered
DESIRE needs to be cultivated
ACTION must be provoked
Every step requires significant time, effort, expertise and communication skills.
Last, but not least: competition is always behind the corner! So you’d better stay informed about your prospects’ decision process.
A high-level introduction is far better than no introduction, but it is… just an introduction; no more, no less…
A warm introduction does not equal a closed deal. It may, however, put you in a favorable position. The real work starts only after that introduction. See lesson 2.
A purchasing process and thus a sale takes longer, brings many more hurdles to overcome and costs more than forecasted, always. It is extremely important to start well prepared. The good old market research, providing you with market insights and client/prospect feedback can help you anticipate customer needs and requirements. It can also help you to refine your prospect base and get you focused on the real opportunities. A small initial investment can result in significant cost-savings along the road.
Sales requires a valuable combination of talent, craft and effort. You cannot have it for free. As any other valuable resource it requires an investment that will care for the return on itself. You possibly find sales agents who are willing to work against a success fee only. That may look like a risk-free bargain. However, such an engagement is bound to be unsatisfactory for both sides and will seldom turn into successful sales. There is no mutual commitment and no incentive for investing the time, the effort and the skills to push/pull a deal through the pipeline to a successful close. A solid sales person will rightly negotiate a combination of a fixed service fee and a variable sales commission. You wouldn’t like your product or service to be given away, would you?
Let me end with a quote from INC.com’s Gordon Tredgold :
“Sales are like oxygen, without it your business suffocates and dies.”