The Truth About Sales

by Greg Cangialosi on August 1, 2010

As CEO of a growth company, one topic that never falls off my radar is sales. Sales is the lifeblood of every company. As our COO, Doug Broujos likes to say, “if you’re not growing, you’re dying, and no one wants to work for a company that’s not moving forward.” I couldn’t agree more, and that’s the core of why sales is critical to every business.

You may have heard the old saying, “sales solves everything.” Well, I’ve come to learn over the years that it does. When your company is selling, building momentum, and closing business, then you can do things, like grow, if you so choose. That’s how Blue Sky Factory has grown, through sales. We never raised any funding to grow either, we sell and grow through revenue generation. We do that by providing stellar customer service and powerful technology solutions. We do good work, and the word spreads.

Sales is hard. It is the front lines, it’s holding down the fort, fighting off the competition, making your case, each and every day. As a founder, I know what it takes, and I also know that the only way to scale the kind of “hustle” that stems from the founder / CEO level, is to have incredible people around you representing the company, selling your solutions, over-servicing your customers, all while continuing to deepen the relationship with your customers. This practice eventually evolves into the development of a large, vast community of evangelists that not only enjoy, but take pride in, amplifying your company’s signal. There simply is no better marketing than that.

My personal approach to sales, has always been that unless I am asked directly, I don’t sell, anyone, ever. Instead, I develop relationships and nurture them and add as much value as I can when asked or when I see an opportunity. For me, this this has paid off incredibly in terms of growth, and it will always continue to be the core backbone of any business that I personally develop. It’s a great feeling when I first speak with a prospect and learn that a trusted member of my network gave my company and I a glowing endorsement. To me, that is the ultimate business development. Be there before the sale.

Scaling Sales

I’ve also learned over the years that the “Kumbaya effect” (something that will be further articulated in another post) of word of mouth and referrals, isn’t a scalable sales model. In the sense that its only one channel, a VERY important one, but unless your are looking to be a lifestyle business, it can’t be the only one. A growth company should have many channels working towards attracting people to their sales pipeline.

As an organization grows, it becomes critically important for marketing to fill the top of the funnel with prospects, ideally qualified ones. It is then up to the sales team to engage with those folks, identify real opportunities, and bring in the customers. Sometimes, and more often than not, in order to achieve your goals you need to be aggressive on the sales front. This clearly speaks directly to the team you have in place. From what I have seen at my company and others, successful sales people have a lot going on, all of the time. This is no 40 hour work week if you want to win.

What can seem like a potentially overwhelming schedule, ie. a high volume of people to connect and follow up with, managing multiple opportunities at various stages, writing proposals, having meetings, traveling in some cases, etc., is really the regular schedule of a successful sales person. In fact, a successful sales person wouldn’t have it any other way. They thrive off of this type of schedule and activity, and they love building momentum. That said, the most important activity of a successful sales rep is their ability to manage all of that, while continuing to build the top of their funnel.

Building the Funnel

While marketing may fill the top of the funnel, its the job of sales to build their own pipeline of prospects and opportunities – ideally from both inbound and outbound channels, (though I know many organizations differ on their philosophy of inside / outside sales, etc). The importance of this is critical to building momentum and to ensure that once you have a good quarter, a good month, a good week, or a good day, that more good ones follow. This is key to a continuous flow of success. All to often though I hear about sales people who peak and valley with success all year long because the front end of the funnel never has enough time and energy put towards it. In order to win, you need a large pipeline of opportunity at every deal stage.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the reality is, in the words of Alec Baldwin, coffee really is for closers. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Sales is hard. It takes tenacity, resilience, and a passion and motivation to succeed. If you are in sales and you don’t have these things, you will never be as successful as you can be. If your sales team lacks those traits, then you might want to take a hard look at whats going on.

Sales is a very large subject, and I realize I haven’t deep dived into everything, and there are many factors involved in successful sales, but there are some fundamentals that I have come to learn over the years.

