Starting a business is hard.
No one goes into it knowing everything there is to know about sales, accounting, business development, and all of the different things that go into a company.
Maybe you’re a professional web developer, but you don’t know the first thing about sales.
Maybe you’re a great writer and a social media whiz, but the technical aspects of running a website elude you.
But sometimes, being clueless can actually be a good thing.
In a recent article from Entrepreneur, JotForm founder and CEO Aytekin Tank talks about how he was able to transform his own ignorance about hiring a salesperson into an opportunity to learn and grow.
These are lessons that every entrepreneur – aspiring or established – can learn from:
Talk the talk
Reading about sales processes and team structures had multiple benefits. First, it taught me that I needed a software as a service (SaaS) specialist because selling software subscriptions is different from any other kind of sales. Whereas real estate agents selling a house or ad sales people have a completely different skill set, SaaS sellers must convince someone to continue to purchase their product month after month.
Second, reading taught me lingo like CAC (customer acquisition cost) and LTV (lifetime value), both of which came up in interviews. Vocabulary matters. It would be difficult, for example, to speak intelligently about weightlifting if you can’t name any of the movements.
Once I read enough to imagine the type of candidate I wanted, I had to create a signal that person wouldn’t miss. To create the job ad, I read comparable postings and borrowed phrases I thought were relevant. LinkedIn ads led me to use expressions like:
– Demonstrated enterprise account sales experience with a track record of success
– Exceptional cross-organization collaboration and communication skills
I hate buzzwords, but I’d rather talk the talk than miss out on outstanding candidates who respond to these key phrases. Finding a strong hire for the first sales role is vital, and the process is as much about selling your company as it is about the interviewee selling himself or herself. You must know what you want before you can go looking for it.
Information versus validation
Asking questions gave me enough information to be creative and enough validation to avoid egregious mistakes.
Before hiring for this position, I was clueless about sales compensation. By interviewing candidates, I covertly learned a lot about salespeople: how they work, how their teams are structured and how they are paid. I didn’t even know how Salesforce worked until a candidate drew me a chart on a whiteboard.
Interviewing people gave me key insights, as did asking friends. Salespeople work on a base plus commission, I soon learned, but at what percent? To find out, I took a sales-savvy friend out for beers. He told me that salespeople get a range of commissions based on attaining goals they set.
That conversation sparked my idea to base commission on flat numbers instead of percentages. If our new salesperson hit certain sales goals, a predetermined dollar amount is earned. It seemed more motivational than an abstract percentage. I ran the model by my sales friend, and he approved.
That’s the difference between information and validation. Information is passive; you can use it or ignore it. If you seek validation for an idea, you can feel confident if you get approval, but think twice if an expert says, “Don’t do that.”
Great entrepreneurs treat obliviousness — and the opportunity to learn — like a precious gift.
So savor cluelessness. It might change your business and your life.
You can check out the full article over at Entrepreneur.