Selling Your Way To Growth

January 30, 2020

Avoiding the ‘Field of Dreams’ syndrome, and knowing when to walk away from a sale

Few entrepreneurs are natural born sales people. But from the hundreds of start-ups and SMEs we’ve worked with here at NPC, sales is by far one of the most important parts of the commercialization journey.

Get More Sales is a boutique revenue strategy consulting firm dedicated to helping Canadian companies  grow quickly and cost effectively. We talked to partners, Frank Dion and Robert Kinch, to get their perspective on sales, common mistakes, and building a value-driven strategy.

What’s the biggest sales mistake you see start-ups make?

Robert Kinch, Managing Partner, Get More Sales

It’s the old ‘Field of Dreams syndrome’ – people think, if you build it, they will come. It’s especially common in this highly innovative category of natural products. There’s a strong tendency for the team to build a great technology, and fall in love with it so much that they can’t see the most important thing — the value to the customer.  For example:  we have had a customer solve big problems for an insect-based fish health product.  But, instead of speaking about the benefits to the fish farmer, they sell insect protein and expect the farmer to figure out why they need it.

They think that if they’ve built a great product, people will magically want to buy it. But that doesn’t happen if the customer doesn’t see how it solves one of their urgent pain points.

How do they overcome that?

It’s all about focusing on the customer and understanding their business and what’s important to them. Why would they care about your product? How does it help them do things faster, better or cheaper? You need to understand their world and their buying journey to know how your product can help.  For example, can your new supplement help fish grow faster?   The key is to take it one level deeper and ask “how does this help their bottom line?”  How can you impact their business at the financial level?

But what if your product can’t help?

Frank Dion, Managing Principal, Get More Sales

You have to walk away. That’s one of the toughest realities an entrepreneur can face – you can’t be all things to all people. And you can’t waste time on sales that just aren’t going to happen because you aren’t selling what the customer needs.   We are working with a client that has an amazing solution for fish hatcheries. Their research shows that their supplement can really impact the performance of a tilapia hatchery and they have customers to prove it.  So, what do they do when a shrimp farm calls them?  Do they engage in a conversation when they have no results in that area?  They must say NO.  They can’t help them.

When you try to sell your solution to someone that really doesn’t fit–meaning you can’t add value to them, the conversation will feel forced, and it will feel like you are manipulating the situation. The sales process should be a sincere and natural conversation that piques the curiosity of the customer. They should want to know more. If it’s not authentic, and you’re not actually trying to solve a problem, you aren’t adding value, and it won’t work.

How should sales fit into the overall business strategy?

Thriving sales are the result of a clear strategy, well defined tactics, and disciplined execution. It all starts with the strategy! When we meet our clients for the first time, they are spending a lot of money and time getting poor results. Ninety-nine percent of these good companies never developed a strategy, and when one is implemented, cost of sales is reduced and revenues grow.

In fact, it’s one of the reasons we formed our company the way we did. Robert built his career in business development and sales, and I (Frank) built mine in business strategy.

We brought our two areas of expertise together because I found that many companies’ sales challenges were based on bad strategy. Robert, on the other hand, saw that many companies had a gap in sales execution despite having a good strategy. Together, we can ensure there’s a solid strategy to support sales success that leads to real business growth.

How do you normally work with clients?

We offer a few different approaches depending on the size and stage of the company. We conduct one-day group workshops that act as an in-depth, cost-efficient introduction to sales strategy where we help companies really develop their value proposition. We also do one-on-one consulting to help more advanced companies develop their sales strategy. And we also provide actual sales support services where we have a roster of sales professionals who actually deploy your sales strategy on your behalf. So there’s something there for every company.

Do you offer special services to companies that are developing natural products?

Yes and no. The sales strategy is a process, not a product or person. You need to work out your unique value to your customer. You need to figure out why clients would buy your product because that’s what you’re selling, who will respond to your value with the most urgency, and how and when you will reach them. That’s the same for any industry.

But with natural products, there can be complexities around regulatory restrictions around those three questions. In the past, we have worked with companies who didn’t fully have their regulatory path figured out and then realized they couldn’t say what they wanted to say to make the sale. Their hands were tied and it was too late.

So we have formed a partnership with Paul Dick and Associates (PDA) who bring years of experience in regulatory strategy development and compliance, market assessments, and product development plans. He helps companies get the regulatory figured out and puts plans in place so they have a clear path to their sales strategy. It’s a natural combination of expertise for companies in this field.

Get More Sales is an Innovation Support Member in Canada’s Natural Product Innovation Cluster. This membership category is comprised of a broad range of experts, consultants, professional services firms, facilities, government departments, industry organizations, and program and service providers who can help other members of the Cluster achieve success. If you have expertise, programs or services that can benefit the natural product industry, please consider joining the Cluster.