Job Description: CEO/Sales Rep. Do You Need To Be A Good Sales Person To Be An Effective CEO At A Start Up?
When you’re in the early stages of setting up and growing your business, it’s easy to think of the whole thing in terms of your laptop: an online venture. You’ve got your business plan laid out; you have your online marketing strategy in place and your website went live this morning. You’re ready.
The phone rings. Suddenly, you are no longer an internet marketer, shielded by your smartphone or your keyboard. You aren’t even the CEO: you are a sales representative. And you’re the only one you’ve got, so you need to be good at this.
When 79% of leads never convert into sales, you need to be confident in your ability as a sales person. You need to convince as many of your leads as possible to buy your product or service. How do you go about this?
Are all entrepreneurs natural sales people anyway?
Many of the characteristics commonly identified with entrepreneurs and business owners are similar to those attributed to good sales people. We assume business owners and sales representatives alike possess outgoing personalities and are extroverted, confident people, accustomed to facing and rising to challenges.
Needless to say that not only are there always exceptions to the rule, but just because you might be outgoing and great at running your business, doesn’t mean you can translate this into being a great sales person. Making a sale takes more than an over-confident representative and as the owner of your start up, you might just be figuring this out now.
Be aware of your weaknesses
Whether or not you have experience working in sales, you need to either refresh your memory or learn some new skills. Don’t be blinded by how great you think your business is. Be careful not to bore the caller with long stories about how certain features work and why you decided to go with blue instead of green. The customer doesn’t care.
You should also be aware of your manner on the phone. If you feel you perform better in person, then try to arrange a face-to-face meeting. This is great when you offer a bespoke, customised service to meet the customers’ needs. This way, you can really get to know what they are looking for and tailor your efforts to suit their exact specification.
Alternatively, if you are selling a product or service that you hope to aim at a large number of people, it is unlikely that you will be able to arrange face-to-face meetings with all your callers. The same can be said if you are marketing your company all over the country. If you live in north Wales and many of your leads are coming in from Norwich, you won’t be able to keep up with that kind of meet and greet.
Play to your strengths
Your start up is your brain child. While you therefore need to be careful not to talk only about your business to potential clients, it is an enormous advantage that you know everything about this product or service. You know how much it costs, how it works, what are the main benefits and how it can be tailored to particular customers’ requests or requirements.
In addition to this, you are passionate about your business: that’s why you started it in the first place. Callers met by an unenthusiastic, disengaged representative when they call to enquire about a product are much less likely to buy, because the employee can’t get excited about it. But when you own the business and produce the product yourself, you are not only motivated to make as many sales as possible for your own livelihood, but because you are passionate about what you do.
Make a great sales pitch on the phone
The way in which you answer the phone to potential clients, and to existing ones, is crucial. It sets the tone of your business and establishes an image of the values of your brand in the eyes of the caller. Establish the credibility and competence of your firm when you answer your calls. Are you confident on the phone? Sales is, first and foremost, a conversation.
Ask your caller what it is that they are looking for: you need to know exactly how you can help them. They might not care about the ins and outs of your product, but they care about benefits. Offer callers a product or service that enhances their lives in some way: your product needs to scream benefits. Will you make your customers cool, exclusive, savvy, will you save them money or make their day easier?
Why should this person who you are talking to right now buy what you are selling? That is the question you need to be able to answer before you start persuading them to do anything.
Know when to say no
Seasoned entrepreneurs often recall their early days as start up owners and say “I should have learned how to say no.” Not all clients are the dream just because they offer you money for your service. The wrong client for your business can be a drain on energy and resources, distracting you from more promising partnerships.
If you don’t feel that your potential client would 100% benefit from what you’re selling, don’t bother. It’s a waste of your time and potentially your reputation. Dissatisfied customers could take to the internet and spread the word that you sold them a useless/uninteresting/irrelevant product. Your product isn’t any of these things: it just wasn’t for them.
As the business owner, all final decisions rest with you. You have the power to say no to incompatible clients, as well as the ability to cut deals how you like, offering discounts to win clients over here and there. The only thing you work for is your bottom line: follow your instincts and drive the right people to buy from you.
What do you think?
Do CEOs need also to be effective sales people? What are your tactics when talking to potential clients? Do you prefer the phone or face-to-face interactions?