How I Forced Myself To Get Better At Sales And Marketing
Sales and marketing used to be two areas that I actively avoided at any cost. As a technical co-founder at Deputy, a workforce management software company (full disclosure: I currently work there), I always thought of myself as a “tech guy” and not a “sales guy.” The world seemed to be a place where you could only be one or the other, never both. For the first four years of our company, I lived by that worldview. I focused on tech, where my expertise exists and where I believed I could make the biggest impact.
When we got to the point where we needed sales and marketing expertise, I thought that we would simply hire talented experts who could handle that aspect of the business for us. In 2012, that is exactly what we did, taking on a professional business leadership team specializing in later-stage organizations. Unfortunately, we realized that this was the wrong approach for us, as we had fundamental disagreements about the direction that the company needed to move in. The age-old adage proved to hold true: “If you want something done a certain way, it is better to do it yourself”—whether you already possess the right skills or not.
Although I joked that I was the most marketing-illiterate person in the company, I realized that my detailed knowledge of our product and its attributes could help me contribute to a strong sales and marketing plan. I worked constantly with customers and understood their needs, pain points, personas and other important marketing information. Ignoring these aspects of the business wasn’t good for my own development and it wasn’t good for our company. As a founder, I’ve realized that it’s necessary to force yourself to try things you know nothing about. And before you know it, you’ll start to become the expert.
Learning to Seek Out Failure
When I was just starting out in the world of sales, I fell into a trap that tempts many tech professionals: I wanted to wait for perfection before releasing our product to market. The thought of receiving less than stellar feedback pained me, and I had to fight the urge to delay our release as long as possible.
What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time was that mixed feedback is a critical element for success. For every day we delayed our release, we were missing out on incredibly helpful feedback that could help us course-correct our path before we took any wrong turns. Even if your product is still in the works, get someone to try it. The more specific complaints they have, the better off you are as you can use those recommendations to make adjustments to your product before you overspend on something that may not be what the customer wants. Your first few sales cycles shouldn’t be about selling your customers a perfect product but about starting a feedback cycle that will help you tweak your approach.
As hard as it can be to put yourself in a position where you know you’re going to fail, that is exactly what you need to do. Once you start to think of failure as a necessary stop on the route to success, you can let go of your hesitations and be more open to learning.
Ashik Ahmed is the Co-Founder, CTO and CEO of Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication.
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