I’m cynical about all the group-hugging celebrating failure. While I may give you a pat on the back for your courage, I’d rather take a stand and scream “Failure sucks!” and also provide three winning sales strategies.
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“You failed! Congratulations!”
I first noticed this trend toward celebrating failure in May 2007 when Fast Company published an article Failure Doesn’t Suck.
I love Fast Company, but I had to disagree with them on this one. Failure sucks!
A month later, Bloomberg Businessweek followed suit with Fail Fast, Fail Cheap.
Then two years later, Cassandra Phillipps founded Fail Con, a conference in San Francisco celebrating failure.
Well, Fail Con held its final conference last year. It’s been discontinued, not because the glorification of failure is on the wane, but because, as The New York Times reported recently in Wearing Your Failure On Your Sleeve, “the failure chatter in Silicon Valley is now so pervasive that a conference almost seems superfluous.”
This chatter is not limited to Silicon Valley. You hear it everywhere. Failure has become trendy in the age of innovation and startups.
I get it, and I admire courage and calculated risk-taking. But in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “We were born to succeed, not fail.”
When we startup a company or go develop a new product for a new market, it’s simply not our objective to fail. Celebrating failure is noble. It may encourage entrepreneurs to hit the ground running again, but it’s not helping us win!
Can we stop this glorification of failure now? At very least, can we take disciplined steps to win next time?
Why startups fail.
Let’s identify why so many startups fail, so that we can then increase our probability of success?
I was recently having lunch with a friend who is, more or less, a salesman for hire.
“I’m tired of working for most startups,” he said. “One in ten will make it. Of the nine that don’t, eight of them could if they would just prioritize their sales efforts and do it right.”
Music to my ears, even though it’s music to a tragic opera, perhaps.
“They want me to sell for free,” my friend said.
“Well, not exactly for free, but on commission. They want me to go out into the marketplace, approach my existing clients and prospect new ones, when, at best, their products still have bugs and, at worst, they’re far from ready. And as far as the marketplace can see, they have no success stories!”
“The bizarre thing is,” my friend continued, “everyone else in the firm is on salary or retainer, from the programmers and product development people right up to the C-Level.”
The startup capital is put entirely into product development… and paying the leadership team and a few product development people. The leaders so-called “risk” is essentially mitigated by monthly payments.
And therein lies the unspoken reason for startup failure.
They focus on startup capital, but they don’t focus on revenue from the marketplace. They don’t take a disciplined approach to selling!
They show little love to their sales consultants, not to mention to their sales process at large.
I have actually heard startup “entrepreneurs” tell great sales candidates, “Well, if you don’t believe you can earn a good commission on this, then you obviously don’t believe in the dream.”
This is your dream. You’re taking a salary, yet you want salespeople to take a risk on selling your dream.
To make your dream a reality, you have to operate within reality!
You have to sell!
So, how can more startups be successful?
First of all, have a disciplined process to hiring good salespeople.
Don’t just “put the word out” that you’re looking for salespeople and then start taking meetings in which the outcome is that you “have a good feeling about him/her.”
If you don’t really have a system and process to effectively hire salespeople, then bring on a professional who has managed sales teams.
Secondly, pay decent wages.
Pay your sales manager/executive/consultant, and understand that your product will take some time before it really can be implemented by customers.
If you do believe that your product is really ready to go, understand that getting traction in the marketplace with any new product will take time! That’s the reality!
Don’t scoff at good salespeople who give you this feedback, just because you believe they should buy into your dream, stop taking an income and reduce other income-generating activities to get you started.
“Ah, but we’ve gotten salespeople to sell on commission,” you say.
Great! But experience shows me that you’ve secured them, but after a few months, they’ve drifted. “They didn’t have the discipline,” you say.
Many salespeople who accept the start-up with commission only end up having no success in their first three months, and begin wondering how they’re going to put food on the table. But maybe if they had a decent wage, they’d keep the faith and start getting traction at six months.
Thirdly, pay generous commissions on top of the salary.
The knee-jerk reaction that many startups have to this salary plus generous commission approach is, “These salespeople want it all,” or, “There won’t be anything left for us!”
I’ve got news for you. If you don’t sell, there won’t be anything left for you, anyway, and you’ll have a big fat failure to add to your bio. Glorify that!
Without sales, a vicious cycle ensues: investors stop throwing in money, the marketplace starts talking, and the good salespeople avoid you like the plague.
Now, if you really can’t afford to pay good salespeople, then hire at least one good sales manager/consultant, and prioritize your sales every day!
Go out and sell every day, and make sure you do it well.
No company will be successful without a disciplined sales effort.
Sales is your only route to success, so don’t wing it.
This is not just about applying your resources appropriately, it’s also a means of savvy product development. Customers determine quality, be they existing or prospective customers.
Having a great product for the wrong marketplace is not exactly quality when it comes to business survival.
Put some love into your sales process!
If you have a good sales process and effective implementation in place, you’ll not only maximize your efforts in the marketplace, you will also get good intel on tweaking your product quickly and efficiently.
You will be in a stronger position to win!
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I help sales teams improve their performance by putting the “love” into the sales process. The tools and techniques vary, but the mindset is simply a heart-set.
Let’s talk about love and sales. Contact me here and let’s set up a call, or sign up for my blog posts below.
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Photo by Chris Potter.