Sales is the fundamental requisite for a startup’s success, especially if you are a startup based out of India. You do not have the luxury of being funded just on your idea, so you need to make money from your product or service to sustain till the point an investor finds you attractive enough to put in money. Also, this is not a market where people will readily give you a meeting because you have an exciting product, you need to get those meetings, you need to get those sales and you need to get the revenue for yourself to survive. The big question is how do you go about doing just that? And as an entrepreneur you will have to sell till you can afford a smart sales guy/girl in your team and trust me that smart sales resource is not easy to come by. So as an entrepreneur, get set to sell till all the above falls in place for you.
Set/Reset Your Mindset - The biggest challenge to successful sales is not from the outside world but from your own mindset. Many a times we are inhibited just while thinking about sales, dreading doing the cold calls, listening to rude rejections and not being able to crack the deal. Think about it yourself, I have heard so many entrepreneurs say, “sales is not my cup of tea”, or some of the tech startup entrepreneurs say, “I am not a glib talker and I cannot suck up to get a deal,” so here is my question to you and take time out to think about it – how do you know you cannot sell? Do you think smooth talking people can get the deal? What according to you is the key trait for selling? If you have more of an ‘analytical bent’ rather than the ‘sales bones’ in your body, then what stops you from being an analytical salesman, what stops you similarly from being a technical salesman? Play to your strength and sell. (More on personality types and how to sell in next articles)
Prospecting, Prospecting and Prospecting- This is your biggest investment, take out time everyday to find your prospects, think laterally and see who all can be your prospects, many a times we think of a few names but we should atleast have 200 prospects at all given times (what’s the harm, put all who can be interested in your product/service in the list),we are not able to make a large prospect list sometimes because of our limited knowledge, go and scan the market like crazy, meet lots of people and different kinds of people and expand your list.
Digging deep into the Prospects - Once you have the list of prospects, do a deep dive into it, just knowing your prospects is like scratching the surface, you need to know a lot more, what is the short and long term business goal of your prospect, what is exciting them, what is their worry, who is their competition, what makes them tick? What has the media been writing about them? and most importantly, who are the key people in the team?
Identifying and Customising the Solutions - Lets take an example, If you are selling a social media analytics engine to ecommerce ventures, the pitch to a Flipkart or an Amazon will be very different then to an ecommerce venture which has just started a month back. To give you an example, Bangalore based venture, Formcept just closed a deal with us, on them creating weekly infographics and analysis on the data and content we generate. Formcept is a big data company and when I met the founder first, his key focus was on enterprise customers who had real big data which needed analysis and sorting. Yet the entrepreneur was happy to customise his offering for us and thereby open a new vertical ‘for startups’ within his venture . He not only understood and customised to our needs but also valued the importance of privacy, timeliness etc which we requested.
Be a thorough listener, listen to what your prospects really want, and then if you think you have the solution go for the kill.
Negotiation and Closing the deal - Negotiation is the heart of sales. It’s a make or break time for your hot deal, How do you negotiate without losing the deal and holding your ground? I am a strong believer in empathy, most deals do not go through as we are not listening, understanding and empathising with the other one. First, if you have done an awesome job of building relation based on trust and merit with your prospect, the negotiating table will be a cake walk, so invest a lot of time wooing and for all the sceptics out there, trust me, we are all living in an evolved world. You cannot as I term it “fake woo” and hope things will fall through. Be genuine, honest and just you. I have seen such fake talks, smiles, lingos and jargons that even if those guys sweet talk me into using their products or services for free, I won’t do it. Trust me, neither will your prospect. Build relation, demonstrate capability and be honest, the deal will be yours.
There are many books on this and I recommend as an entrepreneur start reading on negotiations if its not your area of liking.
Creating Your Champions - Enjoy creating your champions among your existing clients, nobody will influence your success roadmap in the way your first few customers can. Once the marriage is done, don’t forget your responsibility and trust me so many of us just do that, we forget once the deal is done and start chasing the new one, without engaging with the existing customer on an everyday basis. I believe every deal is a relationship you are getting into for life, how do you want to treat that relationship is upto you. If you keep it transactional, the paying guy will keep it ten times more transactional and will be on the lookout for the next cheaper, better version. How you engage and continuously wow your client is upto you and you will know the best way to do that.
Of course, this is a very broad and general view of how to go about doing sales. Though a point worth remembering will be – sales is done between people and only people, not organisations, processes and products.
High confidence, high integrity and high emotional quotient are things that matter a lot and as entrepreneurs, I am sure we all have a bit of all these- how we channelise, nurture and grow these attributes is totally upto us.