Many startup incubators, accelerators and investors recommend sales training programs for startups as the key to customer acquisition. This strategy isn’t all that different from small to mid-sized businesses and their “sales school” concept.
Investors don’t want to deal with selling; their expertise lies in creating a business and financial model for your startup that drives your growth and the profitability of their portfolio. Investors have bigger fish to fry than selling for your startup: they may be in the process of raising capital for a new fund they are starting.
Chances are you are a sales newbie. Chances are you feel selling is beneath your startup CEO dignity. Chances are you will talk at anyone who will listen. Chances are you are chasing early customers, and leads, that go nowhere.
If you are “selling” by relying on following a set methodology and script that you got from books or perhaps a beginning selling course, it’s like playing the game, “Twister®”. You follow the sales recipe in the order you have been taught. You find yourself all tangled up and not positioned properly to implement the buying conversation and execute contract negotiations.
Why are you so tangled up trying to sell? Probably because you are not listening for your customer’s context.
- You are focusing on asking questions from a theoretical scripted conversation, in an order that never happens in real life.
- You keep asking the same question, because the selling script tells you that your customer is supposed to move to the next discussion level which – you guessed it – is consummated in a sale.
- You retain that mental selling script in your head, waiting for the right “buying signals” so you can move the selling conversation forward. But things get stalled and go nowhere.
- You are so focused on dutifully someone else’s scripted sales spiel that you block out the actual context of the customer conversation happening right in front of your nose.
Your customer has a lot to tell you, if you are willing to listen.
This concept of selling, played out daily in many startups and small businesses, reminds me of the discussion about the Pirate’s Code, from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
“…the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.”
All of us started our sales careers by attending sales schools – usually paid for by our employers. If we truly were interested in developing our expertise, we made an investment in ourselves and read many of the excellent books written about selling. Sometimes we hired coaches.
Selling is an evolutionary process. It isn’t easy. By now, I think you are finding that out for yourself.
Selling programs are not based on absolutes, nor do they guarantee results. These newbie sales programs are a place to start. They are predictive guidelines, at best, about what might happen during a customer conversation. They very rarely yield valuable information about the context in which you are asking your customer to make that buying decision.
If you are finding that you are paying far too much attention to a sales script in your head, I recommend you focus on what your customer is talking about. The context of your customer discovery conversation is the most valuable information you can acquire.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, focuses you and your company or startup on cultivating the mindset, skills, markets, customers, and investors necessary for professional and business growth. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business, is now available in eReader format!