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Selling is an essential skill for entrepreneurs... and everyone else

Posted by Gopal RajGuru

Sep 1, 2012 12:08:00 AM

I had the opportunity recently to re-connect with Ago Cluytens, a terrific entrepreneur and participant in the  Management of Technology or MoT program at the EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). I love this program because it's an MBA for entrepreneurs. I, at least, have not come across many of those. The visionaries who put it together (and the ones like Jean Micol, who lead it today) decided in their wisdom to include a module on sales. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense, but how many MBA programs can you name that include a full module on the topic of sales? I could not think of one, and it's strange as an MBA is thought of quite often as a program designed to help people succeed in business. But what would business be without sales... a club, and not a very profitable club at that. 

Sales is a critical skill... for everyone, but particularly for entrepreneurs, who must sell their ideas to potential investors and partners at the beginning (unless they have the fortune of a large pile of money already); sell their products to prospective customers; and potentially sell their companies to others as part of their exit strategy. Selling is critical to every facet of an entrepreneur's life and the better they do it, the more success they will enjoy. Entrepreneurs can usually leverage the passion they have for their idea/product/service to good use, but as we know in the complex world of today, enthusiasm is often not enough. There must be method behind the hype to make a complex sale happen. 

So selling is critical for entrepreneurs, but in my view it's also an essential skills in pretty much every other profession as well. Whether you are a middle manager with aspirations for greater responsibility in your own organistion, a business owner determined for success, or a consultant proposing your services to clients, we all need to be able to sell. Yet, the educational institutions that purport to prepare business people of the future ignore selling, pretty much wholeheartedly. So, where does one learn? 

Well, not to make too fine a point, but sales performance is kind of our business, and we can certainly help. So have a look at some of the other pages http://www.innovateandgrow.com/en/sales-performance/ or http://www.innovateandgrow.com/en/channel-sales-performance/ on this site or drop me or one of my colleagues a line if we can help your organisation sell more effectively.

Coming back to Ago for a minute - he launched a site called Coachfindr.com (it now diverts to www.coachingmasters.tv - read on), which was designed to help entrepreneurs, specifically business and life coaches, to create a network, grow their business, and find the kind of resources that they need when starting a business. I thought it was great, and wanted to do whatever I could to help him. He said, reflecting on the sales module of the MoT, that one of the things coaches need is help selling, to avoid the "feast or famine" business cycle that is so common in this business, particularly at the beginning. 

People typically enter a consulting business because of a passion for the work - it's one of the great advantages in selling that entrepreneurs have. The initial blush of launching an independent business fades quickly, however, as the reality of managing cash flow in an independent settles in. While working on a mandate it's easy to believe that the work (which you love) will continue forever, but it rarely does. So, we must sell, in the beginning and always, to avoid the end-of-project blues that occur the final report is delivered and the hollow ring of an empty pipeline echoes in the office. I wish we could say we are immune to it at Innovate+Grow, but we fall into the same trap occasionally, so the lessons are ones we also need to heed. 

Have a look - here is the interview for you:

So how do you learn to sell, and make deals and keep improving, or as Stephen Covey says in his classic book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "sharpen the saw". Well, we can certainly help, so give us a call, but there are literally hundreds of books that will help you improve this critical skill in your business arsenal. 

What we have learned from our experience is that most people don't actually like being "sold to", but pretty much everyone enjoys buying. Great salespeople know this secret already, and harness their skills to help their customers buy. It's a powerful paradigm shift which you can put to use in selling for your organisation (or for yourself). 

So sell a little... or a lot, you will be in great company.