Unless you are selling a commodity item, please do your homework! If you are the CEO of a startup, you hardly think you are the CEO of a commodity! There are a lot of us blogging about this topic, writing books, doing public speaking, and giving webinars via sales school. There’s no other way to provide relevance and value to customers or differentiate yourself from the rest of the sales folks who are blah-blah-ing their way through a sales call (if they are even lucky enough to get an appointment).
By doing your homework, you will:
1.) Understand the size and dynamics of the market places in which your customers “live.” If you “get” their context, you’ll understand how they make decisions. Make a pivot away from status quo sales thinking. Think like your customers first, then develop their business.
2.) Determine what your customers’ business model looks like. Who reports to whom? What’s the priority of the decision you are asking them to make? How quickly can they / can’t they make decisions? Are there are lot of work-arounds and disconnects that you observe when you speak to various people at your target customers? What’s your gut about this? Are you comfortable or not?
3.) Study their financial health. That’s right. Read up about mergers, acquisitions, how they’ve performed in the marketplace, whether they operate in the red or black, how much debt might they be carrying. Are they the type of company you would want to invest in? Because that is what you are doing when you spin your wheels to make your sales quota and call on any and every company just to say you made X sales calls a week. That’s wasteful activity when you could be targeting customers who align with your core strengths and areas of specialization.
4.) Can you provide value to these customers? Not just the kind of value that your sales organization has written about in their collateral materials. Not the type of value that your sales training modules tell you to rattle off during sales calls. Are you a person of value? Does it make sense for customers to do business with you? Does your expertise and industry insight make you a person of worth for their strategy, over the long haul?
These four areas are what entrepreneurs and start-ups must quantify and qualify. Constantly. Entrepreneurs address all four fronts simultaneously, because that is how businesses work. Business doesn’t stand still while you figure out the one aspect that’s been puzzling you.
It’s like a business development tsunami. The water is constantly rushing at you, sometimes overwhelming you.
That’s the sense of urgency which must be brought to your selling and business development activities. An entrepreneurial, inquisitive sense of urgency that finds all information “new” and exciting. If you are an entrepreneurial sales person, it never gets boring. You always see something different in each customer conversation that you have. In turn, you bring a collaborative, and valuable, freshness to the business development process.
You may just jog your customers out of their complacency. You may find them dreaming along with you, becoming part of your entrepreneurial selling process.
There’s a lot of value in selling like a start-up. Are you up for the task?
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. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. 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. You can download the first chapter here.