Occasionally I read surveys that attempt to uncover why failure is so prevalent in new business start-ups. Often listed are reasons such as: lack of capital, weak management teams, poor timing and not being able to keep up with advancements in technology.
However, I believe one of the major reasons for failure in new start-ups is simply due to lack of sales.An entrepreneur may have the finest widget ever made. His mouse trap, whether it be toothpaste or orange juice, may be superior in every way to the competition. But if someone doesn't tell the prospective buyer about all those benefits, nothing is going to happen.
In fact, I remember an old salesman friend of mine who told me over lunch many years ago when I was just starting my business career, "Son, nothing ever happens until someone sells something," he said, a crooked finger held close to my nose for effect. "And don't you ever forget it." And I didn't.
I remember thinking, however, "How foolish. What does he know? What about accounting, product development and engineering?" If I had been brave enough to ask these questions of the old codger, I'm sure he would have said something even more memorable to me.
Now, maybe because I am bordering on being an old codger myself and have launched a company or two, I'm pretty sure that he was right after all.
Nothing really happens until someone sells something.
Yet if selling is so important, why is it overlooked at most institutions of higher learning? Why is it that, out of 10 books on my bookshelf about small business and entrepreneurial success, sales is, at best, wrapped up in a "more important concept" called marketing?
Even in one of my favorite books, "The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship," sales really only gets one line. "Selling is the most difficult single task associated with business success." Having said that, the next 465 pages of the book are written to explain the hundreds of "less difficult" tasks associated with business success.
Perhaps one major reason for the lack of emphasis on sales both in books and in business school classrooms is many of those writing the books and teaching haven't ever sold anything themselves.
To counteract that argument, some might say you don't have to have been a great football player to be a good coach. That might be true, but you at least have to know what "hike" means.
I'm sure one of the reasons enrollment is often low in BYU courses that mention sales in the course title is because of the thinking of many of our male students who have been on LDS missions. They may mistakenly think they know all about selling.
"Why do I need to go to college if I am just going to be a salesman?" some may ask. A salesperson who is going to make a real difference in an entrepreneurial start-up, needs to know a lot more about business and the world than just how to make a sale.
However, the whole point is that if a person knows all about business and doesn't know how to sell, he is in for a rough experience.
If you want to increase revenues and build your business, there is only one way I know how to do that. Get out and start seeing the people. Tell them what you have and show them what your product or service will do for them.
This single action may make all the difference between being a great business success or a miserable failure statistic.