If I tell you it’s important to really believe in your product before you try to sell it, you’ll say, “Well, of course.”
But you’d be surprised how often people knowingly go down the path of offering a product or service without even thinking about whether they embrace its value. I often hear entrepreneurs say, “I don’t care what business I’m in as long as I can build a great company and provide jobs for people.”
And maybe it’s not that difficult to understand that mindset. After all, when you’re selling product lines in 35 different categories, surely the CEO hasn’t personally tried and fallen in love with all of them.
And hey, even if you don’t personally believe in the value of the product, someone will! Maybe all you have to do is come up with enough convincing selling points and repeat them often enough, and your own personal belief will be irrelevant.
All of that is tempting to believe. But let me tell you, it will not work.
For one thing, as an entrepreneur, you are usually the primary salesperson – at least at the outset. The reason people like working with entrepreneurs is that they get the opportunity to deal directly with the visionary. But who wants to deal with a visionary who doesn’t buy their own vision?
People are more insightful than they are sometimes given credit for, and buyers can spot a person who’s trying to sell a proposition they’re not authentically interested in – or wouldn’t buy themselves.
Think about the way sales meetings often progress. The person trying to make the sale might start with a set of talking points, and maybe the talking points are convincing on a certain level. But most people don’t buy on the strength of the talking points alone. The talking points just get the discussion rolling, followed by an in-depth discussion of the product or service under consideration.
If you’re a discerning customer, you will want to know a lot about how this product or service will make you more successful. The entrepreneur who really believes in what’s being sold can have this conversation with you all day long and will do so with enthusiasm. The one who’s just trying to convince you will revert back to the same talking points and will sometimes seem defensive.
People aren’t stupid. They can spot this. Consumers don’t buy the way they used to – just seeing a clever ad or an attention-grabbing sign and responding to it. They expect real engagement and interaction. Someone who’s trying to fake it will be exposed very easily.
And if the entrepreneur can’t exude that confidence in the product, how do you expect it to be embraced by salespeople if and when the company ever grows? When you train salespeople to sell your product, one of the most important elements of that training is to make sure they know the value proposition: Why will the customer be better off if they buy this?
I remember sitting in a presentation rehearsal one time, and it was clear the CEO wasn’t confident about how the presentation was going to go. In his frustration, he threw up his hands and declared, “We’re gonna have to do a lot of dancing to sell this.”
Imagine the message that sent to the other members of the team. Essentially, they had just been told by the boss that the product wouldn’t really benefit the client. Under the circumstances, how could they be expected to convince the client it would be a benefit to buy?
(Spoiler: The client didn’t buy. Shocking, I know.)
If you’re going to get your salespeople selling effectively, then you have to ooze confidence in the value of the product or service when you’re training them. You can’t do that if you don’t believe in the value of it yourself.
So, there are some clear imperatives here for entrepreneurs. First, if you’re thinking about going into a line of business you don’t really believe in, don’t. I don’t care what your market research shows you. If you wouldn’t buy it, you’re not going to be able to sell it.
I am not saying you shouldn’t start a business. I am not saying your company shouldn’t branch out into new products and services. I am saying this: If you’re not sold on the idea, then improve it – innovate – until you really do believe in it. If you can’t get there, then you might have to scrap it entirely and come up with something different. It will be better than starting down this road and realizing, once you’ve invested all kinds of time and money in starting up your company, that you’re not buying your own value proposition.
But what if it’s too late? What if you’re already operating your company, and you realize you’re struggling precisely because you don’t really believe in the value or service of your core product? This is when the imperative to innovate is greater than ever. You have to really look objectively at what you’re selling and decide why it doesn’t work for you. Then you have to determine what would represent real value and innovate to whatever extent is necessary to improve the product or service, to the point where it passes your value test.
Granted, there are some people who have convinced themselves they believe in their product or service, because they want so badly to believe it. They really don’t though, and they’ll realize it at the worst possible moment. But we’ll deal with self-delusion in another piece.
For now, let’s just make sure you don’t go down this road and find yourself having to clean it up later. There’s an idea you can believe in. Base your business on that. You’ll be glad you did.
Written by: Wade Wyant
Red Wagon Advisors