Entrepreneurship? It’s all about selling

It’s great when you come across an article that sets your mind racing. When it happens I often like to share my thoughts on it, as I did with an article about salespeople founding startups last month.

This happened to me after I just read this article by Brent Hoberman. I’d definitely recommend you read it too, just after you finish this one!

You may know Brent as the Co-Founder of lastminute.com. Now as Executive Chairman at Founders FactoryFounders Forum and firstminute capital, he’s now involved in funding and developing other people’s startups. The article is about the benefits of having a great advisory board at your startup, but that wasn’t the what set me off. It was this part.

“Entrepreneurship is all about selling – selling your vision and skills to potential and actual investors, clients and customers. Building up a great advisory board not only helps you sharpen your pitch and puts your sales skills into action, it also shows the world you know how to sell to people. VIPs, no less.”

When entrepreneurs don’t get it

I couldn’t agree more with Brent on this. It seems pretty clear to me that selling is the most important part of starting a business. However, you’d be surprised how many people you met don’t realise this at all.

I’m really not surprised so many startups fail.

In 2012, Google opened their Campus London space for startups in East London. I was thrilled to be involved there from the start. However, meeting many of the founders working there left me worried. To say they weren’t salespeople would be an understatement, most of them didn’t seem to have basic communication skills! They couldn’t articulate the problems their startups were going to solve. They were not ready to listen to a salesman like me, and were accepting mediocrity as a result.

They’d bought into the entrepreneur’s life without knowing what powers a business. They just didn’t want to accept the benefits of improving your sales skills. Being able to sell could have got them co-founders, highly-skilled employees and most importantly, some customers.

I’m pretty sure I know why they felt this way. It’s a long-ingrained viewpoint.

Selling is a dirty word

There’s something about selling that turns people off. Traditionally, people looked down on those who sell, thinking that they’re above that kind of thing. Selling was seen as uncouth. It was the preserve of ‘new money’ rather than the traditionally wealthy or well educated.

Even today, salespeople are often stereotyped. When many people think of salespeople, they think of the slick used car salesman, slimy estate agents or strutting Wolf Of Wall Street types. I wrote about it in an article about ‘Sales Jerk’.

What everyone is missing is that like it or not, we’re all salespeople. Whatever you do, in whatever field, even if you’re not selling a product, at times you’re trying to get someone to do what you want. That’s selling. Pure and simple.

Even super-clever, expensively-educated partners in investment banks, consultancies and law firms are salespeople, when they use their influence to get people to pay for their services. You will never see this listed in their LinkedIn profiles of course, but it’s exactly what they do.

Selling makes the world go round

The fact is, selling is the driver behind every business. Without revenue coming in, you won’t have a business for very long, and that can only come through somebody selling your product.

In addition, selling is essential to the development of society. Human beings love to buy ‘stuff’, and we can only do that if someone is selling that ‘stuff’. The future of the human race depends on us building relationships, and that can only happen when people sell the features and benefits of themselves.

Find your seller

If you’re an entrepreneur but not up to speed with selling, you need to take action. Brent Hoberman talks about putting together an advisory board for your business, finding people that have expertise in the areas of business where you have gaps. How about forming a personal advisory board for yourself?

The legendary self-development author Napoleon Hill wrote about your ‘inner circle’, building a network of people at similar stages in life, advising and helping each other through their challenges.

Jim Rohn put it even better. ‘You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.’ If you want to be better at selling, at business, at anything, surround yourself with people who are already good at those things.

Sales Confidence

We’ve seen how selling is the driving force behind business, in fact, it’s the driving force behind everything we do. If you’re going to be successful, you can’t ignore it or look down on it. You need to embrace selling and get good at it, fast.

If you want to learn more about selling, you can sign up to Sales Confidence, come to our events and read our articles. Visit Sales Confidence here.


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