This article originally appeared on Quora: How crucial are sales skills to being a successful entrepreneur?
How crucial are sales skills to being a successful entrepreneur?
They’re the single most necessary element for success. To understand why, you need to know that sales is about much more than winning over customers. It’s about engaging with people to learn about their goals and aspirations, and show them how what you’re offering can help. Sales is in everything you do, and every decision you make.
So selling is necessary from the beginning. For example, you need to recruit. In building a company, you need to have a team of people who are better than you. Why would they choose to come work for you over other opportunities they have? You have to sell them on it.
The same goes for potential investors. They’re bombarded with requests for funding, from all kinds of entrepreneurs with all kinds of ideas. You have to show them the strength and potential of what you’re creating. You need to excite them about it, displaying numbers and creating a story around it that evokes emotion. And you need to show them how your idea speaks to their focus, the kinds of things they like to fund. That’s selling.
Of course, there’s also the fact that you need revenue early on. As the entrepreneur, you should be the first person selling your product or service. This means going through trial and error. It’s how you’ll refine your offerings—the more you hear from prospects, the better you’ll see what you need to create. It’s also how you’ll develop the right pitch and hone in on target demographics.
All of this is crucial before you hire a sales team. People can’t sell what you, as the creator, don’t know or can’t articulate. To get the sales process going, you’ll need a clear vision, and the ability to articulate it so that everyone who works for you can share your passion for it.
Then comes marketing. To get a great public relations rep, you need to sell your idea to her or him. And you’ll need to sell the idea to reporters in order to get media attention. Even if your p.r. rep sets up a story, journalists will expect to interview you—and your ability to present your company will make all the difference.
It never stops. Sales skills breathe into everything you do as an entrepreneur. They’re needed to negotiate changes and updates to your product or service. They’re necessary for handling personnel changes, even for firing people. (See my Harvard Business Reviewon that.)
If you haven’t yet developed sales skills and you’re thinking of launching a company, here are some of the most important ones to work on:
Writing clearly and concisely. Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher, famously, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” Learning to be concise takes time and work. You have to get used to getting straight to the point and cutting out all the extra language that too many salespeople use. It’s called the “ ,” which stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Prospects respond much better to salespeople who make efforts not to waste their time.
Speaking to people on a human level. Good salespeople genuinely want to learn about their prospects in order to help them. It’s kind of like being a doctor doing a diagnosis—you need to get to know what their goals and challenges are so you can show how you can prescribe a solution.
Organization. The most important part of sales is knowing whom to follow up with and when. So keep track of everything—what the prospect says in every conversation, what you’re supposed to do to follow up, and when. And always do it in the time frame promised. This is why CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is so big now.
If you’ve made it far enough to call yourself an entrepreneur, then you’re probably better at sales than you think.