When someone recently asked me who my favorite shark on Shark Tank was-my answer surprised them when I said Barbara Corcoran. Maybe it is because her history is a lot like my family history- she was a waitress before her start in real estate. Or perhaps it's that she doesn't shy from tough love advice for female entrepreneurs like, “Don't cry. Control your emotions.”
On a recent episode of the reality TV show “Beyond the Tank” there was another example of why she is my favorite. A female business owner had a big possible order coming up with Target. She had a few products that were selling really well but those weren't the ones that Target wanted to sell in their stores as a test to see if they should sell more of her product in their stores. (Do you see the problem here?) So she was very busy coming up with new products to sell and couldn't wait to show Barbara.
As the owner of the company was explaining this to Barbara (watch the video here) this was the exchange that she had.
BC: “I love the creativity, but I have to say stop! Your most favorite thing is the new idea, but when you are spending that time-you're not doing the other thing that is your great gift! You can sell!”
Entrepreneur: I don't want to sell
BC: “What business are you in?”
Entrepreneur: My forte is the creativity. My forte is getting it organized and looking beautiful.
BC: “Wrong, wrong, wrong. I wholeheartedly disagree. When you were in the Shark Tank you were a killer on your feet. Everyone in the Shark Tank said 'I've never met a better salesman.’ Do you think you faked that?”
Entrepreneur: No, I think I was committed to my product. And I still am and I believe in the product.
BC: “What did you do?”
Entrepreneur: I sold it to you. But also- specifically when we started this company I hired a representative group to go out and rep the product. (Have you noticed that Barbara made her say sales and yet she still can't say the word sales.)
BC: “Don't align with reps- it's like a salesforce that half believes. You're the salesforce that totally believes - you have a lot riding on it. You got to be out there.”
If you watched this video of the episode, did you see how many times Barbara said the word sales without flinching and how many times the business owner said sales without making a face?
Why was Barbara pushing this entrepreneur towards embracing the salesperson within her? Think about what is on the line for the business at this point. Major deal with Target, make or break for the company. Is it being done in the best way that features their best selling products? Has it been stalled in the process and not moving forward? The entreprenuer needs to fix this by selling Target on featuring the best products and get the deal to move forward. She still has to sell.
Do you see the lesson that applies to your business? Are you an entrepreneur who doesn't want to sell? Does the word sales leave a dirty taste in your mouth? Do you think: Sales is scary! Dirty! Beneath me!?
Would you rather just hire someone else to do the dirty work? Maybe you are thinking: Sales is something you are either born into or not. This woman is lucky, she is a natural salesperson. (yet she still hated the idea of sales…) I’m not. I shouldn’t even try, I will just mess it up.
Or have you tried to hire salespeople and then wondered why they didn't have much success? Or why the person you hired doesn’t have as much passion as you do?
And what did it really cost you to hire a salesperson? To recruit, train and keep? How long before you recoup the cost? Even if you pay straight commission - is that a no risk scenario? What is the cost if it goes bad? What does that mean in lost business that you could have gotten but didn’t in that time? What happens to your business’ reputation if your buyers are turned off by your salesperson? What would have happened to this entreprenuer and the business she is so passionate about if she didn't sell Target on putting the right products in their stores so that they were both successful?
Why do you think that Barbara did not use some other phrase for sales if it scared her entrepreneur?
Because none of those things that you, or this entrepreneur, believe about sales is actually true. How does avoiding or changing the word change that? Barbara was tough and wouldn't let her entrepreneur skirt around sales because she knew how crucial it was.
In business sales is everything. When you decide to become an entrepreneur it's what you start with and it's what you are always working towards because sales is the lifeblood of your business.
So the hard truth is that until you learn to love or at least like sales, your business will never be successful. Selling today is all about solving problems. And didn't you start your business to solve a problem? In it’s truest form, sales has always been that way. It just that now it’s the only acceptable approach thanks to today’s direct access to both information and people.
The way people buy had undoubtedly changed, the way we sell needs to continue to change with it. People are dynamic that way, and technology makes it happen even faster.
Can you afford not to be a salesperson if you want to be an entrepreneur? Who is your Barbara?