Saturday, April 30, 2011

Entrepreneurial Passion vs. Sales

To succeed in business you must sell yourself!I was listening to a new client tell a story that I’ve heard many times.  She is in a creative field and passionate about her work. She really wants to work, but contracts aren’t coming and she is struggling financially. I asked the obvious question: “How are you marketing and selling yourself?” She looked a little blank; and then she scrunched her face; and then she launched into an explanation of the ways in which she was kind-of sort-of maybe marketing herself. Which really was to say: she wasn’t.

Through years of working with small business owners, many have come seeking answers to their financial issues. As an accountant, I would like to think that good accounting would provide the answers. But the truth is that it’s usually not about the numbers. The truth is that the most important component of impacting one’s financial issues is sales and marketing.

If you’re tempted to stop reading because you don’t own a business, please keep reading. I also work with people around their personal finances, and one client comes to mind. She's a baby boomer with no retirement and no assets. She’s preparing to leap from a $90,000 job to a $115,000 job. How is she going to do that? Selling and marketing herself. I could work with her for the next five years on reducing her spending and building an investment portfolio and blah, blah, blah. Or....I could lovingly push her out of her comfort zone, make her pick up the phone, and start selling herself to headhunters and leaders in her industry.

Fortune 500 companies spend upwards of 10 to 20% of their budgets on sales and marketing. As small business owners, we often spend time, rather than dollars, on those areas of our businesses. What I like to ask every new client is: “How much time are you spending selling and marketing your business?” If the answer is significantly below 20%, they are usually having financial issues, and I have an answer for them. But it’s usually not the answer they wanted to hear. They usually scrunch their face at me. In the case of my new creative client, she quoted an expert in her field who advised that about 75% of a newcomer’s time should be spent on selling, networking and marketing activities. 75%! This expert had built a very successful business, but my client was hoping I’d have a better answer for her. We often know what we need to do; we just don’t want to do it. After all, we opened these businesses of ours to do the work we were passionate about, not so that we could spend 30 hours a week selling!

In business school we are taught that our major is the most important major in the school. What could possibly be more important than accounting? I’m sure that the finance majors, the strategic planning majors and the human resource majors all felt the same way. And we all thought that the marketing majors were the lightweights; a little flighty, a little head in the clouds, always thinking about ideas rather than facts. But there’s a reason that entrepreneurs are willing to pay marketers like Fabienne Fredrickson more than they’re willing to pay accountants like me. Well-implemented marketing can produce results that will resolve your financial issues. Well-implemented accounting will ensure that you make wise investments in marketing and that you have financial clarity about the results.

If you’re having financial issues in your business, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time and money do you spend selling, networking and marketing your business? Is it enough?

  • Are your efforts consistent?

  • Do you have an annual marketing plan? Does it include a time and financial budget?

  • Do you calendar your marketing time, and then stick to it?

  • How do you feel about picking up the phone?

  • When was the last time you read a book, a blog or listened to a podcast on marketing?

We all should have taken a few sales and marketing classes in college. If you didn’t, educate yourself now. It doesn’t even have to cost anything. You can glean a great deal of information from following Mari Smith on Facebook and Twitter, or reading Seth Godin’s blog. But the truth is, if you want to change your financial life, sell yourself more.

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