No matter how great the product is, the importance of a solid sales function cannot be undermined. If you do not agree with this statement, perhaps the rest of the write-up will not resonate or make sense and you are better off saving a couple of minutes by not proceeding further.
If you are a founder and a technical one at that, you must work towards developing your sales skills. Even if you have a head of sales taking care of your sales function, it is inevitable that you will have to sell. You will have to sell your idea to investors to raise money, you will have to sell your growth story to on-board high potential employees and most importantly, you will have to sell the zeal and enthusiasm which you have for your idea to your family members / near-dear ones to bring them on-board with the insanity and rigour that running a start-up can soon turn into being.
If you are just starting off and think that technology only can take you places, you might be in for a surprise. Technology, I dare say, is the easy part. Now I may get a lot of flak for saying this, but I will still stick to my view.
The tough part is psychology – understanding the psychology of the consumer. Sales is not about push, it is about understanding the psychology of the customer and then easing your idea in. Technology teaches us to be rational. By extension, technology founders with their years of training in engineering/science, come with a very rational/logical bent of mind. However, the twist is, that at the very core humans are irrational. You just cannot simply ignore this irrational side of the consumer because eventually you need to sell your idea to succeed, and you need to sell your idea to these irrational beings.
If I had a million dollars to invest (which I don’t, but will have some day) I will invest in somebody who understands and cherishes the fundamental irrationality of being a human and the underlying poetry behind this concept. Because once you understand this, you can use technology ‘as a tool’ to deliver exceptional products. Yes, technology is just a tool.
Some lines from ‘Dead Poets Society’ –
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
If the above lines struck any chords, then you and I are on the same page.
Some handy pointers –
- Talk to people, network – because you genuinely are interested
- Prospect actively and relentlessly
- Consistency is the key
- Write emails which can be quickly read on the phone on the go
- If it’s a no, find out why. If it’s a yes, still find out why
- Let them speak, if they don’t, ask the right questions
- Never speak ill of your competitors, always know your competitors well
- Use less jargon, break down the offering into the simplest form possible
- Let your passion for your product show
- Have your feet on the ground
- Every now and then take time off and contemplate the ‘why’ of your product
- Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, in your employees’ shoes and in your family members’ shoes
- Read fiction too, non-fiction is over-rated
- Remember: 2+2 is not always 4.
I have an engineering background and I work in the technology advisory space. My most recent role involves consultative sales of custom technology research services. Through Venture Woods, I hope to share my learnings from my industry experience and hope that it will be useful for the ecosystem at large. My opinions on this blog are, needless to say, personal.
I can be reached at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/guptaanshuman/