Sales Myths That Inhibit Entrepreneurial Success
You have no business without customers, and you have no customers without sales. But as important as sales are to the ultimate success of any entrepreneurial endeavor, there is no one area of business that is more misunderstood and more rife with myths and misconceptions than sales.
Often, the main reason for this is that the entrepreneur, the founder, or the originator of the idea or business concept upon which the company is based, more and more typically, comes from a non-sales background. They may be engineers, scientists or even professors.
They've only experienced sales as a function in companies where they've worked or like all of us, as prospective customers being sold to by sales people in retailers or auto dealers. And that can jaundice anyone's viewpoint!
So, to help entrepreneurs, whether you are just starting out, have a business that's growing, but not nearly what they expected, here are some popular myths that can impact your sales and your overall success:
Marketing and sales are separate, independent functions.Nope. They are joined at the hip. In fact, sales almost cannot operate efficiently without marketing. As I've noted previously, marketing's sole function is to create qualified leads for sales to close. They can do this in many ways, from websites to email campaigns to trade shows to webinars, but somewhere along the line, they have to do it. Otherwise, you have sales people making what amounts to cold calls (which we'll cover in the next section).
And to further emphasize the importance of the complementary nature of marketing and sales, if you want to increase sales, then increase marketing. I've also touched on this one, previously.
Sales success is based on making lots of calls.This one has been around since door-to-door sales people went around selling brushes or vacuum cleaners. But like the door-to-door sales person, it is an outdated concept. Cold calling (where you might only know the prospect's name) is the single most inefficient use of sales people's time. In those olden days, a lead was simply a household that might have money to spend.
Today, all sales leads are not created equal. They can and should be qualified before a sales person ever makes contact with them. And what's that mean? It means they are aware of your company and your product or service. They are interested (have downloaded information from your website, or inquired about a particular product). They have the budget, the need and the ability to decide.
And this is all driven by marketing, as we noted in the previous section. Calling on qualified leads is critical to increasing your odds of sales success. So let's change that myth: the more calls you can make on qualified leads, the higher your potential success.
You have to be glib to be a successful sales person.The Willy Loman "smile and a shoeshine" caricature of a salesman is another outdated concept. Sales people don't have to be glib to close sales. They have to know about both the company's products and services and the customer, their profile, needs, and requirements. In fact, to close a sale, as many entrepreneurs learn, you don't even need to be a sales person. You simply have to connect with the prospective customer on a personal and professional level.
Who knows more about the product than the founder? What it then takes is to better understand what the prospect's needs or problems are and how your product can best solve them. Your knowledge and credibility will trump glib or slick any day!
New customers are the best source of new revenue.They may be a source of new revenue, but not the best source. The best source are existing customers. You've already done all the hard work. They know you and your company. They trust you and if you've supported them properly, they should be willing listeners and excellent prospects for add-on's to their existing product deployment. They present, not only an exceptional opportunity for new revenue, but with the bonus of a shorter sales cycle than for a new customer.
The more products (or revenue streams), the higher your sales success.Actually, for small businesses, almost the opposite is true. Sometimes, simpler is better. With each product or revenue stream, you have to add some element of marketing and support, at a minimum, for each. Plus, you have to educate your sales team how to optimally sell the product and your support team how to best provide support for it. And it all has to be managed.
Now, this is not to say that you shouldn't develop more new products, but just to say that having more is not a guarantee of more success, especially if the products focus on different markets. This diffuses marketing, sales and support resources. And, especially, for young companies this could be self-defeating.
Selling is never easy, but if you allow some of the prevalent sales myths to guide your thinking it can become impossible. Sales is the engine that drives entrepreneurial success. Understand the critical issues that make up these myths and misconceptions and don't let them creep into your small business and limit your success.
"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!
Have you been guilty of some these misconceptions? Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur.
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