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If you have a technical background, how do you get into the “sales mindset”?

I recently organised an event where a developer could demonstrate his start-up’s software to representatives from various industries. At the end of the event, interest was expressed and business cards exchanged. A couple of months later, I followed up with the developer to see how things were going. He was frustrated with the lack of engagement from his prospects.

Most of the first-stage start-ups I’ve seen (particularly the ones that utilise technology) are run by engineers or software developers.

Engineering is logical and process driven. Sales is unpredictable and success depends on the following:

  • Reaching out to people you don’t know
  • Understanding/empathising with your prospects
  • Influencing people with your message
  • Managing your prospects through their “decision process”
  • Getting your customer to provide commercial sign-off

You will get frustrated over how little control you have in the sales process.

In the sales process it is your responsibility to do all the work! You need to make all the calls, suggest the next steps and help them through these steps. Generally your prospects will not “get around” to doing what they said they will do. You will need to coach them through every step. When they tell you they will call you back, they generally don’t!

This does not mean your sales opportunities are not good. You just need to apply it with a different mindset.

This can be a challenge for a CEO with a technical background. As an engineer, people value your expertise and advice. You deliver quality and expect quality from those around you.

Becoming a sales person means you will be assisting prospects and customers to complete the steps they are already committed to. Over the past 12 years of selling software to enterprise and government, about 90% of my time has been spent on the follow-up process.

Try to apply this thinking when you are running sales for your start-up. It should save some frustration and help you be more successful.