I recently read an article by Tom Searcy in Inc. Magazine titled, "6 Sales Tips For CEOs Who Hate Sales." In the article, Searcy provides several tactics to help CEOs be more successful in their sales efforts. The article doesn't explain why it's so vitally important for CEOs to focus on sales and marketing. This is even more important for entrepreneurs; every entrepreneur should focus on an integrated marketing strategy from the very beginning of their business operations.
Entreprenuers need to sell more than just their product or service
Unless you're independently wealthy, every entrepreneur needs to convince someone to fund their vision. It could be an angel investor or friends and family. You may need to convince your spouse to take the leap into the unknown with you. Regardless of the source, you need to sell your belief in yourself and your idea to someone.
It could be a co-founder; you may need to show them the value of leaving a comfortable corporate job to work in a high-risk situation that statistics show will likely not be successful. In any case, you need to believe in yourself and be enthusiastic to communicate your visiion to others and convince them to support you.
Sell your solutions to keep control of your company
Face it, most entrepreneurs start businesses because they don't want to work for someone else. You want to be the boss, right. If you take on funding from an investor, it comes at a price. You'll be giving up some level of control to that investor. In some ways, that can be a good thing. The investor can bring business experience and potential sales prospects to the table.
It can also be a bad thing (a la Steve Jobs and John Scully.) You could find yourself being micro-managed by your investors. Even worse, you could end up like Steve Jobs - kicked out of your own company by your new partners. Jobs had the grit and determination to drag himself back to the top. But he characterized the Scully situation as the low point of his life.
If you can start selling your products and services before you get funded, you can potentially eliminate or reduce the need for funding. This will keep you where you want to be - in control.
You need to sell employees and vendors
In order to generate the synergies to make your idea take flight, you need to hire top-notch employees that share your vision and bring unique abilities to the table. Most employees who fit this definition already have secure, well-paid jobs. As an entrepreneur, you need to sell these employees on your vision and convince them to join a high-risk, high-reward venture. Your ability to sell these key employees directly correlates to your chances of success.
On a similar note, you may need to convice vendors to accept not-traditional means of payment. Most small-business owners are well aware of the barter system that exists with other small businesses. It's a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" world and you need to convince others that what you have to barter is valuable.
What is an integrated marketing strategy?
Simply put, an integrated marketing strategy combines all of your sales channels into an integrated strategy. These sales channels could include:
- inbound marketing and lead generation
- social media selling
- relationship selling
- outbound sales (telemarketing, blast emails, etc.)
- referral selling
- partner sales channels
An integrated marketing strategy coordinates all of your sales channels into a unified strategy. Most established companies would gear their integrated marketing strategies towards sales-related metrics. Entrepreneurs add other metrics into the mix including funding objectives, recruiting targets and brand promotion.
Many entrepreneurs focus the early stages of their business on product development and acquiring funding. Most successful entrepreneurs include a sales and marketing focus on their business from the very beginning. Sales-averse entrepreneurs need to go outside their comfort zones and sell. Sell themselves, sell their vision and sell their products/services. If you keep sales and marketing in mind from the start, you will drastically increase your chances of success.