May 30, 2012

Sales, Sales and Sales!

"You look like nice folks so here's a great deal!"

A common myth in business is that “a great product sells itself.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I just finished reading “The Intelligent Entrepreneur,” a book which tells the stories of three successful entrepreneurs.  When asked what skill made the biggest difference in their businesses, all three answered “Sales, sales and sales!”

Peter Thiel makes the same point in his “Startup” class at Stanford’s business school.  Peter is a legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist who backed such famous companies as Paypal and Facebook.

We’re not students at GSB.  Fortunately for us, a graduate student named Blake Masters is blogging his notes from each class.  My big takeaways from Thiel’s “If You Build It, Will They Come?” lecture.

  • Distribution (sales) usually gets the least amount of attention/resources even though it is the most important.
  • “Great products sell themselves” — not true.
  • The best product does not always win.
  • A big mistake is assuming that customer buying choices are logical.   They are not.  Buyer choices are often illogical and emotional.
  • Because buying choices often are emotional, engineers don’t understand how to sell.
  • Engineers usually underestimate the importance and challenge of sales and distribution.
  • We are culturally biased to think of sales people as untrustworthy and dishonest.  True sales people aren’t like that — they are focused on learning about the customer and solving the customer’s problems.
  • There is an incredible range of sales people — great ones are 10,000 times better than poor ones.
  • Great sales people are uncommon.
  • It’s hard to tell good sales people from bad ones.
  • The best sales people make you feel like it’s not a sale at all.
  • Becoming good at sales and distribution is hard to do.  Therefore, it’s a massive competitive differentiator.
  • People don’t know what they want/need.  The job of sales is to show them.

You can read the class notes here.  Highly recommended!!

[Share your sales stories below.  Follow me on Twitter here.]


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