Sales is everywhere: raising money is sales, hiring is sales, dating is sales, life is sales.
Let me share with you what I have learned about sales that might be helpful to you. I’ll share two main sales principles and a few pro tips. As a friend says "There are no right answers, only pro tips" :-)
My Sales Journey
I left Kenya in 2015 to go to Silicon Valley to learn sales because I felt my previous businesses would be better off if I knew sales (I’m an engineer). I got an entry-level sales job, which was actually rather hard because everyone I interviewed with said, “you're an entrepreneur. You're going to leave us in a few months. Why would I hire you?” Until a friend hired me for a sales role. Now I'm less bad at a few kinds of sales, specifically cold email outreach to SMEs and proposal driven sales. I don't know much about B2C sales, D2C, complex enterprise sales with many stakeholders, etc.
I've raised $10m, sold $200k in business consultancy services, sold $500k of equipment to rural farmers in Kenya, sold $50k of Airbnb rentals and sold about $3m LTV in SaaS so if you've done more than that or in a different industry take everything I say with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, this essay might be valuable to you because I don’t see many people talking about sales honestly. I’ll only share techniques I've used myself.
Sales is everywhere: raising money is sales, hiring is sales, dating is sales, life is sales. But weirdly few teach sales. Maybe because we are at the very early stages of understanding human relationships (sales is human relationships). Maybe sales is where astronomy was in the 1500s. We think the earth actually goes around the sun, but we are still hammering out the principles. However, there are some principles of sales which are known. I don't know why they aren't taught in school–seems more useful than trigonometry. Of course, I can’t teach B2B sales in an essay any more than one could teach football or fashion design: which part, which role? It's made up of tons of skills practiced repeatedly.
2 key sales principles
1) Ask Questions is the most important principle I learned in sales. It does three things:
After I discovered the importance of questions in sales for myself I found several sales "gurus" say the same thing: spend 90% of the time asking questions and 10% of the time pitching.
2) Manage my own psychology is the second most important principle. I've had great days where I sell 2 or 3 things and then whole months where I sell nothing. Even more infuriatingly, my effort feels uncorrelated with sales at the micro level. I went a whole year without winning any grants and then won one on a Monday and one on Tuesday. What do you make of that!? Years ago when I started grant writing I went 0-21. Then the 22nd was for $1.2m. So not allowing yourself to sink when you’re low is key. I find 3 workouts a week, occasional breathwork or meditation, parties, latin dance class, entrepreneur mastermind groups and inspirational podcasts like The Game help me manage my psychology. Probably everyone has their own formula for managing their own psychology.
Other Sales Principles That Helped Me
After sales, the next step is implementation. A signed contract without implementation isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Once the sale is closed the relationship has just begun. But that's a post for another day… sign up for this newsletter at grantco.substack.com to be notified.
More sales resources:
Kyle founded Grant&Co after running a biogas company in Kenya for 5 years. We raised a lot of grant capital there. And now we help other entrepreneurs raise capital.