Guy Kawasaki, a world renowned silicon valley entrepreneur, extols "Sales fixes everything". Any entrepreneur will tell you that sales are the lifeblood of a business. But so many start-ups fail to recognise this or, indeed, are ill-equipped to make sales happen.
They can tend to fall in love with their product or service and forget that a customer must want or need to buy it! One can buy countless books on Amazon on how to sell, solution selling etc…
One can attend workshops and use consultants to help. But at Entrepreneurial Spark we believe in one tenet: all early-stage entrepreneurs and their teams should be selling and pitching all the time.
Whether it's delivering a 60-second pitch at a networking meeting, a three-minute pitch to an investor, or working with a client on a new sale, the sales mindset must always be 'switched on'. But this is not a natural Scottish trait.
There is a great line in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross in which Alec Baldwin addresses an underperforming sales team. He yells at them: "Always Be Closing!". At Entrepreneurial Spark we like this. Not because it's a nice soundbyte, but it creates a state of mind where sales is at the forefront. Websites are nice, branding chats are nice, but making a sale is what keeps the business lubricated. How do we encourage this? Pitching.
The capacity to eloquently pitch a clear story on what your business does sells you and what you do. It trains an entrepreneur to be succinct, direct, confident and aware of the customer need. It validates, gains feedback and leads to sales.
A great example of this in action is David Blockley, CEO of Integral Ecology - an innovative app for fleet managers and those with car-mileage claims. Blockey constantly refines his pitch and has a 'go do' attitude.
He practises, refines and seeks feedback. He pitched to investors in London recently and gained several offers of investment. But as he launches his new app - he is pitching [selling] to fleet managers - his customers. The result - his first pilot and a sale. Knowing your product and being able to communicate this to a customer in their language to solve their pain is a key attribute in sales.
Selling a new concept can take time to get a foothold.
Persistence and a willingness to be comfortable with being uncomfortable are much-needed traits.
Cappuccino Ads, an Edinburgh based start-up, creates clever graphics on coffee cups where advertisers can put 'their brand in your hand'. CEO Ian LeBruce knew he was on to something special. But it took weeks to refine the pitch before companies signed up.
The tenacity of a Scottish terrier together with a go do attitude and a belief in the product kept LeBruce and his team on track as he planted 'shoe leather on the cobbles'. This has now led to a flurry of orders, but no complacency as the team gains more customer insight - for the next sales.
Instilling a sales mindset in a start-up business is crucial. It's all in the go do mentality. It doesn't get switched off and on. It must pervade the whole team.
In this fortnightly column we will keep you updated on developments within our hatcheries as Scotland's entrepreneurial revolution gathers speed.
This article was supplied to the Herald by Entrepreneurial Spark.