Tapping Into Your Inner Salesperson

Sales requires a process. You can't just rely on excitement. You have to identify the decision maker. You have to figure out who your buyer is.

People are either buying or they're selling. For me, as an investor, I've been buying for a long time, looking at companies. Now I'm definitely ready to sell and what I'm selling is innovation, especially inclusive innovation that really interests me. I want to engage more people in that. I'm passionate about it.

One of the questions I ask entrepreneurs is how did you tap into your inner salesperson? What was the first thing you realized, and then did you do anything to build on those skills?

Tanya Van Court is the founder of iSow, a tool that teaches kids about financial literacy by allowing them to register for goals instead of goods in three categories: saving, sharing, and spending. Tanya has two degrees in engineering and couldn't imagine herself as ever being a salesperson.

Then she went to work at ESPN and Nickelodeon, great media companies with amazing salespeople. She realized that sales truly is an art form and a skill. As a general manager or product lead she often would go on sales calls to explain things from the perspective of the product. Explaining what was going on and the vision of the product.

She was great at being a complement to the salespeople, but never thought that she could be the sales person. It wasn't until she had her own startup that she realized that sales is really about combining passion for her company and the skills she had learned. Sales requires a process. As an engineer, she was comfortable developing a sales process that went step by step from interest in her product to closing the sale.

As she developed her process, Tanya began to realize that different people were responding to different things she said. She had focus groups and the moms would cheer but the 14-year-olds were like, “Yeah, okay.” When she positioned her pitch in a different way the kids would start to get excited. She realized her value proposition was different depending on who she was talking to. There had to be a process to selling, a methodology. It had to be flexible and responsive to her audience.

She started to apply principles she learned in engineering to sales. You map out who your audience is. You map out what your message is. Then you tailor your message to each audience. It took a lot of trial and error and staying close to the customer.

That's the bottom line of sales, staying close to the customer, understanding what that customer wants. She was also mindful that in her case, as so often happens, the customer isn't always the end user. Also, there are different types of customers when you consider strategic partners or even potential investors.

This article is not investment advice, nor is it a solicitation to buy or sell any shares.

Barbara Clarke