Selling is like playing a 1980s video game

Video games certainly have changed since I was young.  Today’s video games have over-arching stories, character development, video interstitials, plots and sub-plots, awards and minigames, social integration, challenging gameplay, and certainly lots of amazing graphics.

In the 1980’s, video games all nearly had one objective, and then you got to repeat that objective over and over again, at an increasingly quickening pace, until you lost.  You couldn’t “win” at any game because these games didn’t really have an end.  And, when you did lose, you threw in another quarter and tried again – trying to get further and further along.  Pac-Man, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, etc.   They all operated like this.

Social tools are making sales people less social

Several years ago I joined an internet company as a sales rep, and in about 3 months, I became the top salesperson.  At the national sales meeting, one of the other reps came up to me and asked how I was having so much success.  I responded, “I’m honestly not that sure that I’m ding anything revolutionary.   It just seems that these people are happy to take my call and after explaining the product and how it solves their problems, they are willing to buy.”  He stared at me blankly for about a minute and then said, “…You call them?”

Thoughts on Entrepreneurship in the Middle East

I got to spend this week in Jordan on behalf of Angelsoft, at the inaugural event for the Bedaya Angel Network. Bedaya, which means “start” in Arabic, is a new organization aimed at bringing the entire Middle East’s angel investing efforts together. Angelsoft, as the world-leader in software facilitating connections with entrepreneurs and early-stage investors, was asked to help put on this event, and I will admit I was a little nervous about traveling to the Middle East at this time given the unrest in the region. Even Jordan itself had installed a new government in the past few weeks. Nonetheless, I thought it was important so I ignored my fears and went.

For two days before their event I roamed the country of Jordan. I met with local people, and visited their amazing history. I saw Petra, Jerash, the baptism site of Jesus, the Dead Sea, Elijah’s hill and so many other amazing historical sites. Since I was alone, I struck up conversations with locals all over the place to get a feel for what the people here were like. Since I was here to learn about entrepreneurship and angel investing, I wanted to get a feel for the culture, the initiatives of the people, and their attitudes towards Americans and the rest of the world. (I even gathered some thoughts about sales for my QuotaCrush blog – of course.)

The risk of being dead right

In order to be a great salesperson and/or a great entrepreneur, you have to have conviction.  You have to believe in your own vision, and in your own ability to execute on that vision if you have any chance of success

Mark LaRosa’s answer to Do all great startup salespeople make a certain number of outbound calls and emails a day?

In an established company with an established product, you can count outbound calls, and you can require minimum amounts of calls, because you have a defined product, a defined market, a defined price, and a well-defined pitch. When all of those are in place, then you can very easily dictate that it is simply a numbers game – and you insist on driving as many calls as possible to get the required results. It will be well defined, that 100 calls leads to 10 sales, or something like that.

Basically, in a nut-shell…

I don’t think that I can remember the last time I ate a nut out of a shell.  I have more than one nut-cracker in my house, but I cannot recall the last time I purchased or ate a nut that wasn’t shelled for me already.  And, to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I saw a nut-shell.  Yet, salespeople and other people presenting to me constantly use this phrase.

The point here is not that nobody looks at the shells of nuts anymore, its that it is maddening to me to hear salespeople or anyone for that matter using tired and meaningless cliche’s like this one in their pitches.

New Year… New Try… New Tactic

Happy New Year.  The new year can bring about positive and negative feelings for a salesperson.  Its a great new start to a year, and a new chance to crush it.  But… it also probably means, you lost your accelerator that you were enjoying from crushing it last year, and now you have to start all over.  You are on an even playing ground with other salespeople, when you were enjoying being on top.  If you missed your mark last year, perhaps this is your chance to shine and make sure that you beat your numbers this year.

Experimentation = good. Lying = BAD!

One of the things that you must constantly do in entrepreneurial sales is experiment.

You need to experiment on price, on pitch, on the offering, and essentially everything about the product.  When you experiment, you learn about what the issues are that are the most important and also what the levers are that will draw the actual close out of a person.

Mommas, let your babies grow up to be salespeople

Remember the old campy country song that warned Mommas to not grow up to be cowboys?  While I’m completely aware that the song was not intended to be taken seriously, but it of course promotes the professions of “doctors and lawyers and such”

While those are truly admiral professions, I have to say that I am not sure why salesmanship is not promoted more.  “Let ’em be doctors or salesmen or such” fits just fine.  (My apologies to all the VERY talented saleswomen that I work with – but salespeople was too many syllables, but don’t think that doesn’t mean that I don’t think mommas should push women into sales too.)

Sometimes, its OK to be the grasshopper

I’ve been doing sales for startups for 20 years now.  In this time, I’ve learned quite a bit about how to make sales happen.  In particular, I’ve learned a lot about how NOT to do something, and also how to read situations well so that I can come to win-win solutions.

Sometimes, I’ve learned these lessons through failing and picking myself up again.

Other times, I’ve learned from talking to people more experienced than me.  My sales mentor has been an incredible resource to me.

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