In coaching and mentoring the startup community, I’ve found that many startups are still bamboozled by what’s required for successfully negotiating business competitions. A colleague from the venture capital community recently told me that one VC firm heard over 3,000 pitches last year…and funded only 6!
There are a lot of similarities between the entrepreneurial community and the mature business community both small, mid-sized and large. What’s involved in business development is selling. For technical entrepreneurs and technically-based companies, the word S-E-L-L remains as the most dreaded four-letter word there is. Yet it’s the basis of business, no two ways about it.
Business development will never be an intellectual or academic exercise. It’s transactional.
There are so many stereotypes associated with the smarmy sales person. A sales role is not equated with being intelligent (think talking head or brochure on legs). And, after all, technical entrepreneurs really are the smartest people in the room. They just aren’t the folks with the funding.
If you are a techie who sells, a sales engineer, a business owner who sells, or a salesperson who works for techies, this one’s for you. Because what you are selling (not pitching) is your story. And your story is all about your leadership and credibility.
Do you believe you are a leader? If you are at the helm of a startup, you are the CEO, as well as the head of everything else quite honestly. If you work for yourself or others, you are the CEO of yourself and your job function. People do buy you, as the physical embodiment of your company.
The first person you have to sell yourself on is YOU. If you don’t believe that you are the CEO of your venture, enterprise, company or job, how can you expect anyone else to buy into you? Selling isn’t a passive, logical exercise; although all of us have tons of books we ponder and read lots of blogs dealing with this elusive subject.
Selling is transactional. In order to sell, there has to be an object of your desire: a prospective customer. Whether this customer is an investor or a decision maker in a mature company, they are nonetheless a customer. You must have customer conversations to fuel your startup or your business.
How else can you get your finger on the pulse of your marketplace? How else can you determine whether your business model really does marry up to the demands of these markets? How else can you determine whether your financials are fantasy or reality?
So many of us tie ourselves up in knots at the thought of contacting individuals to have those customer conversations, customer discovery sessions, whatever you would like to call them to pretty them up. These are sales conversations, and they are the fulcrum by which you leverage your products and services against demand generation. There are no two ways about it.
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. No one ever said it would be. There’s no straight line to the finish, where there is a guaranteed pot of gold. You have to work hard to achieve your goals, and hard work involves selling your venture and vision.
In order to sell you need to lead. In order to lead, you have to believe that you, in fact, are a leader, a CEO.
Do you believe in yourself?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.