Tell us more about Sales5X and your entrepreneurship journey?
Sales5X is a sales training and consulting organization. We closely work with salespeople, entrepreneurs and equip them with 21st-century selling skills! We also consult small and medium businesses on sales strategies, sales planning, forecasting & digital transformation. Over the last 3 years, we have worked with 7000+ salespeople and entrepreneurs! Many entrepreneurs have great products/services but they don’t know what it takes to push it into the market. Also, there are a lot of salespeople who don’t come from a sales background. There is an acute shortage of sales education in India. Sales5X helps to bridge this gap through it’s online and offline programs. Also, because of the pandemic, selling has become even more difficult. Customers want everything cheaper and they have become very demanding. If salespeople don’t upgrade their skill set, it will be difficult to sell in today’s environment. What worked yesterday will not work today, so everyone has to constantly unlearn and relearn!
My partner at Sales5X, Joseph Dass, comes with 25 years of sales experience. He was the VP Sales of Eurostar before starting Sales5X with me. He’s sold in 6 countries and started his sales career in the early 90’s with Eureka Forbes, selling vacuum cleaners door to door! We at Sales5X are very passionate about sales. We live, breathe, eat sales!
My entrepreneurship journey has been a roller coaster ride. Prior to Sales5X, I had 3 startups which didn’t work out! I consider it as my MBA because I learned a lot during this journey! Instead of learning from books, I learnt it on-ground, making my own mistakes and learning from them!
What’s the biggest challenge entrepreneurs face with sales?
A lot of entrepreneurs don’t come from a sales background. They think sales is not their cup of tea, so they want to outsource it right from the start (early-stage entrepreneurs). However, this might not be the best strategy. As an entrepreneur, you need to go out and talk to customers. You need to understand what they are saying and how you can use that feedback to further enhance your product/service. If you are B2C, then you must bring in the first 100 customers yourself and if you B2B, at least first 5. Only then, you should hire someone to do it for you. If you bring someone in right from the start, the salesperson will take you for a ride (unfortunately, that does happen) and you will always have a layer of separation between you and the customer.
Entrepreneurs also face challenges with scaling the sales team and setting up a sales process. They should invest in building the sales team and training them. Training shouldn’t be a one-off affair but a continuous process. As they say ‘You build people and people will build your company’.
What are the top 3 sales books you recommend?
1) ‘SPIN Selling’ by Neil Rackham
2) ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini
3) ‘Sales Differentiation’ by Lee Salz
SPIN Spelling has been around for ages but the concepts are still very relevant especially for B2B sales. It has helped my clients tremendously. Neil Rackam is more of a sales researcher than a salesman himself. He has gone to sales meetings with thousands of salespeople, recorded those conversations and analyzed it in the book. That’s why this book has amazing insights!
Influence is the only book that I have read twice! It talks about ‘6 principles of influence and persuasion’. If you are into sales, then this is a must-read book. If you implement whatever is shared in this book, you’ll definitely increase your sales!
Sales differentiation is a book that I read recently and I loved the insights shared! Today’s marketplace has become very competitive and it’s becoming very difficult for companies to differentiate themselves. In this book, Lee Salz talks about proven strategies that you can use to stand out amongst the competition!
How can salespeople improve their selling skills?
This may sound counter-intuitive, but to become a good salesperson, one should stop selling! Yes, you read that right! Stop selling! People don’t like to be sold to, but they like to buy. No one likes a pushy salesman. The moment people hear a sales pitch, they become very cautious and defensive. They aren’t ready to explore the true merits of the product/service. So instead of selling, focus more on the customer. Understand his/her real pain points. See what is the real need. Become a problem solver, not a seller. Offer insights to the customer than just information. Make the customer believe that you are the right subject matter expert they should be talking to for the problem to be solved. When the customer starts trusting you this way, they are more likely to buy from you! If you add value to the prospect, sales will happen as a by-product!
What is your advice to people who are planning to get into entrepreneurship
I am going to split my answer into 3 main points (I learnt all of it the hard way!)
1) Don’t assume
A lot of times we think we have a world-changing startup idea and we spend 9-12 months developing the product. Later when we bring it into the market, we realize that this is a great idea which people don’t want! I have been in this situation earlier! Never assume anything. Always validate your idea first by talking to as many customers as possible!
2) Don’t focus on funding
Lot of entrepreneurs start off just so that they can get funding and their company gets covered in newspapers! Well, if that’s the reason you are starting, I suggest you don’t start! Instead, focus on your business model or customer acquisition. Build as much traction as possible, then investors themselves will chase you!
3) Don’t do everything yourself!
Entrepreneurship isn’t about doing everything yourself. As a business person, your main task is to bring experts together who can bring the idea to life. You are the one running the show, not the performer! However, often times, the entrepreneurs does everything (right from design, product, marketing, sales, customer service etc) All this consumes their time and they are missing the bigger picture!
How do you keep yourself motivated as an entrepreneur?
Well, to be motivated every time, you need to know your ‘why?’. Why are you doing what you are doing. What is the driving force behind it. What happens if it’s not accomplished. On the contrary, how will life be if it does happen. If you have the answer to these questions, it’s very easy to stay motivated. You can’t be motivated by watching a motivational video. That’s temporary motivation. Once the ‘why’ is clear, things become very simple. I must admit, getting that elusive ‘why’ takes time!
Social media links :
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/learnsales/