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.
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.