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“Tell everyone you are in sales”

These were some of the final words that were told to me from a trusted advisor when I left Philadelphia for Silicon Valley in 2010. The idea was that everyone needs sales, so tell people that is what you do.

My advisor telling me this surprised me. Thinking about sales conjures up images of seedy car salesmen or telemarketers. The perception of salespeople as people willing to do everything to make a quick buck, dodging questions and wheedling their way toward the bottom line kept circling through my head.

In short, it sounded like something that I thought was beneath me.

My image of salespeople didn’t get much better when I arrived in San Francisco.  I hired movers to lug my furniture across country. Joe, the salesperson who sold me the service promised that everything would cost a certain amount and arrive in good condition.  When my things got to SF, the delivery man asked for twice as much and I noticed that there was a tear in my favorite couch. Over the next week I must have called Joe 20 times— no answer.

Eight years into my career in Silicon Valley-  I can say definitely that I am in sales and proud of it.  With a plethora of financing options for great companies, it’s my job to show entrepreneurs what else comes with the capital we provide companies. As an investor I sell money; if you’d like to buy some, get in touch.

What I have learned is that sales doesn’t have to be slimy. If you have a long term orientation  and focus on the needs of your customer (other your own) that you will build a strong reputation which will cascade into more sales. Two key principles that I have learned:

  • Conviction. You must believe in what you are selling. If you don’t, how you can expect others to?
  • Eyes Wide Open.  Make sure that the customer knows what they are buying—including the advantages and disadvantages of your product.  While you may hurt yourself in the short run by telling them everything that is wrong with your product, it’s best if the customer goes into the purchase with their eyes wide open.  If a customer feels like they were tricked at the point of sale, it will only lead to problems done the line (and certainly no referrals!)

So, to sum up, are you willing to pick up the phone when the customer calls after the sale? Or will you avoid their calls—like Joe the mover?