They do not talk about it alot in technology hubs and accelerators. They like the coding, hacking and high-fives. But interestingly, one of the most important things that would make you a successful entrepreneur in Nigeria is SALES. For you to get Nigerians to spend their monies on your product, you need a strong game plan. Most times, the problem is not the product or the service – the challenge is getting people to switch. Yes, buy.
It is possible that a man can sign a three year office lease and after three years, he has not made a single sale for a business. As MAN noted, about 79% of Nigerian companies go under within three years. Most of those firms have great products and services. But the leaders have not developed a solid sales strategy.
People, it is not easy. If you do not have the skill to articulate clearly a compelling value proposition through great understanding of a product, and then communicating that in a very fashionable way, you would be out of luck. You do not need Harvard MBA but you need to be extremely ready.
Have you ever made a presentation to a bank committee? Before you are some of the elite professionals in the country. There is nothing you are selling before them someone had not presented within the last two months. They can get anything they want because they have the brand – they can call any company and everyone would like to work with them because they have the money!
Connecting into the heart of that manager to switch means you need to come with authenticity and passion packaged with value-everywhere. Deciphering the right message for the same product based on the specific friction of the client is critical. Yes, the message should be client-dependent even though you are saying the same thing. By that I mean, the case studies. To the insurer, use insurance case studies. To the banker, use banking case studies, and so on for other industries.
Your success will not just come with more coding and launch. You need to sell things as I noted here in the Harvard Business Review.
In the tech startup world, technology is important for success, but it does not disproportionately determine winners and losers. Two companies can invent similar technologies; one will win and the other will lose. Focusing on technology supremacy alone is a model for failure. Over the years, I have consistently seen what I call “latent factors” — business features that are generally outside the scope of the core tech team — to be real factors in a company’s success.
For entrepreneurs in developing nations where experienced institutional investors are scarce and starting companies is very challenging, the impact of these latent forces becomes hugely vital. Though we enjoy writing about dropout tech legends, most times their success is catalyzed by others — they came up with the ideas and the investors provided the leadership and the non-tech factors (such as pricing models, branding, and promotions, among others) that propelled them to stardom. The incubation system, the ecosystem and the environment are important, but sometimes, it can be a very simple “latent factor” ingenuity that redesigns not just a company, but an entire industry.
So, besides the .php and Python books, it may make sense to pick a book on sales. Do not neglect those “other elements”. If not, you could be roaming around Lagos for months with no single revenue. I like my sales innovation in Nigeria. Over the years, we have worked on it and perfected the process. I will be sharing experiences in my workshop this September, in Lagos, on how to win including in the public sector.
My goal is that after this workshop, you would have a clear roadmap to execute innovation at a company-wide or functional level. My workshops are intense, practical and interactive with local cases flavored with international examples, making sure you are global-aware even as you plot a gloCal strategy (see my Harvard piece on this]. I will focus on the growth of your business (or your functional role), and I expect you to return to work with clarity on how to make innovation happen at scale.
Dealmaking remains the highest paying job, that’s where sales belong.
I will go as far as stating that sales is one of the main reasons why one person shouldn’t own or run a company, especially entities with scalable capabilities. You cannot successfully be the outfield player and a goalkeeper at the same time; it’s a recipe for failure.
But a distinction of competence is key here: those who are very much steeped in coding and technical stuff should not bother to become great salespeople, they rarely inspire confidence in that regard.
Sales requires creative thinking, eloquence, great communication skills, attention to details; all laced with GRACE, with some sort of swag to drive everything home. The revenues don’t come from the labs, they come from the sales division, and the finest minds in both emotional and social intelligences are stationed there!
Nice insights, September loading..
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