If you haven’t invested in building a strong sales foundation, it’s tempting to skip over building it yourself and simply hire a proven sales manager and an experienced sales staff. If they do their jobs right, the thinking goes, the sales growth will take care of itself. With the right hires, it might even work out that way. Until they leave for another job, that is. Then you’re right back where you started.
To put it another way: When you don’t build your own sales infrastructure, you’re renting your sales leadership. Instead of investing in a core competency that becomes part of your company’s DNA, you’re just leasing it. If you want those sales structures to last, they need to be a fundamental part of the business itself.
Founders and small-business owners are busy people. In the early days of the business, we handle everything from keeping up with payroll to taking out the trash. Developing a the sales side of the business is almost always on the entrepreneur’s to-do list, but because it can seem like such a huge and daunting task, it’s often given lower priority than making sure the office printer has enough toner.
Few entrepreneurs started companies because they wanted to be salespeople. It’s not a skill that most of them particularly want to learn, either. As a result, sales tends to be one of the very first things entrepreneurs want to offload, taking on investors or debt rather than taking it on themselves.
It’s not that hiring skilled sales experts is a bad idea. In the short term, those hires can even yield great results. Unless that new sales manager is also actively building a sustainable, scalable system for growing sales, their results will go with them when they leave.
Even at the best jobs, great people leave. They retire. They get a more exciting or lucrative offer somewhere else. They move to take care of an ailing family member, or they get sick themselves. They decide to change careers, or to take the money they’ve earned and travel the world. It happens every day.
The last thing you want is to lose a cornerstone of your business, not to mention a core competency, just because an employee decides it’s time to move on. Countless companies have failed simply because an integral person was no longer around to keep the sales machine running. The only way to avoid his situation is for the sales structure and core competency to be built into the business itself.
Without a sustainable sales competency in place, your ability to generate revenue will always be in question. If you don’t have a strong sales structure in place, people will notice. Your customers will notice. Your suppliers will notice. Most importantly, potential investors and lenders will notice.
Raising outside investment is a tricky business even under the best of circumstances. Lenders and investors are looking for a business that can demonstrate reliable, steady sales growth. Erratic sales trends, or other hints that you don’t have your sales system completely nailed down, are exactly the kinds of red flags they watch for.
If you are simply “renting” your sales leadership, it will be obvious to an investor. They know what a functioning sales pipeline looks like, and they can tell when a company’s leadership is leaning on a single person’s talent. Climbing sales numbers might help you get your foot in the door, but if you don’t understand your own sales process, you’ll soon see plenty of raised eyebrows.
To wow investors, you need to know exactly how your company generates leads, how you qualify prospects, and how you bring all the pieces together to create a sale. If you want access to their money, they need to know that your company is a great investment. They need to know that they’ll get their money back, as well as a profit. They not only want to see how your product or service works, they also want to see that the business itself is viable. There’s nothing investors love more than repeatable, predictable, scalable systems and processes.
Anyone can hire a great salesperson. Anyone can rent someone else’s sales talents and skills for a little while. To see long-term success, you need something more: A great sales foundation.