So you say you wanna sell ........ REALLY?

Are you saying YOU want to sell ?

People think they want to sell all the time.  They may say they want to "get into real estate" but what it really means is they are going to have to sell.

An entrepreneur with a brilliant idea

is still nobody when nobody is buying your product or service.  You should know the basics when you start out because you are responsible for selling your company.  

You may decide to hire sales professionals.  Yet it is your responsibility to ensure you have minimal organizational structure figured out along with basic tools that allow others to be successful, for example:
  • A CRM (customer relationship management) system that anyone who is customer facing can log who they contacted, when, their contact details, what was discussed, level of interest, follow up required; a CRM allows you to keep track of active customers or close to closing prospects so that if you have turnover (people quit) you still have captured the pertinent details.
  • Value proposition:  Answers the why:  what benefit does your service provide?  what are people loving about your product or service? 
  • Business cards:  as soon as you hire someone, you should get on it right away.  Having a business card that is hand-written filled in or a name scratched out and your new pro's name penned in.  You could be doing more harm than good if you don't have this cued up and ready for Day One.
  •  marketing material (a clean one pager that is meticulously created and professionally presented (no typos, grammar errors, inferior  low resolution images);
  • a professional website with the ability to manage inquiries, respond to inquiries
  • tools to do the job:  cell phone, computer, email address, business cards, a desk or office, a board room to host client meetings
  • a presence on the web:  website, Linked In company profile, leadership team, about us, what you sell/offer/suggest

If you can't have the minimum, or the company you may be considering selling for doesn't have the resources or cash to get you started, you may want to reconsider.

Establish expectations
How will you decide the arrangement is successful?  You don't need fancy metrics that larger organizations itemize to allow them to differentiate between the producers and weak links.  However, if you are selling a service that needs your customers to buy a specific product, prioritize it.  Understand yourself first what you are asking others to.

Define the territory
Are you selling something locally, regionally, nationally or internationally?  I suggest you have it mapped out.  

What is the prioritization or focus?
 New customers? Increased revenue (can be from new or existing).  Specific numbers, specific audience, specific buyers, specific prospect pool?

Value proposition
What value or benefit do you provide? Once you've decided what the value proposition is, you may want to reflect on where the best customers can be scooped from.  

Yes, I know you are hiring a sales pro because they should know how to sell.  However, you still need to be available or accept responsibility to field questions and filter priorities.  Things like pricing models, volume discounts, are wise when ironed out early on.  Be clear and specific on empowerment limitations or approval processes.  Who is able to sign a contract?  Does it need to have sign off and by whom?  What should be the realistic timelines on approval by hours or by days?

Do you know what the idea customer looks like?  You know what problem you solve, but do you know who or where they may likely be?  Either geographically or a specific buyer (i.e. IT versus Marketing) in mind.  In other words, to increase traction and maximize success in the quickest timelines, you may want to identify what the low lying fruit is.  Establish time goals (first month, quarter, year, 2 years, etc.)

Low Lying Fruit
Do you have contacts or ideas on who may be the easiest to close or sign on?  How do you define them?Are they prospects (potential customers) who are the most likely to buy in or you know will buy within a certain period.  Is buying a seasonal or year-round activity? A seasoned pro can determine this if they have the right historicals.  

Who are your competitors?
When I was asked to take on the sales launch for a new voIP (voice over internet) teleco (telecommunications company), the CEO was really passionate and in tune with what our strengths were and who we needed to beat at their own game.  He wanted to go over a national telecommunications carrier.  He understood their appeal and their limitations.  He knew who they were and where they were or what areas they were covering:  local, regional, national, global.  

SMART analysis
You hear often and is usually required for a business plan or anywhere financing is needed:  banks, investors, shareholders, etc.  This is a roll up your sleeves, get out a flip chart or white board and draw/scribble it out.  

If you toss your sales pro out into the field and simply say "Go sell now" you should ensure that you have the people and capital to deliver on the promises made:  value proposition gains traction, new customers.

Savvy investors, even sales pros have information sources at their fingertips:  have you been involved in any court proceedings?  (been sued for false promises, failure to deliver, etc.) Have you filed for Chapter 11 protection (US) or bankruptcy before?  Have you been sued for anything, even non payment (credit bureau, media, news).  Are you noted for having a lot of turnover of sales reps in general or with recruitment firms?

Don't be so passionate about what you have that you fail to see some weaknesses.  If you are open about challenges, that is great.  Much better if you can communicate what is being done about it.  

Working capital
Anyone who has ever worked for a startup, even long standing company, knows how important it is to being paid.  However, paying your suppliers is important too.  You hardly want a sales rep to go out and sell a new customer, to only find out that part of the sale requires a certain service, but your account is delinquent and frozen.

Regardless of the size or scope of your offering, you have to ingrain in your culture that everyone is a sales rep for your company.  If you are proud of what you offer, who you work for, the talent assembled, it will be easy to be an evangelist singing the praises.

Some organizations start out with a referral program - a quantifiable dollar amount or fee for every referral someone sends your wave.  Define and distinguish referrals and how they are rewarded:
  • First try free
  • Discount for BETA testers
  • A warm lead versus a hot prospect?
  • A sliding scale discount that increases as the referrals grow
  • A one time spiff:  free tickets, a free t-shirt or a company pen?

Rewards & recognition
  • Discover what motivates your people?  
  • Most people like cash bonuses but others may like a free trip or a free product
  • How are you, as an organization, getting the word out there?  
  • Do you do anything that would generate leads?
  • Do you have everyone actively sharing information?
  • Who is responsibility is your social media awareness?  If it is the CEO who doesn't get around to it or has no time, that's not going to help.
  • Do you spend a percentage of revenue to apply to advertising, online banners, sponsorship of events?
Once you have at least these basics mapped out and in place, you should be ready to sell, or hire someone to help you.  

How do you sell?
First answer and address all of the above, and then we'll get on that.  Think about it.  It may involve more cashola or resources than you thought, bring up issues you haven't intentionally ignored because you may be ignorant of the requirements, avoided an honest assessment of your ability to support the sales process and the integration of new customers, haven't drawn out a process map (how do you get from point A SOLD to point Z PAID).  Sometimes you can get lucky and hire the right sales pro who you may think is being demanding, while they are just challenging you to have the basics required for you, your company, the sales pro, the buyer and the customer to be successful.

with yourself and align your expectations with what you have to give.  You don't have to take a defeated attitude, you just have to be realistic.  

white boards, flip charts, to get ideas flowing.  BUT write them all down.  You may not know there is a golden nugget sitting there that could solve a problem but because it was as high of a priority now, it could be later on, and it shows you've already covered that.  

by as many people as possible requires feedback.  Do you have a process to get feedback?  How do you really know if you are hitting the mark if you are not involving other people?

A great example of an organization that is mapped out, knows it purpose, understands and can clearly communicate its value proposition.

I hope you don't have a headache from this assembly of a great big TO DO LIST.  If anything, it will just remind you that not having all the answers is reasonable and natural.  However, if you ski in the Swiss Alps during the winter, have you equipped those selling with minimal information or empowerment if they can't get a hold of you?

"A map to where you are going, is more easily defined once you decide what you need to get started."                                          ~Jeannette Marshall

We will keep the dialogue open and help you break it down into bite size pieces to avoid being overwhelmed.  I don't want to discourage anyone from launching a new business, I just want to assist with what may be a reasonable level of must do and must haves before you get too far ahead of yourself. 

 Feel free to ask me any specific question or help on addressing an issue and I will do my best to get answers.

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