The single hardest skill for any entrepreneur to learn is how to sell. I learned this early on with our screenwriting site Scripped, and now subsequently with Scripted. Products have come and gone in both our space and the community at large, but one thing remains constant: if you cannot sell your own product as a co-founder, you are doomed to fail . I’ve compiled a few thoughts on this phenomenon, which are of course heavily biased:
The best product does not always win a space
I feel like there are countless examples of this, but the first one that comes to mind is Foursqurare vs. Gowalla: Gowalla was one of the most beautifully designed products out there by all accounts. Foursquare on the other hand was ugly as sin in its first iterations. No matter, because Foursquare out-marketed Gowalla and now Gowalla no longer exists.
To sell your product, you need to try and buy your product
We outsource Scripted’s writer-facing blog to our writers for one simple reason: we know that the quality is excellent. In the early days of Scripted, Ryan and I were neck deep in fulfillment of blog posts to clients. We would literally spend days copy editing posts and checking the writing quality of applications to vet writers by area of expertise. While it may have been tiring, it is because of this very thorough understanding of our product, and our writers, that we are able to sell effectively. Ryan and I literally know hundreds of our writers by first name, and what their day jobs are. We’ve gained an intimate understanding of our community, and the dynamics that make Scripted successful (and potentially massively scalable).
We believe in what we do and we believe in our writers, so we know our clients are receiving great quality work when they pay for content.
So what if you are not a salesman
Neither Ryan, nor I are salespeople by trade. We were knee deep in numbers at consulting firms, investment banks, and M&A shops before we started Scripted. So what? Because we have great knowledge of what the product is, we learned how to sell along the way. Perhaps best of all, we enjoy it – in large part because we are helping our writers earn extra income. If you love what you do, and believe in your product, you will have zero trouble selling/marketing your business.
Don’t expect to build something and hire a whiz marketing/sales person to gain viral adoption. If you are the founder of a company, you should learn how to sell your own product if you want to be successful – only then will you be able to train others on how to sell/grow the business.
Product is king in the Silicon Valley, but I wrote these thoughts down as a reminder to myself, and others that other skills do matter.