As entrepreneurs, we hold the highest opinions about our ideas; we think they are perfect, we nurture them and tell everyone about them, and then we are shocked — sometimes insulted — when others do not respond with the same level of enthusiasm.
It’s tempting to think that putting all of your energy into creating a great product is enough to build and sustain a growing company, but in reality nothing sells itself.
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Essentially, all product-only strategies are rooted in a type of vanity, wherein the entrepreneur believes that her idea should rise above all of the others solely because she created it. But while designing and engineering a high-quality product that solves a customer’s problems is something to be celebrated, it is hardly the sole foundation for a great enterprise.
Every brilliant technological innovation, ingeniously-coded software platform, and astonishingly convenient service requires a push-to-market to sell it effectively. If your product is as great as you think it is, then as many of the right people as possible need to know about it, and they need to be told explicitly why it’s the right solution for their needs.
Know your customers and know yourself
No matter how good your product is, trying to build sustainable growth without knowing exactly who you want to sell it to is an uphill battle. You simply can’t target potential customers effectively without knowing who is likely to buy, and why they are likely to buy.
Imagine standing on a street corner and handing out flyers for a washing machine repair service to everyone who passes by. Sure, you might have one out of 50 people stop and read the flyer, but the vast majority will be content to throw it in the nearest garbage can without giving it another thought. Do they even have washing machines? Are their washing machines broken? Or are you just wasting time and paper?
Tracking marketing data generally leads you to a wealth of customer demographic information, which you can then use to create a profile of the type of customer who needs your product and can afford your product. Then, trained salespeople will use this information to deeply understand the pain points the customer is attempting to solve, and position your product as their ideal solution.
Effectively communicating your value proposition is as important as devising one
Sales is one of the most frightening prospects for many entrepreneurs, because it requires handing your vision over to someone else and relying on them to be your representative among customers. Relinquishing that sort of control can be scary.
However, talented salespeople excel at taking your unique value proposition and tailoring it to a specific customer based on their knowledge of the customer’s preferences and past behaviors.
It’s not just important to know why your product deserves attention, you need salespeople who understand how and when to deliver that information.
Engaging qualified leads creates a lean organization
No product or service is right for every company, which is why it is so important for growing businesses to utilize proper marketing and sales strategies in order to find the qualified leads that are worth pursuing. Chasing down leads that have a low likelihood of purchasing is an unnecessary drain on your time and resources, and it also sends a message to the potential customer that you do not have a clear picture of whom your product is best suited to serve.
Frankly, promoting a product-only agenda and waiting for everyone to come to you is also irresponsible. Reputable salespeople know when not to push a solution that is fiscally reckless for the client too.
Timing is everything in B2B sales
To complicate things further, it’s not just a matter of who’s buying, but also when the right time for them to buy is.
Creating a marketing strategy that nurtures the customer through the purchasing funnel and engages them at the appropriate points along their journey is crucial to developing leads that are likely to result in a sale.
Relationships are still paramount
The ubiquity and convenience of e-commerce has led many skeptical entrepreneurs to wonder if they even need a sales team. Shouldn’t you just employ digital marketing strategies that steer potential customers towards your online shopping portal?
In reality, people still like to do business with people they like, and a key component of sales is relationship building. It leads to repeat clients, which increases customer lifetime value and offers a more predictable revenue stream.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
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