You learn sales by doing sales: as a founder you must sell. Sales is a conversation, marketing is a broadcast. Marketing gets the phone to ring, sales takes the call and closes the deal.

Q: How Does a First Time Founder Learn Sales?

Q: First time entrepreneur here. I am creating a product that will solve address a large potential. The more I think about it and read about startup, I am finding that a key to early and often success is Sales.

I am been engineer by choice and engineering manager by profession. I have never done sales. I understand you learn by doing similar to driving. I am a bit talkative but sometime I have hard time not getting bogged down by emotions.

How do I get started? Can you share books, videos, tutorials, prior recorded sales call references?

Where can I learn about metrics to track? Any ideas?

A: You need to separate sales from marketing. Sales is a conversation, marketing is a broadcast. Marketing gets the phone to ring, sales takes the call and closes the deal.

For B2B sales resembles project management: the goal is not to convince everyone to buy your product or service but to diagnose their needs and only engage with firms that will benefit.

For larger deals you “sell with your ears” as much as you talk.

I find Neil Rackham’s “Spin Selling” very useful. Peter Cohan’s “Great Demo” embeds a lot of discovery advice and suggests that a good demo is really a conversation driven by mutual curiosity about customer needs and software capabilities.

For B2B customer development interviews (those early market discovery conversations) I have a short book you may find helpful. See “40 Tips for B2B Customer Interviews” (there is also a link at the bottom of the post for a PDF version).

Two final books I would suggest, while not exactly sales books, are “The Innovator’s DNA” by Clayton Christensen and “The Right It (Pretotype It)” [PDF] by Alberto Savoia. They cover a number of techniques for finding the right problem to solve and determining if your solution is a good fit for customer needs. I mention them because it’s not uncommon for a startup to have a product problem that manifests as a sales problem.

A conversation involves both listening and talking. Good sales people know that they have to “diagnose before they can prescribe” which means they must elicit symptoms and confirm need and fit with product capabilities. Really good sales people recommend other products when theirs is not a good fit. As the deal size goes up you do much more listening than talking.

Many firms that don’t advertise–or do very little advertising–and are still able to generate leads, that’s why it’s normally included in marketing as one of many channels.

Effective marketing people also talk and listen to customers

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Note: this was triggered by an answer I wrote on Hacker News to the question.

Image Credit: :lost in the woods” (c) Anastasia Yakovleva (licensed from 123rf Image ID : 25673523)