I am an entrepreneur. I never actually sat down and said “I want to be an entrepreneur” but it happened. I guess you could refer to me as an accidental entrepreneur. Whatever. Here I am. In 2007 I found myself without traditional employment and as a result I started down the entrepreneurial road without headlights and a map. The one thing I did not have at the time was a plan beyond a few vague ideas I thought might work. I now know that being an entrepreneur means having a plan. Not necessarily new news but a solid reminder for those of us who are entrepreneurs and want to grow our business. On that note I want to share with you an excerpt from my upcoming and second book on sales culture “Everyone’s in Sales; STOP Apologizing and Get What You Want Need and Deserve”. In it I offer to you four steps for you to think about as the entrepreneur in you is taking shape or has already taken off and you are successful in ways that you hadn’t imagined! Either way, these simple reminders are good for all of us regardless of the stage we are in to make sure we stay successful. What I am offering here is a return to some basic thinking that we all need to make sure we do not lose sight of. It is not a course on how to build a business plan you can take to the bank rather some of the things you need to be able to answer as you build and rebuild your plan. What I am getting at is that I have seen amazing business plans heavy on numbers, statistics, qualitative and quantitative analysis – all good and absolutely necessary things. I have also seen far too many plans that fail to answer the questions I pose here.
What Is It You Want … Exactly?
Has it changed? Has the market changed?
I know you have a good sense of what you want. The key to my question is the word “exactly” and what I mean by the word “exactly” is this. Can we tell people what we want – clearly, briefly, specifically, and powerfully – so they understand what our goals are and can easily think of ways to help us?
Take a job search question, for instance, and compare these two examples. #1: “I need a better job that pays more money.” #2: “I’m looking for a job as a regional sales manager in the medical technology, medical device, or pharmaceutical industries.” Which one of these examples is better? Which one shows people we have thought hard about a vision for our career? Which one makes them think we have the skills, experience, focus, and determination to get it? Which one makes
it easy to remember us and our goal and brainstorm ways to help us achieve it? Example #2 by a mile, hands down, no question.
The goal in question can be related to our personal lives. Maybe we have a daughter who is a great musician and she has her heart set on going to a major performing arts school and we want to help her. Saying, “I want to help my daughter get into a good music school” is fine. Saying “I want to learn what we need to do to give my daughter the best chance of being accepted at Julliard” is better.
This step is pretty simple and doing it right makes an enormous difference in how successful we are selling ourselves which is the most important element in being a rock star entrepreneur! It shows we are smart and serious. And it helps people help us by making it easy for them to join our “virtual sales teams” which is a concept I talk about a lot during my Sales Culture keynotes. These teams are all those customers, clients, bosses, colleagues, friends, neighbors, and family who are willing and able to help us sell ourselves and achieve our goals – if they know exactly what those goals are!
What Do We Need – and
Especially Who Do We Need – to Succeed?
Think of this as the “market research” step. We’ve got a specific goal – our “product development step” – good. Now what do we need to reach that goal? Let’s go back to the regional sales manager job example for a minute. We need to find out if we have the skills and experience and measurable results, all the things we need to be a strong candidate for that position. If we need something more to make a strong selling argument for ourselves, then we need to go get that thing. Remember, selling is about matching the needs of buyers and sellers. When what we are selling – ourselves – is a good match for the needs of our “buyers” then we have a stronger sales argument and a better chance of succeeding.
The same is true of our Julliard example. We might find out that attending a particular summer music camp will improve our daughter’s chances, so we work to get her into that program. Another example. Maybe we want to get help from our local representative to clean up our neighborhood park. We find out that showing strong community interest and organization will get the attention of local politicians (imagine that) so we go out and do that first. This is doing our homework, just like we discussed in the last chapter.
Maybe even more important that what we need is who we need. This group includes our “buyers” for sure: those people who can give us the “yes” we want. It especially includes people who know how to help us find those people who have the power to say “yes” when we don’t know all the people who can say “yes” to us yet.
This second group is especially important because they are the every conversation, every interaction we have with everyone we meet every
day is a genuine selling opportunity group. You would be surprised who knows who. I’ve been plenty of times in my life. These moments are our best chances to take advantage of resonance and timing. By resonance,
I mean our ability to connect with people through a message and emotion that resonates with them. Timing is about resonating with the right person at the right moment.
If we want to put it in business speak, our “buyers” are our target market and the people who can help us find these buyers are our network. Our target market is obviously important because these are the people who can say “yes” to us and we need to focus on them and take care of them, absolutely. My Sales Culture view is that our network is equally important. We don’t always realize someone we know is actually a buyer. And we definitely don’t know that many of our buyers are one very close step away from people in our network, our virtual sales team, everyone we know and can influence to think well of us.
What Are We Going to Do?
When Are We Going to Do It?
All right, this is the actual “sales plan” part of your personal sales campaign. We know who we want to sell. How are we going to sell them?
The first step is to focus on the relationship. There are kinds of selling where we need to close buyers fast: a lot of retail selling is like that, for example. Customers walk into a store and many times they are going to buy or they are going to leave and more than likely, not come back. There are plenty times when they will come back, of course, and the bigger the purchase – new cars come to mind right away – the more likely it is they will make several trips to a location before they make a decision.
Selling ourselves is more about building relationships than making cash registers ring, and building relationships can take time. You probably have heard the famous phrase that people need to “know us, like us, and trust us” before they do business with us. That’s extraordinarily true when what we are selling is ourselves.
Building these relationships requires finesse and a delicacy, and everybody can do it. The trick is to plan different interactions or “touches” (in-person, phone, email, social media, even paper mail)
over a period of time. Make sure those interactions are valuable to our people who can say “yes”. Listen to and watch and study the reactions we get. And adjust accordingly. Every person is different. Some people like us to interact with them through email. Great. Some people never want to see an email. For some people, calling them every day for a month will make them want to hit us with a rolled up newspaper. Others will admire our determination and eventually talk to us. As a friend of mine says …
One person’s diligence is another person’s stalking.
Knowing which is the trick!
Create a calendar with a schedule of different touches, keep notes on the results of each, always adjust what you do based on how people respond to you, always decide what will be your next step and when you will take that step, and keep at it. Professional sales people will recognize this as what they do all day, every day with help from customer relationship management software (CRMs). You don’t need to get nearly that elaborate. Just be positive. Be pro-active. Be persistent. Or if you like … Commit. Act!
Is It Working? Yes? Good.
No? Try Something New
In my life, I’ve had hundreds of sales ideas that I passionately believed would work. Some worked great. Some worked okay. Some didn’t work. When I look back over them, I can’t find characteristics that all the good ideas that worked shared or all the good ideas that didn’t work shared – other that I believed passionately in them and that I work as hard as I could on them. So the point is, measuring progress is key and doing something else when we aren’t making progress is key too.
So what looks like “progress” that isn’t a flat-out “yes”? When selling like the selling we are talking about is focused on building relationships, then signs like conversations, interactions, and responses are all measures of progress. Are people willing to talk to us? Are we getting meetings, even for lunch or coffee? Are people in our network or “people with a yes” calling us with questions or requests? Are they coming to us with opportunities or ideas?
All these are tangible measures of progress. Now at some point, we’ll want to get a “transactional” value from the relationship: a referral, an offer, an opportunity, a “yes”. Chances are that “yes” will take a lot longer than we want it to take. Always stay optimistic and upbeat. Always keep your eye on those tangible measures of success too, and after a while, if you haven’t seen them, try a new good idea. Be patient just not endlessly patient. Have a goal. Make a plan. Commit to it. Act. React. Revise. Keep going. And success will come!