In sales, we solve problems. And to be successful in sales, you need the client to believe the problems we’re solving are significant. They need to have an impact on an organization’s operations, its financials, or its ability to reach its goals. Tackling those problems requires change, and change can be scary.
As part of my growing meditation practice, this summer I decided to take the leap and attend my first silent retreat. It was a rare opportunity to sit in silence for an extended period of time and to reflect with no distractions. In this blog post, I explore the values I learned and how they may relate to sales professionals.
We’re dedicated to keeping entrepreneurs up-to-date on the best principles, strategies and tactics to consistently generate revenue and grow their businesses.
We’ll focus on B2B sales and will share best practices on lead generation, marketing and closing deals. Our primary goal though is to help readers develop a “customer-first” philosophy. That’s what really determines whether a business is sustainable long term.
So who am I, and why Dana? I’m Victor Adefuye, the founder and CEO of Dana Consulting. I started Dana after noticing a significant – and growing – gap between the sales skills required to build a successful company and those entrepreneurs generally possess.
Most people think selling is manipulative, scary and not prestigious. It’s also typically not well taught. Revenue generation is the lifeblood of any successful enterprise, but practical sales skills are rarely highlighted in business school. Of the 479 accredited business programs in the U.S., only 101 have any undergraduate sales curricula, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, and only 15 offer either an MBA in sales or a sales-oriented graduate curriculum.
Business students are taught to build complex financial accounting models. They learn best practices in inventory and operations management, timeless leadership principles and, increasingly, about entrepreneurship. But very few walk away with the skills necessary to connect with and convince buyers to purchase their products or services. They may be taught marketing, but mostly to generate product awareness. What’s not taught is what to do when you’re actually engaged one-on-one with a client and how to convert initial interest into a decision.
To succeed, you have to sell. You have to develop client needs, overcome hurdles and interact with and convince people – at many levels of an organization with varying opinions – to buy. At Dana, we believe this can be taught; you don’t need to hire an expensive, full-time sales leader.
My career in sales began after I left law to enter the business world. As a financial representative at Northwestern Mutual, I sold complex insurance and investment vehicles to high net worth clients and small businesses. I spent my first few weeks in an intensive training program, where I learned about the company’s products, but also the target buyers, their common questions and objections, how to respond, what the sales cycle would look like, and even what activities I should focus on every day to make sure I hit my goals. Most large enterprises have similarly robust sales training, and they’re often a key part of their success. Yet they rarely occur at young companies or small businesses.
After Northwestern Mutual, I applied my sales skills in the startup world. I co-founded a corporate wellness company serving mid-sized and large businesses. My basic sales training was helpful, but the programs we designed and administered typically required a five- or six-figure investment and touched the lives of nearly every employee in our target organizations. I needed to learn best practices on complex B2B and technology-enabled sales. With a dearth of programs to teach me that, I mostly had to learn on my own. To do this, I read several sales and marketing books a month for nearly 2 years.
I’m proud of the hundreds of leads and sales opportunities we generated, but ultimately, the enterprise folded. It wasn’t because we didn’t implement cutting edge marketing strategy and sales tactics. It was because the market wasn’t ready for what we were offering, and we failed to pivot based on feedback. Simply stated, the best sales tactics in the world couldn't overcome the fact that we didn’t take enough of a customer-focused approach. And we spent nearly $1.5 million dollars learning this difficult lesson.
Since then, I’ve worked with a number of startups and small businesses to help them truly tune-in to their customers, build products and services buyers want, and to develop the processes and tactics that will attract and retain quality clients. I’ll share those lessons in this blog. I hope you find them helpful.
If you have any feedback on how we can better meet your needs, please leave it in the comments section or reach out to me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.