16 Aug Salespeople wanted – Entrepreneurial Success Key #8
I love salespeople! Like I said earlier, I began my career carrying a quota and a bag. My experience as a salesman has proven invaluable at every stage of my career.
If you know you truly can’t sell, partner up with someone who can. Being a successful entrepreneur means you are almost always selling something to someone. Whether it’s selling an idea to potential investors, hiring a great employee, or your product or service to potential customers, if you can’t sell, you are doomed. I can count the actual number of products that “sold themselves” on one hand. It’s a myth. Even the greatest products were positioned and pitched by someone who could sell the idea. Your product or service is no different.
Can selling be taught or is it just an innate trait? Some are “born salespeople,” and you may be a better salesperson than you think. Just because you have never officially been in sales does not mean you can’t sell. If you are married, you sold your spouse! You have friends, you sold them on wanting to be your friend. You have a job, you sold (and continue to sell) your talents. The code name for ACT! before we arrived at that name was YES!. It stood for “Yes Everyone Sells.” Everyone really does sell. Mostly they sell themselves.
One of the hardest things we had to overcome with ACT! was getting distributors and big retailers to carry and sell our product. It was a classic chicken and egg. They didn’t want to carry the product unless it sold a lot. But we couldn’t sell a lot unless they carried it. So when we got an opportunity to prove ACT! could sell at retail we jumped all over it. A good entrepreneur friend of mine always says, “you have to egg the chicken!”
I had befriended a guy who managed to get Egghead, the leading retailer for computer software in the late 80’s and 90’s, to let him put a Kiosk in every store that would feature 5 new products every month. When he called me to ask if I wanted to be included I jumped at the chance even though we couldn’t really afford the cost of the program at the time. New companies would typically put the product in the Kiosk and “hope” the product would sell. Not us.
We had about 10 people in the company at the time. There were about 120 Egghead stores spread out over the country. We taught every person in the company how to sell and demo ACT! and then mapped out all the stores nationwide and bought plane tickets.All 10 of us, including our programmers, went on the road and visited every Egghead store not once, but TWICE in that month. We demoed almost every salesperson and manager in each store.
Egghead sold about 400 copies of ACT! that month and was stunned because it was one of the top sellers of all the software they sold. They immediately stocked the product and also demanded that their two main distributors carry the product as well. It was our big break. Our programmers especially LOVED being out talking about the product they had built. They knew the key points to make and also followed a very tight demo script we had taught them.
The other thing we accomplished with our “blitz” of the Egghead stores is that it made us LOOK like a big successful company. I call it “optics.” We put the very best optics on the opportunity as we possibly could.
So there are two messages here. One, lots of people can sell, even ones you might not expect. Second, when you get an opportunity to sell your product, put everything in it you possibly can. Leave as little to chance as possible. We’ll never know if ACT! would have sold enough to get Egghead’s attention but I suspect it probably wouldn’t have.