Bob O’Brien, SCORE LA
It is really important for you as the company owners/founders to be involved in the selling process.
Thomas Greenbaum and John Harmon, Score Mentors on the East Coast have written in their book “You Can Do It”:
“You are always a sales person when you start your own business, and if you are not willing to accept that role it is probably not a good idea for you to try and begin an entrepreneurial venture”
You’re the one who thought up the idea for the product or service and have convinced yourself that the idea is viable and is worth spending time and money to develop. The reasons that make the idea viable are the ideal place to start developing a sales presentation. To start a company takes passion, and this passion can be a valuable tool for convincing customers to buy.
Face up to objections with knowledge
During the selling process, potential customers raise objections. It takes intimate knowledge of the product to answer the objections. Hopefully during the development of the product, the objection(s) has been discussed and ways to answer the objection have been developed. Sometimes there is no answer to the objection and the product needs to be modified. You are the only one who can do this.
An essential part of selling is to determine who the customers are for the product. Again, you know who the product was designed to satisfy. You must test the selling approach to prove that the product can be sold. During this process it’s important to develop a list of prospects for the sales force so they have a starting point.
One major benefit of handling the selling yourself is that if the customer likes you, he will help you sell the product. When I was working for a manufacturer I would often take new products to my best customers to ask them if they liked the product and why. This gave me features and benefits to pitch to customers that I did not know as well.
Getting to know you…
Years ago, the company I was working for bought a little company with a product that I didn’t think I could sell because it did not go with the rest of our product line. I discovered that I had one big existing customer for the product in my territory, so I called him and asked if I could visit him and learn about this product. He said sure. After touring his plant and seeing how he used the product I still could not see how I could sell this product to any of the other customers in my territory. I did get to know this customer and helped him with order entry and expediting, and I got to know some folks at the new division also.
One day I got a call from the factory asking why I did not have any other customers for the product. I told them that their product did not fit with the other things we were selling. They had reached the same conclusion and had decided to sell the little company. They asked me if I would approach my customer to see if he would like to buy the company. I did and he did, so although I couldn’t sell the product I was able to sell the company.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
You must decide on the type of sales force to use to sell your product. Are you going to use inside sales people, outside sales people, manufacturers’ representatives or some other method? Once this decision is made, the sales force needs to be trained and motivated. Even professional sales people need to be trained on the product. Not only do they need to understand the product, but they need to know about competitors, how to handle objections that will be raised, benefits and features that can be used to convince the customer and pricing parameters in different situations.
As owner, you are in the best position to motivate the sales force with creative compensation and enthusiasm for the product. You can best advise what type of customers the sales people should approach and some proven techniques for selling the product. I like to say that nothing happens ‘till somebody sells something.
Once the selling begins you need to manage everything else in the company to ensure a structure exists to deliver quality products/services competitively priced and on time.
Hopefully, this article helps you think about the scope of selling as part of your new business venture.