Build and Sell
If you ask an entrepreneur what is the hardest thing he/she must do, you’ll get various answers. We go through a lot of articles and books on the subject, reading about others’ experiences and we empathize with most of them. One thing we saw repeating, that we experienced ourselves, is the fact that an entrepreneur has to wear many hats: specialist in his/her field, business administrator, strategist, project manager and yes, salesman.
If we consider Ford’s vision regarding the division of work and how productive it has proved over the years, such situations could be considered a serious mistake, the wrong way to do business. Still, theory and practice are rarely aligned and startup life has proven over and over again that it is highly improbable to cover all the different roles with different specialized people. Actually, it is commonly known and accepted that a small company is about people fulfilling various duties, not necessarily related to their job description. It is how it works. And, if you ask us, it the best way to learn about how a company runs and what business really means.
Let’s get back to the entrepreneur who had a brilliant idea and built a business model around it. Generally, the “business idea” fits the expertise of its owner, so putting it into practice shouldn’t be a major problem; the know-how exists, it only needs resources to make it possible. The entrepreneur’s role as “builder” is pretty clear.
It’s the “resources” part that throws the entrepreneur right into the salesman role. And many professionals simply don’t fit it; they don’t like it, don’t have the mindset for it or the knowledge. Still, it has to be done, since it is very probable that a startup can’t afford to employ dedicated people for the sales process. So what then?
No panic, there are ways to fit all hats.
First, the “builder” needs to realize that at some point in the startup’s life the “salesman” needs to take the lead. Because what’s the point of building something if you don’t have the people to buy it? Acknowledging that is the most important phase. This being said, trust your development team with the actual product, set the guidelines and start focusing on the “how to get customers”.
Now that you cleared this, the situation needs to be assessed: can I do it by myself? Am I up to the challenge? Do I have the knowledge? Do I like it? Loathe it? Maybe it doesn’t bother me that much? Once you have the answers to these questions, start finding solutions.
If contacting people and trying to convince them to buy your product is something that you’d rather do in the afterlife, then you probably shouldn’t do it at all. It is an activity where commitment and passion are the kinds of non-verbal arguments that make the difference between closing the deal and losing the client. If you hate being in that particular position, it will show and will cancel all the nice things you are saying about the product and the business.
If this is your case, then think about getting a business partner who can cover the sales part. Some people are born to negotiate and love networking.
If this is not a viable option for your startup, the second thing to do is to hire someone (if you can afford, of course). Find the resources to make it happen if you are convinced you can’t do it yourself; otherwise, there are very few chances that people will rush to buy your products all by themselves. If hiring is also not an option, the one thing that remains to do is to change your mindset and do it yourself.
Yes, force yourself, as startup owner, to put the ”sales” hat on, despite your loathing it. Think of it not as sales, but as connecting with the people who need your product. Think of it as talking to people about how great your product is, how it makes their lives better, prettier, easier. After all, this is why you build it. That shouldn’t be hard. And you surely like your product, so the excitement when talking about it will be genuine and convincing. Ask your team for help with finding potential costumers, preparing the presentation materials, seizing opportunities to talk about the product and promoting it.
Yes, it is way easier to build a product than to sell it. But, funny thing, the actual sale is part of the building process, because it supports it. You wouldn’t have the resources to build unless you sell. Not to mention a good feedback on the real need to cover, in order to make the product better.
So take your hats, make them pretty and start wearing them. They all look good on you and will feel good for your small company, too.