Why founders need to learn to sell
Before I started my business, selling wasn’t even on my radar. The ‘s’ word doesn’t really exist in the legal industry – it’s all about “BD” – and, even then, no-one actually teaches you how to do it. There’s a lot of talk about networking and pitching, but the concept of ‘sales’ in a law firm is pretty alien.
Shortly after starting my own business I quickly realised that being able to sell was the difference between its success and failure. I didn’t know that I could sell – I’ve never had any training – and for a while I didn’t even realise I was selling. But the bottom line is, successful people spend most of their time selling and to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be able to sell.
As founders we sell in the following ways:
- We sell our product or service to new and existing customers
- We sell our competence and business plan to investors and lenders
- We sell our credibility to strategic partners and suppliers
- We sell our vision to prospective and existing employees
There’s a lot of talk about networking and pitching, but the concept of ‘sales’ in a law firm is pretty alien.
I’d always associated the word ‘sales’ with the used-car-salesman stereotypes - it implies manipulating, pressuring and cajoling. But, if you think about it, selling is actually just explaining the logic and benefits of a decision in a persuasive manner. There’s nothing dirty about it; it’s not about forcing someone to buy something they don’t want to buy.
Selling is essentially a communication skill which we use in so many aspects of our lives. To be effective, we need to demonstrate how we can solve a problem and add value to someone else’s life. This means we first have to listen and understand; if we don’t know what the problem is, we don’t know if we can solve it.
As well as being able to communicate effectively, selling requires confidence and resilience. It’s not about pretending to be someone you’re not - these are all skills that can be learned – anyone who talks about being a born salesman is talking nonsense. You can learn on the job, like I have, or learn from other people, or a combination of the two (which is probably the best approach). There’s lots of good books, videos and training courses available, so all you need to bring to the table is a willingness to learn.