To recap, here are 10 fundamental elements of sales:

1. Sales is critical to every organization and must be treated as such.

2. Having a great product & service helps the sale every time, but that’s not enough.

3. People buy from people (and brands) they trust. Be one of those people & brands.

4. While word of mouth and referrals are great. Never rely purely on the good will of your network.

5. Everyone in sales should strive to “be there before the sale” as often as possible.

6. Marketing fills the funnel, sales BUILDS their own funnel from that (individually).

7. Sales must never neglect the top of their funnel. This is the seed for all future success.

8. Sales is hard. It takes time, patience, resilience and dedication. You can’t be on and off from one day to the next.

9. Sales success doesn’t come in 40 hour work weeks (Though I have seen it done in much less than 40, but that’s Ninja status :-) )

10. Sales isn’t for everyone. Coffee really is for closers.

These are just some of my thoughts. Whats your take? Am I wrong? Want to add your own flavor to this? Let me know your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

samirsoriano August 2, 2010 at 1:46 am

This is great information for any company with a big sales culture – I'm definitely forwarding this one to the team.


Greg Cangialosi August 1, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Thanks for reading Samir!


Karin Schwartz August 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I couldn't agree more. I find many business owners don't truly understand that business development is a long term strategy that incorporates marketing, social media (in some cases) and sales. Many unfortunately still think these are separate pieces of the puzzle. It's about building relationships so you are the only company the prospect thinks of to solve their problems. It's the relationship that drives the business and it's the relationship, that fostered properly, creates a long term valuable client. Great Job Greg!


Greg Cangialosi August 2, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Taking the long view on sales – from an organizational as well as individual standpoint – is extremely critical for long term success. You don't want that rep of having the sales team or sales person that is only there for the order taking. Nurturing and developing relationships goes a LONG way.

Thanks for reading!


Shana Glickfield August 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Great piece! But I think the word “sales” is a really hard word for many to digest as a part of their job, although clearly it is. Thoughts on that?


Greg Cangialosi August 2, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Great point Shana, its true, there are a lot of people that simply don't like to admit that part of their job is in fact sales, and that "sales" truly impacts every position at a company. Its almost like the word needs to be changed in some cases to allow certain types of people to absorb it and admit that its part of their role. An example of this would be a client service manager or an account manager – the job is the keep the relationship, and grow the relationship – part of that though is to introduce new services and "upsells" that in the end are beneficial to the client. So, the account manager in the end is growing the relationship and growing the revenue of the company at the same time. Its all sales – just looked at through a different lense.

There will however, always be people who are simply turned off by the notion of the word 'Sales"

Thanks for reading!


Peter ROebuck August 2, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Great lunchtime read Greg.

I'm not a salesperson but being self employed virtually all of my adult life means I'm really just a salesperson. Being self employed is also the same as being unemployed if you're not careful so I learned very quickly that the best way to convince a person to part with their hard-earned money is to build trust first and try to convince them that their investment in you is going to have a good return. Once you've got the first check/contract, keep the client for life by always exceeding their expectations.

Before email marketing, I sold large accounting solutions that were customized to the client's requirements. I was always amazed at how the competing vendors could do everything out of the box in half the time and at a fraction of the cost. What they were doing was setting themselves up for a quick commission but a failed customer. When I got bold enough, I started telling prospects that our accounting system sucked less than the others and it was amazing how my sales improved. All software sucks and everybody knows it so why try and hide the fact. Instead, I said that our system is fully open source/customizable and we can fix what's broken or change the software to meet your exact needs.

Being intimate with the product that you are selling is critical toward earning trust and getting the first check. Oddly enough, I was apparently the only accountant on the planet selling accounting software at the time so I had a technical advantage that probably made up for poor "sales" skills. Being an accountant selling accounting software enabled me to build trust and confidence that the prospect was more likely to have a positive investment with me than with Brand X. We still have clients using MD-DOS based accounting systems so always exceeding a customer's expectations has clearly worked very well for me.


Greg Cangialosi August 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Peter – awesome points on exceeding the customer expectations. You do that every time and like you said, you have a client for life! Thanks again for your thoughts and thanks for reading!


