What type of person do you think would make for the best entrepreneur? A natural problem solver? Maybe a person who knows how to build stuff? How about a deep thinker? Or perhaps a high-energy extrovert?
Any of those types of people could potentially be a great entrepreneur, of course, but what I’m finding more and more is that some of the folks who are the most successful at launching and sustaining new businesses are those who are proficient at sales.
Now that might seem like a no-brainer. After all, no matter how good your product or service is, if you can’t convince people to purchase it, you’re going to be back looking for a fulltime job soon. But having a strong sense of how to do sales goes far beyond just selling your product once it’s been created.
As stated in the Harvard Business Review, “Salesmanship is central to the success of any young company, and entrepreneurs ignore this at their own peril.”
What the authors of this article explain is that entrepreneurs often make one or sometimes even a series of sales errors early on that end up costing them big-time. And an even larger problem is that they don’t realize they’re making these miscues until they’ve invested a large chunk of their time and investors’ money.
These early mistakes include, 1) fully developing a product before gaining feedback from potential buyers, 2) offering discounts to generate sales, 3) ignoring criticism from the marketplace once that product is launched, and 4) selling to family and friends.
Regarding No. 1, entrepreneurs are usually so confident about their new product or service that they assume their target audience will be equally passionate about it. So, they pour all their energy into developing the product without seeking feedback along the way. They end up with a fully developed – but untested – product, and that’s a dangerous position to be in.
Regarding No. 2, offering discounts early on to put the sales wheel in motion may seem like a good plan. But if it’s a product or service you want people to keep buying, they may balk at your offers when the price goes up. And those who hear about it for the first time after those discounts have disappeared may learn that your product or service used to be more affordable, and may decide to pass on it for that reason alone.
Regarding No. 3, it’s crucial to listen to what customers and potential customers are saying about your product or service once it’s available. It’s easy to get so fixated on trying to convince people of the merits of your product or service that you fail to learn what its drawbacks are. You’ll be more successful if you can make the types of changes for which the marketplace is calling.
Regarding No. 4, you can gain a false sense of security if you get early sales from family members and friends. There’s nothing wrong with selling to them, but regardless what they say to you about your product or service, you won’t know their true motivation. They may just be doing you a favor. Put most of your focus on selling to those who are only interested in the merits of what they’re receiving.
At the end of the day, you’ll only be successful as an entrepreneur if your product or service produces value justifying the price. But to get there, you will have to display plenty of sales savvy and avoid the pitfalls.
Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.