By Ashok Subramanian
Many entrepreneurs I have met come up with one major challenge — how to improve market reach for their products or services. There are many ways to do it. But the key factor is the involvement of the founder in sales.
Here are some of the scenarios that we encounter when the founder gets involved in sales:
Founder is a techie: Many times, the founder is a technical person. He is a tech wiz, who has found a solution to a problem he was passionate of solving. Now, he has a product in hand. The product is perhaps unique. But, still the prospect has to know about it. The techie founder typically grapples with the market jigsaw.
There is only one founder: This is a case of one person doing everything. Solo-preneurs, even if they have the knack to sell, cannot sell because of lack of time. He/she is the salesperson, delivery, quality assurance, management, administration all rolled into one. This is a big challenge. Chaos reigns.
Reluctance to network: This is a unique, but not an uncommon, situation. The founder is an introvert — means, he would not mingle and network at all, or be shy about talking business with his ‘1st and 2nd connections’. Another type is absolutely averse to building network, let alone leveraging them.
Social media averse: I found this a little bit surprising. There are some founders of SMEs not present in social media at all. For them, it is ‘waste of time’. This is indeed baffling. They say ‘ in my country, all sales happen face to face’.
Loss of appetite: This is again a distinct, but not uncommon reason. Sales need enormous appetite and tireless pursuit to build the pipeline. One or two large customers or good quarters may make the founder get into a ‘consolidation mode’ and then they will start focusing on ‘delivery’. This is dangerous, as when the next cycle of sales comes, either the product is outdated, or there is competition staring at your face.
Now, here are some suggestions and facts about founder-sales.
- Founders are the most passionate about their product. Their product is basically a problem solver or a game-changer, at least of all people, they believe. Therefore they become the best story tellers.
- At the start, any sales team becomes a liability, unless there is an investment plan to back it up. Bootstrapped organizations should focus on using existing resources — that is the founder(s) turning up to sell, day in and day out.
- Since most products are new concepts, objection handling is a major task in breaking the entry barrier or bringing around the prospect to believe. So even if the founder is a techie, he is still the best person to do this. An employee or an outsourced sales team cannot handle objections, prima facie.
- Relationships are an important part of sales. Hence the founder’s immediate network plays a very important role in early success.
- It is important that one of the founders becomes a focused sales function head. With time being a premium, focus is the biggest challenge for any function, especially sales.
- Social media plays a very important role in spreading the word. Leveraging social media is key for continued success.
- Finally, sustained sales efforts are important to realise the growth opportunities for the product or service. Such efforts will also be a continuous feedback mechanism for improving the product or service.
As they say, it is about ‘always keeping eye on the ball’.
Ashok Subramanian is a serial entrepreneur, business strategist and growth hacker. You can get in touch with him at email@example.com.