Think about it -- when is the last time you met a great salesperson? The top MBA programs in the country offer paths in marketing, finance and entrepreneurship, but not sales (something they'd be good at given their adroitness in selling overpriced degrees). What we finally need to realize is that sales is a hard skill. Selling well is not a nice-to-have. In tech more than most industries (except for used cars, perhaps, though I'd say we're giving them a run for their money), salesmen and saleswomen are the people everyone loves to hate. In doing so, you cause real harm to every aspect of your business, from your bottom line to the beloved company culture. After all, without salespeople, your customers don't buy and your business doesn't run. As a company, it is imperative to build a system that supports your salespeople as they start a thousand new relationships with each of your customers. As a CEO, it is your job to not only create a culture and system conducive to actually making money, but also to lead by example. They think they are too good to sell, or that it will tarnish their M.O.
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Tech is suffering from a fundamental imbalance. Everyone wants to be a visionary without realizing they need to be salesmen, too.
It’s a widespread and shocking oversight. We constantly bemoan the lack of technical talent, citing shortages of talent in fields like engineering and computer science, but don’t realize we’re facing a similar crisis in a role that essentially every business needs.
Think about it — when is the last time you met a great salesperson? And no, I’m not including selling “yourself” or “ideas” under this designation. The top MBA programs in the country offer paths in marketing, finance and entrepreneurship, but not sales (something they’d be good at given their adroitness in selling overpriced degrees). This gap in education is a symptom of misplaced arrogance that assumes anyone can be good at sales if they just give it a shot. What we finally need to realize is that sales is a hard skill. As such, it deserves the same training and serious study more lauded degrees like finance receive.
However, before I teach you how to overhaul your relationship with sales, it’s important to first look you in the eye and tell you a hard truth, entrepreneur to entrepreneur. Even as the social stock and real capital of “thought leaders,” “influencers” and “disruptors” grows, so too does the doubt around the impact and true value of these companies. Eventually this bubble is going to burst, meaning you need a better long-term strategy to success than a well-executed Twitter campaign or viral op-ed.
While I have long been a proponent of good marketing and branding, I am also painfully aware that they alone won’t save you or your business. Selling well is not a nice-to-have. It’s survival, and here’s how you stay alive.
Start with your culture.
In tech more than most industries (except for used cars, perhaps, though I’d say we’re giving them a run for their money), salesmen and saleswomen are the people everyone loves to hate. They often rank lower than politicians and bankers in terms of perceived trustworthiness, which is a hard hit considering today’s political climate. Some words that come to mind, according to a study by Daniel Pink in his renowned book, To Sell Is Human, are “pushy,” “difficult,” “annoying,” “sleazy” and, believe it or not, “ugh.”
Because of this stigma, organizations go to great, and often silly,…