I always thought Salesmen were some kind of genius. Gift of gab and spinning long yarns. I realised it’s made out to be a lot more glamourous and it can border on begging. But that’s a narrow point of view, just like thinking Venture capital is just money lending.
Sales is after all persuasion. It is enabled by technology and everything else but at the core it’s convincing someone they need something you have and paying you for it.
But there’s an interesting hacker news thread on branding as freelancer I came across and I found the points on sales to be enlightening.
The discussion is about personal branding and it goes into saying Sales is the most important skill not not competence or doing the work. Selling is really hard because it is mostly rejection. It is even harder when starting out because good clients already have consultants. It is even harder when starting out because you have no idea what sells.
Sell something that sells. Sell what other people sell because that is what sells.
It is insanely hard to sell “well, I can build things”. As soon as I started focusing on a single, well-understood, boring business problem (“we need a good website”) everything changed. I started getting good at it, margins became healthy, referrals started to happen. Try getting a referral when the problems you solve are too vague to describe.
Sales is a lot like golf. You can make it so complicated as to be impossible or you can simply walk up and hit the ball. I’ve been leading and building sales orgs for almost 20 years and my advice is to walk up and hit the ball.
Sales is about people and it’s about problem solving. It is not about solutions or technology or chemicals or lines of code or artichokes. It’s about people and it’s about solving problems.
People buy 4 things and 4 things only. Ever. Those 4 things are time, money, sex, and approval/peace of mind. If you try selling something other than those 4 things you will fail.
People buy aspirin always. They buy vitamins only occassionally and at unpredictable times. Sell aspirin.
I say in every talk I give: “all things being equal people buy from their friends. So make everything else equal then go make a lot of friends.”
Being valuable and useful is all you ever need to do to sell things. Help people out. Send interesting posts. Write birthday cards. Record videos sharing your ideas for growing their business. Introduce people who would benefit from knowing each other then get out of the way, expecting nothing in return. Do this consistently and authentically and people will find ways to give you money. I promise.
No one cares about your quota, your payroll, your opex, your burn rate, etc. No one. They care about the problem you are solving for them.