Everyone Needs To Sell – Now!
by David Vone on December 20, 2010
In a startup, everyone has to sell something or the company dies! How do you sell if you are not a sales person? The answer, for the non-sales folks is as simple as selling their expertise to drive improvements, cost savings and efficiencies. Everyone has an opinion and they share that opinion however, are they doing that constructively or are they wasting their time? Here’s how to encourage and foster an environment where everyone sells. If you are interested in shifting the norm and turning your non-sales folks into sales junkies, who look for every opportunity to tell you how to make improvements, save money and thrive, then read on…
It’s your responsibility as a leader to hire the staff, set the standards and grow the business however; it’s easy to let people fall into their roles and out of the sell-to-survive mentality. This will help you reset the paradigm and turn everyone into entrepreneurs selling their ideas to you – everyone wins because they will find things you missed! Remember, you don’t know everything and the best leaders find innovative ways to get their teams to enthusiastically embrace improvement!
It makes no difference what level or role your audience occupies at your company; they could be answering the phones in customer service, they could be implementation engineers, supervisors, managers, directors, “VP’s”, “C’s”, board members or your peers, it doesn’t matter! What matters is how you teach them to communicate and drive resolution to issues, problems, deficiencies and opportunities at your startup. That’s the beauty of a startup – you have hired the people with the “IT” factor, now you have to get them to understand how to provide input and sell their ideas in an organized way. Tell your people how to improve their company, sell their ideas and break out of the daily routine. It’s great to have a technocrat code the hell out of something but even better to get his or her ideas on what’s not working properly and his or her proposed solutions to the problems. This turns your code person into a living, breathing conduit to all of the hidden issues you may be too busy to see. To grow the lawn you have to kill the weeds and who better to do that than the very people who play in the weeds all day?
You hear people complaining about this or that to co-workers at the water cooler, coffee machine or at lunch – what you need to do is to get that information sent to you in an organized, measurable fashion so that you can use it to improve and grow the business. At the same time, you incent people to contribute when their ideas are implemented and they are recognized for their efforts. Just having your coders code, your sellers sell, your ops people op is not enough. Each day that goes by represents dozens of opportunities wasted. The status quo isn’t good enough anymore. Teach everyone to channel their complaints, issues and ideas into a simple sales presentation to their immediate supervisor and then weekly, gather the leadership team and review the suggestions. The people with the “IT” factor will thrive when their ideas are heard, considered and implemented, turning an operational workforce into a cohesive group of thinkers and entrepreneurs. You have just turned your workforce into the consultants you no longer need to hire.
The methodology is simple, at your next all-hands meeting ask the team to look at their roles, their process and procedure, the systems and everything around them. Ask everyone to take the things that bother them, the things they believe are broken or can be improved and ask them to create a Word doc with three simple headers: The issue, The Fix and The Result. Each header will have no more than 4 sentences for each section and each person will submit the document to their immediate supervisor whenever an idea pops into their head. On a weekly basis, team leaders will meet to discuss the issues, much will be learned and some of the suggestions may lead to real improvement. Once you have explained the drill, the ideas will begin to flow in and you may be very surprised at how many of these suggestions merit some action.
In Volume 2 of this series I will share with you a huge customer service win that was realized shortly after this culture was implemented in one of my prior startup experiences. We are talking dollars and time saved, improved service, reduced call waiting times and improvements in up-sell. In future editions, we will walk through many examples where this culture has improved everything from sales to marketing, SEO, Operations, shipping, receiving, software implementation, order conversion, web site effectiveness and back-office efficiency.