Most successful entrepreneurs remember their first time like it was yesterday.
In fact, the rush of excitement they felt the first time is part of their desire to do it again and again.
What am I talking about?
If you guessed that I’m talking about the “s” word, you’re right, SELLING. Most successful entrepreneurs remember the first time they made a sale as if it were yesterday.
There’s nothing like it, they’ll tell you. I still recall the first time that I sold something that I had created. It was my first business, and my partner and I were meeting with a potential customer. We were as prepared as we could be for the meeting. The only problem was, we were so eager to close our first sale that we almost talked too much.
Fortunately, the customer was polite and listened to our overly enthusiastic pitch. I’ll never forget the feeling that came over me when she finally said, “Let’s do this.” I don’t think my feet touched the ground after I walked out of the room. It was the first time that I had created something of value that somebody else was willing to pay for with cold hard cash.
Entrepreneurs know in a deep way the truth of the old adage that “nothing happens in business until a sale is made.” Establishing a successful venture means not only becoming comfortable with the prospect of selling, it means becoming passionate about it. If you are not passionate about selling what you’ve created, there is no way your potential customers will be passionate about buying it.
When I teach entrepreneurship to university students it is difficult to get them interested in the prospect of selling. When they think of selling, most of them recall pushy or obnoxious sales people whom they’ve encountered in their lives. We’ve all probably encountered such poorly skilled sales people from time to time. And some of them are obnoxious and we don’t want to be like them. Something must be done to overcome that negative impression of selling.
I’ve discovered a technique for overcoming this deep-seated aversion to selling among my students. I help them understand that whatever product or service they create has value. If a customer can be assisted in perceiving that value, then they may be willing to exchange something of equal value to obtain it. It just so happens that the most convenient medium for the exchange of value is little green pieces of paper — money. Money is simply a store of value.
In the next, and crucial step, I have my students stand in front of a mirror and practice saying, “May I have the check please?” until they are comfortable. Closing the deal by asking for the check is the final stage in selling. Any hesitation about asking for those little green pieces of paper must be overcome.
In fact, selling is essential for successful entrepreneurship. Longtime entrepreneurs know that running a company requires one to be in nearly continuous sales mode. Entrepreneurs need to sell their decision to be entrepreneurs to their families, spouses, and friends. They need to sell their business concept to investors, bankers, and potential key employees. They need to sell their products and services in an increasingly competitive global economy. And then they need to sell their companies to realize a return on all the sweat they’ve invested in selling every day.
To be a successful entrepreneur requires overcoming any lingering aversion to selling. It requires recognizing that effective selling doesn’t mean turning oneself into the obnoxious salesperson stereotype. In contrast to that negative stereotype, most entrepreneurs know, or soon learn if they want to stay in business, that selling is primarily about relationship building. Developing relationships means understanding how the value that you’ve created can address the customer’s needs or wants. The most successful entrepreneurs are passionate about the value they’ve created and they’re eager to help customers acquire that value.
Understanding the art of selling and becoming comfortable with it is requisite for entrepreneurs. If you create something of value — whether it is a product or a service — and somebody else is willing to pay for it, you will undoubtedly feel the rush of excitement that I described in the opening paragraph. If you are lucky, like me, you will continue to feel that rush of excitement with each new sale — just like it felt the first time.