I have encountered situations like the one I’m going to explain more times than I care to acknowledge. Here’s the scenario:
- An enterprising individual creates a new product or service.
- They are the ones primarily selling.
- The product/service fills a need.
- People buy it.
- Then, sales slow down.
- The entrepreneur pushes harder to sell but the results don’t come.
- Entrepreneur gets frustrated.
There are some interesting elements involved in this situation. You have a smart entrepreneur, a prospect base that seems to like the product, a lot of sales energy in the beginning, orders and then a brick wall. And here are the “entrepreneur laments” that you will most often hear:
- “We were rolling in the beginning and then all of a sudden sales dried up.”
- “I don’t get this sales thing.”
- “I don’t get it; the product is good and people like it but now nobody is buying.”
- “I don’t know how long we can hold out; expenses remain the same but sales have dropped off.”
- “There is more to this sales thing than meets the eye.”
I have great empathy for all the budding entrepreneurs who have fallen into the trap of thinking that sales is nothing more than telling prospects how great a product is and then realizing that not all prospects buy products bases on a “good story.” Along with empathy I have some incredulity as well. I have to be careful here because it would be easy (and stupid) for me to get on my soapbox and proclaim that sales is the great mis-understood profession and that non sales types just don’t get it.
That attitude is cruel, arrogant and naive. I believe that a lot of enterpreneurs know that sales is challenging and far from a piece of cake. They are prepared for tough sledding, resistance from prospects and the ups and downs of sales. What they perhaps weren’t aware of is that today prospects have more choices than ever before. What makes the entrepreneur’s business climate more confusing is that the choices are not all equal even though the “prospect thinks they are.” Imagine the pain in an entrepreneur’s face when, after a great presentation of a truly unique product/service, the prospect says, “oh, I can get that cheaper by using…..”
How many entrepreneur’s dreams have been dashed because their product was compared to a piece of crap? I suspect quite a few. The reality is that sales of a new product or service requires attention to more detail when in front of a prospect. The telling is easy; the persuasion is more difficult now than it was 10 or 20 years ago. There are more product/service choices, ergo, nuance plays a role, better listening plays a role, deft questioning is involved. These are not necessarily traits that every entrepreneur has. Entrepreneurs are deep into enthusiasm and hard work but both of those need to be balanced by a better knowledge of sales skills-skills that have become more important in the last ten years.
My advice to all entrepreneurs is that while you are preparing your product for the marketplace you also prepare yourself mentally to understand as much about sales as you can. Learn how to sell! Not tell! Sell!
I have a favor to ask of those who read this blog on a regular basis. Would you please pass this along to as many people as you possibly can? Especially those who might be connected to the entrepreneurial world. There are entrepreneurs on the brink of either going public or introducing their new products to the marketplace. If this post makes more people think about the intracies of sales then more revenue will be generated for the ones who have put their blood sweat and tears into their products. Thanks.
The Final Word: “Thoroughness would be the objective, as opposed to meeting any timetable,” Arlen Specter.