If business unfolded in real life as it does on Excel, everyone would be a businessman…and if selling were the only skill necessary for the business to thrive, the salesperson would have it easy.
What irony! Many employees shun sales, yet all who start their side hustle or outright business crave it. One would therefore imagine that the stellar salesperson that starts his business is bound to thrive, yes? No. In fact, the polar opposite happens: he struggles and tragically, unchecked, his business quickly bites the dust.
This is the reasoning he goes through: if I’m this good at trading in currencies at BCK bank, I should be able to start and thrive in my own forex bureau or any other business. (Insert smirk here)
What happens instead is a rude awakening in the name of a culture shock. In the initial stages he may succeed, possibly buoyed by existing leads. Quickly though, reality hits home. Foremost is the realization that the primary reason why he thrived with the former employer was not so much because he was that good, so much as the environment the employer had created, allowed his talent to flourish. That distinction is terribly important to grasp if your business is to succeed. It suddenly hits them that for their business to survive, they must put in place the same systems and structures that made them thrive. This includes creating their credibility. Working systems and structures are like tilled and regularly watered land. The seed finds it easy to flourish and ensures the business runs sustainably. Few withstand the tenacity this calls for. The vast majority find it easier to look back over the employment fence they had jumped over. Miraculously, the grass over there looks greener than it was when they’d left. (Sigh!)
Next, in the process of wanting more business, the budding entrepreneur hires for sales and is sure that his cash flow projections will unfold in real life as they do on his Excel sheet. (Ha!). Excel operates in a linear environment; business (selling) doesn’t. The former is a science, the latter, an art. The former dealer, now CEO of a property development firm is visibly irritated that his salespeople aren’t selling. “Why?”, he angrily asks. Well, for starters, the quality you brought on board was what your budget could afford, and what your budget could afford must go through a learning curve. “But I didn’t have to go through this myself; I was always ahead of my game; I read books and kept finding new ways to become better. In fact, before hiring them I easily sold and still sell these plots of land. And what is this about them requiring training?” (In other words, why can’t they be like me? And why do we have to incur further expenses for training them on something they are already paid to do?)
Well, not all seeds fall on rich, arable land. Some fall on rocks and others thorns. These must be nurtured. While you chew on that, here’s another piece to mull over: the budget-quality ratio isn’t linear either. Even if you can afford quality, you are still not guaranteed competence. Ask any seasoned businessman and he will tell you that he has poached hitherto stellar sellers whose star simply dimmed when they crossed over. It’s not a science. Maybe that’s why Harvard Business Review advises to hire for potential not experience; or maybe, when they cross over they find they have fallen on thorns and feel strangled.
This insistence that they be like me is a significant point of departure between those who go into business because they thought their sales skills will see them through, and those that were not in formal sales e.g. engineers, accountants and teachers. The latter will find it much easier to learn or seek help in the form of a business partner that is a competent business developer but pride won’t let the former do so. I can do this myself becomes their myopic debilitating mantra.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the salesperson turned business owner though. Once he replaces pride with patience he becomes a wise fool. He realizes he has options which include staffing his weakness by way of a business partner or expanding his knowledge base considerably as KCB Group CEO Joseph Oigara advises.
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