Selling is part of your job functionality as the CEO of your small business and startup business and any business, for that matter. Your manufacturing or service company may be re-launching and re-positioning themselves, ramping up from the ravages of post-2008 downsizing. Congratulations on surviving; now let’s talk about thriving. You may be the CEO of a startup, dealing with investors and funding rounds. Perhaps you are a solopreneur and starting your own small business.
Whatever your story, selling is part of your job function whether stated or not. How, when, where and why did you learn how to drive revenue through your organization, aka, S-E-L-L?
Perhaps there was a sales training course offered by the local business incubator or recommended by your investors, family, friends, etc. You bought a few sales books and educated yourself. If you sold for your established company before 2008, you figured you already knew all there was to know about selling, so you dusted off your sales shoes and hit the streets once again.
Selling has a bad rap in terms of marketplace perception. The majority of folks hear the word “salesperson” and immediately visualize a talking head, walking brochure on legs, showing up and throwing up a lot of sales spiel blah-blah-blah which is all about them, and not-at-all about the customer.
There’s a lot of bad selling out there, based on one-size-fits-all mindset, which perpetuates this stereotype. All you have to do is pick up the phone during the dinner hour or open your email Inbox each morning for solicitations you never asked for from people and companies you don’t want to deal with.
Selling is perceived as “common”. It’s something apparently everyone can do, which is why anyone is hired to do it. It’s a basic skill involving no more than run-of-the-mill thinking, the ability to memorize scripts, and little creativity. The concept of selling has been grossly underserved by decades of poor salesmanship, reinforcing this stereotype.
It’s no surprise that tons of folks feel selling and salesmanship are beneath their dignity. If you are the CEO of a technical startup, commercializing your university-based research, or are the CEO of an established company which is retooling and recalibrating for today’s marketplace, selling is the last thing you want to do. It’s beneath the dignity of your professional degree and certifications, your position within the academic community, and the title of CEO.
You want to hire “someone else” to sell for you. As a result, that’s exactly who you hire: “someone” else. “Anyone” else.
Old school selling, based on one-size-fits-all mindset, is nothing anyone would volunteer to learn to do, including some of the finest sales professionals I know. Even these sales professionals have observed bad selling. It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, for many organizations, that’s not the way it is – at all.
Driving revenue is part of everyone’s job function in today’s globally competitive economy. Being able to articulate your value, and that of your venture or capability, in words and concepts that everyone seated around the business table understands, is the responsibility of any CEO.
Any way you look at it, the job of selling starts with you.
Why would you limit your selling education to reading a few books and attending one tried-and-true one-size-fits-all sales training course offered by the local business accelerator? You didn’t earn your PhD, MBA, or mechanic’s certification by reading one book or attending one class. You don’t learn how to run a marathon by watching training films and reading a book.
Selling is not that basic. It’s not that easy, either. If it were easy, everyone would be successfully doing it. While there are a lot of people hired to sell, there are very few who are successful at selling. There’s more to selling than sounding like a talking head, spieling a standard sales script.
If you have an opportunity to take a sales training course, take it. Just don’t take it at face value. Ask yourself whether the methodology and strategy of the course fit you like a glove or feel out of sync with how you, yourself, think. If you are an analytical type, you know there’s more to selling than simply memorization of a set of questions, to be asked of all prospects, which are “guaranteed” to deliver positive results. That’s not realistic.
Ask yourself whether you would like to be “sold at” in the same manner in which you were just taught to sell. If not, keep moving forward and seeking other approaches to business development until your aggregated knowledge starts to make sense and the dots are connected. You’ll see the results with your customers.
Selling is not beneath your dignity if you take the time to develop a hybridized approach which feels intuitive, fits your temperament and mindset like a glove, and creates the environment in which you have conversations with your customers that even they didn’t know they wanted to have with you. Until now.
What experiences have led you to believe that selling is beneath your CEO dignity?
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.