When engaged in a startup, there are many things—usually too many—for the entrepreneur to focus on. The primary one, of course, is selling enough product or service to continue in business, and in the first stage of a company’s existence this is almost always a constantly pressuring issue. Then there is funding, personnel, marketing, and many other crucial problems to deal with and decisions to be made.
Believe it or not, one of those first decisions should deal with how your salespeople are to be regarded and empowered. This will determine a critical path for the future of your company—and its level of success.
Take a look at the story of any successful company, and it is readily seen that a startup never “just happens.” It always comes about because of an entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs making sacrifices, pulling off miracles, and doing whatever it takes to get the show on the road. An entrepreneur is a uniquely gifted individual: they are willing to take chances that others normally aren’t. They’re willing to put in whatever hours are required, forfeiting sleep and any leisure or family time in their all-out effort to get the business up and running. They often invest their own funds as well as go without in their efforts to do whatever it takes to achieve success. Creating a startup is a passion-driven undertaking.
Startups Viewing Sales Reps as Entrepreneurs
What may not occur to such entrepreneurs is that the salespeople they are hiring—if they can sell at all—are entrepreneurs themselves. They see life in much the same way as the company founders: as a series of opportunities missed by many others. Instead of being salaried, they would much rather be able to create their own incomes, trading any possible losses for the potential windfalls.
The entrepreneurial founders or their fledgling crew had the capacity to manage and create sales, and to decide upon and to evolve the series of actions that resulted in closes. Salespeople, as entrepreneurs, should also have that capacity. They should of course have any successful sales methods passed along to them by the company’s founders or first successful sales reps. But they should also be given the latitude to improvise and be inventive as they see fit.
When A Company Grows
As a company becomes larger, to the point at which middle management occurs, salespeople are often reduced in their capacities to exercise their entrepreneurial spirits. They are weighed down with cumbersome reporting, taking time during which they would otherwise be selling, or for which they put in unpaid overtime. They start to feel “micromanaged.” If they complain about such constraints, they can become regarded as “prima donnas,” “hard to get along with” and “not with the program.”
Interestingly the entrepreneurs that started the company, put into the same position, would most likely have the exact same reaction. Why? They are not being given the capacity create sales as they know they can. They are not succeeding to the extent of their capabilities—and neither is the company. In fact, you’d probably find that many of the entrepreneurs that started companies did so to escape from—or at least to not be weighed down by—these very same kinds of constraints.
From the Ground Floor
So in creating a startup, take the correct viewpoint of your salespeople. They are entrepreneurs, just like you. Treat them as such, give them relative freedom as such—and watch your company grow a long way up from the status of a mere startup.
Stay tuned for more of our articles on startups and salespeople.