I hope you laughed when you read the title of this post. I laughed when I wrote it. However, I'm also sad that so many people actually operate their business as if this post's title was true.
I had a conversation with Paul Chaney the other day. He's the Internet Marketing Director at Bizzuka, a web content management system.
He said to me, "My job is to generate quality sales leads via the web so our sales team has to do less cold calling. I've had to do cold calling in my career and I wouldn't wish that on anyone."
I agreed with him. That's a great way to describe the job. When I started my first business (an online event registration service), we basically got some brochures made and I started walking down Main Street in Worcester, MA. I walked into Davis Advertising in Worcester and got a meeting with Andy Davis. We discussed events and how he promoted them and I pitched him my vision. At the end of the meeting, I asked him what the likelihood of him hiring (or referring) my Company was? And he said, "Call me when you grow up."
I was in my mid twenties, but he just meant that my firm was too inexperienced and that he wouldn't trust me to interact with his clients. He meant, I was green.
I continued cold calling for a long time and continued struggling to get the Company off of the ground. About a year into it, we got a bunch of good breaks, learned how to network and get referrals, planned and promoted a bunch of our own events so we had some successes under our belts and later learned how to sell a lot more effectively, cold calling or not. (I'm still learning and more of my story is in the about Peter Caputa section of this website.)
Looking back, though, I was, as Andy basically said, "very green" in business. I was very naive.
I thought it was about my idea. Our idea was great. It still is. There's a handful of companies around the country that watched what we were doing, as I blogged about it, and took our "lessons learned" into account when designing their business.
However, ideas don't generate revenue. Solving problems does. People buy because they have a need, they have the budget, they're convinced your solution will help them solve their problems and the timing is right for them to take advantage of what you're offering. They buy for a compelling reason which most likely helps them avoid some recurring pain. Not because you have a smart idea or great product that YOU think will help solve their problem.
The trick is that most engineers and entrepreneurs (I'm both unfortunately) are very poor at asking questions and discovering problems. Most entrepreneurs skip to the presentation, like I did when talking to Andy a few years ago. Most are way too eager to present their product or solution. Most entrepreneurs don't listen, don't ask questions and don't lead their prospects into coming to the conclusion that "this product will help me solve my problem". They don't understand the unique challenges of each prospect. (Yes, they are unique, atleast to the prospect.) They don't frame the solution using the words the prospect used to describe the problem. They don't help their prospects buy. They pitch and hope the pitch resonates with their prospect.
In short, most entrepreneurs suck at sales.
I'm a firm believer that every salesperson must always be a student of sales. They must always be learning and improving their craft. The senior and top performing sales person at HubSpot, Heidi Carslon, said to me the other day, "A savvy sales person is going to be constantly evaluating and evolving their strategy." Agreed. I believe that any salesperson who hasn't directly sold a Million dollars worth of business in their sales career to atleast a few hundred different customers, needs to get their sales skills assessed and their sales weaknesses fixed. Any entrepreneur without this experience should be doing this yesterday. I wish I knew that the option was available to me in my first year of my business, instead of my third.
Despite typical entrepreneurial sales weaknesses, some get by and are still wildly successful. But, that's usually only because they are awesome at marketing and have a perfectly timed awesome product. (You're probably not lucky enough to be one of them: Google, Youtube, Microsoft, Starbucks, Dell, etc).
The problem with most startups is that most entrepreneurs stink at marketing too.
Most successful entrepreneurs understand that they need to constantly be improving their marketing processes too.
I would never suggest that marketing can fix sales issues OR that good marketing will ever replace the need for strong salespeople, especially in a complex B2B sale. But, based on my experience on the other side now, where I have more leads than I can handle at HubSpot, I know that I don't have to be as good... I don't have to work as hard to generate opportunities; I don't have to cold call; I don't have to travel to see people; I don't have to write custom proposals; I don't have to spend money on brochures; I sometimes don't even have to present my product... in order to make lots of sales.
That's because there is demand that has been generated for the product I sell. That's because marketing was built into the business plan from the beginning. The founders were smart enough to develop online lead generation and sales processes as they developed the product. It's also because I have a bunch of successful clients who refer me business. But, mostly it's because marketing is charged with delivering an ROI, as well as tasked with constantly improving that ROI. They do measurable marketing. They do Closed Loop Marketing.
I talked to 3 people today who have a decent sized sales team who spend their entire day cold calling. Yes. Cold Calling. All day. They don't have a marketing team that generates interest or leads. They all get a lot of business through referrals, so their products and services are good. They've just ignored the internet's ability to help them cost effectively deliver warm leads to their sales team.
I can't imagine why anyone would continue operating like this. Can you?