This question comes up so often especially from newer business owners – from solo-prenuers to tech startups. The answer in most cases is: not yet.
It seems so logical that you would hire a sales person, as you would an assistant or a bookkeeper. Unlike an assistant, though, sales are the lifeblood of your business.
Without sales, there is no business (the IRS calls a “business” that does not make money a “hobby”). Last I checked, most of us in business for ourselves are in it to make money; this is our primary source of income. Many of us are fortunate to love the work we do and receive compensation for it – it’s a beautiful thing.
So, why can’t you hire someone to make sales for you? The main reason is you won’t be successful managing a function you don’t understand yourself. If you, as the owner, haven’t mastered sales in your own business, you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to properly manage someone in the role. You will find yourself looking for that person to take the lead, and that person will be looking for you to guide and direct them. You won’t be able to tell whether the salesperson is making excuses for why sales aren’t coming in or whether the market isn’t responding to your product or service or whether you are missing a big opportunity in the market.
It is in the sales process that we receive valuable insight and feedback from the market.
Prospective buyers tell us their concerns, their wants and needs; it give us real opportunity to design a product or service to meet those needs. At the very least, we receive information that helps craft our message and position in the market. We’ve all heard the stories about companies that started with one plan or vision and pivoted based on market feedback – Microsoft, Spot Hero, AirBNB – just to name a few. Often times, we find our market and niche through being out there in conversation with prospects and hearing what they really want or need.
Is it possible for a good business development person do that? It can be possible, if that person is a co-founder who truly shares your passion, vision, and mission. In that case, you may even be willing to listen to them and believe what you are hearing. Otherwise, you would be receiving the feedback via an intermediary (your salesperson) rather than hearing it directly from the prospect, to whom you could ask questions and maybe even co-craft a solution based on what you know you could create.
When I first started my own business I was told I had to be the best sales person of my service. Since that time, I have seen it repeatedly in action across hundreds of businesses. Those who avoid sales or try to hire it out (i.e., try to buy their way out of it), struggle, spend lots of time and money without payoff, and don’t realize the business growth they could. When you, as the owner of the business, make the decision to truly master the sales process then, and only then, will you be ready to hire someone else for the role. By that time, you will be confident that you know your market and what they respond to and will be much more likely to be successful managing the salesperson you hire.