If there is such a thing as "gravitational pull" in an entrepreneurial company, it's got to be product development. Like an apple tumbling to the ground, you feel irresistibly drawn to work on your products and services. You hone and polish: making sure your offerings look great from every angle. Would that button be better in red? Blue? Let’s set up an A/B test! You can always do more.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Unless, of course, perfecting your product sucks up all the air in your week. Some of that air must be reserved for selling. While you are doing your 14th cohort analysis in four days, what you are not doing is reaching out and touching someone. Entrepreneurs are sometimes lethargic when it comes to selling because they feel like they are fighting gravity. So how do you achieve escape velocity and go sell, even when you know that outer space can be a cold, dark, lonely place? You must reject these nine excuses:
1. I hate rejection. Into every salesperson’s life some rejection must fall. Generally, quite a lot of it. Entrepreneurs with little experience in selling often treat rejection as a personal affront to their character. High-performing salespeople, by contrast, respond very differently. They think, "Huh, this must not be the right time for Joe. No worries…I’ll reach out to him in a few months." As an entrepreneur, you need to develop a thicker skin. People aren’t rejecting you. They just aren't ready for what you have to offer.
2. I’ll sell next week after Version 3.1 is out. No you won’t. Stop telling yourself that. The current version is plenty good enough to demonstrate what it can do for potential customers. (Even if the current version is a paper napkin with your vision scribbled on it.) Craft a few sentences about why your product is cool, the pain it attacks, and how prospects will feel once the pain is gone. Then go hand someone that aspirin.
3. My pile is too high. Say you’ve suddenly got religion: "I will call some prospects this week! I’ve made a list! I have 500 names on that list! Ohmigod…there are 500 names…I’ll never get through this…" Stop. Take a breath. No human being can reasonably be expected to sit down and methodically work her way though a list of 500 people. So start smaller. Call five people and leave five voicemails. Write five thank-you notes to people you talked to last week. Go back to your A/B tests. Then rinse and repeat.
4. I have no sales rhythm. High-performers in any field get into a rhythm. They practice. They get feedback. They tweak their approaches. They practice again. Selling is no different except that much of the feedback comes from people you don’t know. You need to set aside a couple of hours or a couple of days each week to pursue such people. And you need to do it without fail. Put reaching out on your calendar every week for the next six months and that will become your rhythm.
5. I don’t know whom to contact. Yes you do. Or you can find out. If you are interested in a specific company but don’t know the name of the right person, call and ask the receptionist. Or ask a LinkedIn connection to reach out for you. Often, the answers are on Google if you are disciplined enough to look for them. This is a small hurdle. If you can’t vault this one, you’ll never conquer the higher ones ahead.
6. I’m busy! Too busy to succeed? Top-line revenue buys you time to tackle all your other 9,000 priorities. If you’re too busy to spend time on the top line, there will soon be no other lines to worry about.
7. I’m not a salesperson. Every entrepreneur, like it or not, is a salesperson. Introvert, extrovert, technical founder or marketing whiz: no matter what kind of person you are, you must sell. And early on you can’t delegate selling to someone else because no one else has your vision. Your vision makes you powerful and persuasive. In other words, it makes you a salesperson.
8. I’m not ready. Rejections are scary: objections only slightly less so. It’s natural to hesitate about making contacts if you’re not sure how to respond to whatever prospects throw at you. So write down the five objections you think you’re most likely to encounter (it’s too expensive; it’s too new; I’ve never heard of you, etc). Then write down your responses to those objections. Just having those answers at the ready will give you more confidence.
9. I’m not feeling it. Grappling with the eight excuses listed above will build your confidence. Feeling confident puts you in the mood. Logging a few successes increases that confidence and puts you even more in the mood. Eventually, selling itself may become a gratifying--even pleasurable--experience. Almost as gratifying and pleasurable as working on your product.