Neil Lewis - Innovative Entrepreneur

Solving problems by growing profitable businesses @neil_lewis

Entrepreneurs: Let’s make some sales! And grow that Business!

I work with a range of different entrepreneurs and one of the most common reasons  why a business doesn’t take off or move forward is because of a lack of sales.

Typically, the business has a great idea or piece of research, but isn’t making sales.

Often this is because little or no effort has been made to make those sales, or, again, because the engagement with the market happens at the END of the product / service development cycle – instead of DURING the product development phase.

Above and beyond the ability to recruit great people to support your business, this failure to engage with your potential customers DURING the product development or research phase is the principal reason that businesses fail.

Note, the harsh truth here – businesses do not fail because they lack funding – there is plenty of money available to back great ideas and strong entrepreneurial teams. No, instead, entrepreneurial businesses close because they lack either the right team to commercialise their business or fail to engage with the market soon enough.

The problem with traditional business plans

Traditional business plans will assume that you need to hire a senior marketing or sales director. This will normally require a 3 month search and then the new director will typically need to give 3 months notice – so 6 months in total plus a further couple of months to get up to speed.

Of course, before you can hire your marketing manager, web manager, account managers, SEO managers etc…. you need your sales or marketing director in place, hence this stage needs to follow the sourcing and recuiting of the senior manager in charge of sales.

This full time recruitment approach has appaling results, such as…

1. One year of time required to build a sales and marketing team

2. Significant costs are incurred both in the recruitment costs AND also the cost of running the rest of the business whilst you wait for your sales and marketing to *finally* get going.

However, the worst part of this approach is that having recruited and waited for your sales or marketing director to join, you may find that you have the wrong person or that when you come to sell your products and services that your customers do not behave as you expect.

For instance, you may think that you need a super salesman – only to find that what you really need is a super digital and new media team.

In this case, you’ve wasted 6 to 12 months, tens of thousands of pounds and now have to unravel your mistake before you can begin a second 6 month process of recruiting the right team. In the meantime, your competitors are on your trail!

Sound like madness?

Yes it is!

In fact, it is so mad, that it requires you to ask for vast sums of money from VCs or Business Angels.

Hence, the reason this mistake happens less often that you might expect is because smart VCs and Business Angels will not fund businesses with this kind of plan.

Instead, VCs – especially in this current environment – want to invest in business that have ALREADY delivered sales.

Agrrr! Now what is the entrepreneur to do? He can’t get funding without sales, he can’t hire without funding, exactly what is he to do?

The answer?

Well, the answer is to play the game a different way!

Here’s how to do it…

Forget the idea of hiring a senior marketing or sales director.

Instead, hire a freelance or contract team to deliver a short term project – quickly – and use the results and insights to improve your products and services and/ or change and adjust your marketing strategy.

So, put together a small team of key individuals – all working freelancers or from small key agencies – and give them a fixed budget and objective to deliver.

This approach will allow you to test your market early-on DURING your product development and to use the customer insights / preferences and behaviour to create better products that meet customer needs more directly.

What is the benefit of this freelance approach?

The benefits are simple

1. Your products and services can get to market in a matter of weeks instead of months and years

2. You will know almost instantly if your products and services will succeed, and if not, you can quickly stop your marketing spending and avoid very costly product / service development mistakes

This will then allow you to go back to the drawing board and improve your products / services or adjust your marketing strategy until you can sell profitably.

3. This approach will massively appeal to investors and hence, by demonstrating that you are able to find a far cheaper and lower risk way of taking your products and services to market, you massively increase your appeal to investors.

To sum this up, the freelance / project approach is faster, cheaper and you are more likely to succeed and get funding.

Okay, convinced? Then how to do you do it?

How do you implement a freelance approach to sales and marketing?

You now have two choices.

1.) You can either build a contact list of freelance marketing, sales, IT, PR, writing, design and sales people – such that you can quickly build teams to deliver your marketing projects


2.) You can hire someone else to run the project and recruit the freelance team for you.

If you want to go down the DIY route – then sign up to the next Enterprise Freelance Fair in Liverpool on the 16th March or Cheshire/ Daresbury on 31st March – where you can meet a wide range of freelancers from many different walks of life who can help deliver your marketing and sales projects

or… if you don’t want to engage with freelancers directly, and have the money to do so, then hire Project2Sell to put the team together for you and project manage the piece of work.

Regardless of which path you choose to take (and you may choose to do both – ie. directly recruit key freelance talent whilst outsourcing certain projects) you no longer have the excuse for your business not getting into its market place.

Now, no one can guarantee that when you take your products to market that the customers will want them, but, even if this is the case, you can find this out early (before investing your entire life savings) and either adapt your products/ services or start with an entirely new idea.

Either way, your chances of success in your current or future business will be massively increased.

That’s why ‘HOW’ you engage with your marketing and sales effort is such a key determinant of whether you will succeed or not. It is also why lack of funding is not a good enough excuse anymore.

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Written by Editor on February 25, 2011 and filed in Entrepreneurs, Featured, Freelancers, Innovative Entrepreneur, Opinion , , , ,

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