Last month Wal-mart kicked off a reality television series for the web named ‘Get on the Shelf ‘. This series featured 20 finalists of Wal-mart’s contest by the same name. It’s aim being to encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship and help some lucky ones get a break. The public was given 3 days to vote for their favorite entrepreneur .The winner of each episode , that is the one with the highest votes would then be allowed to sell his goods on Walmart.com. Out of these winners the ‘grand winner’ would be the one who would get the maximum pre-orders on walmart.com. This grand winner would then get the opportunity to sell his product inside the Wal-Mart stores . It’s a dream for any brand, any businessman, to see their product on Wal-Mart store shelves, and this television series (for the web) will help someone’s this dream come true!
The key point here is – the winner will be the one who can ‘sell’ the most. In entrepreurship this is the key element. It is also an element that in spite of being so important is ignored by many. The fact remains that it does not matter how good your product is, rather what matters is how well you could ‘sell’ it.
“Being an entrepreneur means being a salesman” – this was the key mantra for success that was given by Niklas Zennsrom more popularly known as the co-founder of Skype. He says the one who can sell is the one who will succeed in the game of entrepreneurship. In fact in spite of ‘salesmanship’ being such an important aspect of business not many b-schools till recently focused on this. It was the reverse . This was one aspect that was looked down upon. Not any more. A recent survey showed that people were keener to know how to start their own business and be their own boss. Students today are keener to do a ‘Masters in Entrepreneurship’ than a regular MBA (Forbes magazine). After all the success stories of this generation are companies like Twitter, Groupon, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram, Tumblr …. And the list goes on. What they all have in common is a young guy who knew how to ‘sell’ his dreams to others. It does not matter whether you have lots of money or no money –what matters here is whether you have a great idea –and more importantly the skill to sell that idea.
Sell! Sell! Sell!
The true mantra for success lies in the ability of an entrepreneur to sell his brand. The one who can do it best is the one who scores the highest.
Captain Nair wanted to open a resort in Goa and was ecstatic when he could finally buy a property there. However there was a slight problem , his property was located at the southern most end of Goa, and took more than an hour to reach . Most tourists preferred the old established properties near the airport and in the north of Goa. So even though The Leela had 7 star facilities yet it failed to attract tourists. Not to give up so easily, he thought of an innovative idea. All it required was one advertisement in the newspaper with a headline that invited tourists to rediscover the land where Vasco da Gama had first stepped on. This was enough to raise the curiosity of the tourists and there was a steep increase in the reservations. The Leela was soon packed with visitors! A successful entrepreneur is one who never gives up , who never says never !
Selling is not about selling !
Confused? That is the real secret of becoming a master salesman and hence a master entrepreneur. A true salesman is one who does not take ‘No’ for an answer. An ordinary salesman is one who allows you to say a ‘No’ and then moves on to the next prospect. So how do I get people to say ‘Yes’ all the time, or most of the time?
Let me illustrate. When recession hit America in 2008, it was observed , among other things, that the sales of Swiss watches which for years had witnessed double-digit sales growth saw a drastic decline in sales. The only way to salvage the situation was to re-learn the art of salesmanship. More than 60% of the customers were going to a luxury watch showroom to not buy new watches rather to get their old watches serviced. So IWC, a luxury watch manufacturer brought in a trainer to train its staff. The first lesson he taught them was to never ever discuss the ‘price’ of the watch, rather to point out its ‘value’. Sales after all is about selling an emotion and the last thing that helped one make a sale was price. Before coming to the price you had to convince the consumer that what he was buying was of ‘value’ to him. For that you needed to understand what the customer was looking for and what according to him was the definition of value. Once you can find that there will be no need to discuss price or haggle about it.
After all sales is also about understanding the customer and offering him what he actually wants. The better you understood people the better your chances of selling. He taught the staff various tricks but the most interesting was one that he learnt from casinos. In the casinos the trick is to flatter the men and more importantly to distract their wives. The longer the wife stays the higher the chances of the men to splurge. He used the same technique of teaching his staff to keep the wife engaged and entertained. If she was bored she would immediately say ‘lets go’ and that would be the end of a sale! Take care of the wife the husband will take care of you!
In fact if you genuinely care about people, then you eventually make a sale. If you only care about the ‘sale’ you most often fail to make the sale. Be it inside a posh luxury watch showroom or inside the shops on the street markets of Morocco the most successful entrepreneur is the man who understands people. As Philip Broughton says in his book ‘Life’s a Pitch’ it’s the ability to win the trust of people that makes you a great salesman. He quotes Steve Wynn the billionaire hotel and casino owner on the most profound business lesson he ever learnt. Wynn says employees should relate to people not as customer and employee but as two human beings. Once you do this you can close a sale faster and better. Chances of hearing a ‘No’ will be reduced.
When the internet marketing was in its nascent stages, a company called Zappos.com found a new way to gain customer confidence. It knew that the biggest drawback of online purchase of a shoe was – what if it was of a wrong size? It used this weakness to build on its most successful selling strategy – that of free easy returns. Now all those who were unsure of buying a shoe without trying were relaxed and as a result the company could sell millions of dollars worth of shoes. Today almost everyone is using this same strategy.
So to be successful you need to first and foremost master the ability to sell and sell in such a manner that the other guy doesn’t get an opportunity to say a ‘No’.