Nestor Aparicio August 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I would say that having every person in your organization understand their role in aiding the sales process (not to mention the fundamental gospel of how significant sales is to everyone in the organization) can’t be overstated. Even if they can’t sell tea in the Pacific they should at least know how it works so they’re helping it and not hurting it.
I can’t tell you how many people I meet have no idea where the money in their companies even come from…
That’s a recipe for disaster, IMHO…
Great read, Greg!
Can’t wait to see more…


Greg Cangialosi August 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Thanks Nestor – yeah, its really important for all employees of any organization to understand how the money flows and eventually winds up in their bank account every two weeks :-)

We are pretty good about reminding people about that :-) Happy clients create more clients, and more clients equal more revenue, more revenue means you can do more, like grow profitably, pay people well, and maybe if you have a good year you give out bonuses :-)

Important, very important to understand how the money floweth in an organization!

Thanks for reading!


DJ Waldow August 2, 2010 at 9:17 pm


Somehow I just deleted my comment! Oh well. I'll keep it simple…

You know that I'm a believer in "being there before the sale." Heck – Amber and I co-hosted a webinar about that very topic…inspired by you!

#3 also resonates with me, "People buy from people (and brands) they trust. Be one of those people & brands." I'd much rather do business with a person I trust that has an above average product and kick ass client/customer support than a company with the "best" product and so-so support.

People. Always.

Keep blogging!

DJ Waldow
Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory


Greg Cangialosi August 3, 2010 at 5:38 am

DJ –

Right on brother! Thanks for reading!



Dylan Boyd August 2, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Love the post Greg. You nailed it. I believe in these things as well. There is no Monday-Fri 8-5 for sales people, and sales is about relationships.

Thanks for this.


Greg Cangialosi August 3, 2010 at 5:40 am

Thanks for reading Dylan. You nailed it, Its ALL about relationships.


cspenn August 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Tom Hopkins, the sales trainer, notes that sales is:

- the easiest LOW paying job in the world
- the hardest HIGH paying job in the world

but if you crush it at sales, it's the only profession where YOU decide what your pay is, YOU decide what your income potential is (and how much of that potential you actualize), and YOU are in charge of your career. The very top sales people in the world can do whatever they want, go wherever they go, and as long as they hit or exceed their numbers every time, there will be lines of CEOs and managers banging down their door.


Greg Cangialosi August 3, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Chris – You are 100% correct :-) Hopkins hit the nail on the head. Many places don't give sales reps an upside "cap" because their market is so big. Its just doing all of those right things to get your position to "scale" so that you are deciding how much pay you are making in any given year. Easier said than done, but its a reality for many people. Thanks.


cspenn August 3, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Also, I'll disagree with #10: Everyone is in sales. Everyone. Every time an employee of your company logs into a social network, they represent the company for good or ill. Every time an employee talks to someone at a neighborhood block party and someone asks the question, "So what do you do?", they represent the company and are effectively part of the sales force. The smartest, best companies make sure all employees are empowered to assist with sales, from passing leads to closing it up themselves.

Ask Domino's Pizza if the two clowns on YouTube were in sales. Negatively, absolutely. Their silly stunt, real or fake, had a huge negative impact on sales. Ask Comcast if Frank Eliason's team did anything for sales, even though they were customer service. Everyone is in sales, whether they know it or not. In the age of six pixels of separation, where everyone is just a few clicks apart, sales is just one more click away from any online employee.


DJ Waldow August 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Chris: I agree with you 100%. Everyone IS in Sales. I think what Greg was trying to say, "Sales isn’t for everyone." really just means that not everyone is cut out for it. Yes, we all do it whether or not we choose to, but…

DJ Waldow
Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory


Greg Cangialosi August 3, 2010 at 1:12 pm

DJ – exactly what I meant. To Chris' point, I think its in line with what Shana was bringing up above in the comments. Pretty much everyone is in sales, whether they know it or nor. Everyone in an organization can feed the pipeline of opportunity, and to your point the smartest, best companies have achieved that. Good stuff.


Ben October 25, 2010 at 2:54 pm

"If you're not growing, you're dying." I heard that quote from John Kelly of Kelly Benefits. Speaking of sales – are they a client of yours? If not, let me know and I'll hook you up!!!

Ben Landers