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Sales vs. Product - Which Matters More For Entrepreneurs

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Black_Dragon43

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In the world of entrepreneurship, I've observed two kinds of entrepreneurs. You either are a product-focused entrepreneur, and then most of your time goes into developing a particular product to solve a particular market need, or you are a sales-focused entrepreneur, and then most of your time goes into marketing a chosen solution to a particular market problem.

You can fall anywhere on the spectrum - either you are completely product-focused, and you outsource or hire out most of the marketing, or you are completely marketing focused and hire out or outsource the product side, or you are somewhere in the middle, and spend half your time marketing, and half your time producing.

Let's look at an example of each:

Product-focused Entrepreneur - Elon Musk



In his own words, Elon spends 80% of his long 100-hour weeks on engineering and design - not on what he calls "time with the media or businessy things". His time and effort goes into producing next-gen products that fulfill a market need, and he outsources most of the selling & marketing. This isn't to say that Musk hasn't built a public persona and a cohort of raving fans to help him market Tesla (for example), but that's not where most of his focus is.

Even when he started his first business Zip2, he was the guy coding, putting the website up, and making sure the product keeps developing. In fact, right from the beginning he hired 3 commission-based salespeople to sell sponsored listings in malls and shopping districts. When venture capital joined the company, Elon was removed from CEO position and moved to CTO - specifically because his speciality was in product development, NOT sales & marketing.

He is the product-focused entrepreneur par excellence. Such people typically believe that creating a great product is the most important aspect of being an entrepreneur.

Sales-focused Entrepreneur - Steve Jobs



Even though he founded and ran a tech company, Jobs was never an engineer. In the beginning, Steve Wozniak was mostly responsible for creating Apple I and Apple II, and later a series of brilliant engineers were responsible for executing Apple's brilliant products. Jobs was responsible for marketing & selling the products, and creating Apple's overarching vision.

What set Jobs apart from others was by and far his marketing genius. Steve built the marketing into the products - that's why he emphasized design, and what design would communicate to customers. His marketing campaigns (such as "Think Different") also set Apple apart from other companies. Not to mention the amazing deals he lined up for Apple, such as Apple's initial revenue share deal with AT&T when the iPhone first came out.

He was a salesman par excellence. People like Jobs, typically believe that finding market needs and then fulfilling them is the most important aspect of being an entrepreneur. Many also believe in statements like "business is 80% sales and marketing".

______________________________________________________________________________

From observation, most people on this forum tend towards the sales & marketing side of the spectrum. Discussions such as GOLD! - Learning to Program is STUPID! (or SMART?!) tend to be dominated by the sales & marketing types, whereas there are fewer product entrepreneurs on here. Such threads skirt around the issue that this thread addresses, so I think it will help everyone if we can clarify the topic of this thread.

So... for the sake of discussion.

1. Where do you find yourself on the spectrum?
(a good way to find out which way you lean is to ask yourself which is more important: sales, or building a great product?)

2. What do you think is the ideal position on the spectrum for an entrepreneur? Why?

I will start.

1. I am a sales & marketing type (no wonder I run a direct response agency). I believe sales & marketing is more important than product for success. I would say I lean around 70% sales & marketing and 30% product.

2. Personally I think anywhere 60-80% sales & marketing is the sweetspot for an entrepreneur. Why? Well, I think that hiring out sales and marketing will eat your revenue to a much greater degree than hiring out engineering - after all, that is why great salespeople get paid more than great engineers. Of course you'll still need to hire out both sooner or later, but when you're starting out, I believe being able to take care of sales is a HUGE advantage.

Anyway, I hope this can turn into a great discussion and provide lots of insights and clarity.
 

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elusive97

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I'd also say 70% sales 30% products. I actually wish I had more money to be more product-orientated. I come up with a lot of good ideas and with my large audiences from FB marketing I could definitely crowdfund a product or two.

I don't think either is more important though. A product person could be great at most aspects of business, just not sales, which they hire for. Someone who is 100% a sales person can make millions selling an average product, whilst a 100% product person can make millions selling a great product even if their marketing isn't great. You see both of these on shows like Dragons Dens!

A sales person can come up with great products if they're good at watching the market and spotting trends too, even if lacking in creativity. In college as part of my Etsy side hustle I made a cool but sort of basic tshirt design around a hot upcoming niche in a couple of hours on Photoshop. I sold over 1000 tshirts of that one design in a year! At that time my approach to marketing them was 'Etsy is a search engine and I pay them enough, so I'm not doing much extra marketing' :rofl: Ah to be 16 again :happy:
 

PizzaOnTheRoof

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I don’t think one is more important.

If you are missing one then you don’t have a business.

Question: How can a product person become a sales person?

I’m naturally an analytical/engineering type of person and find it a struggle to sell.
 
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Black_Dragon43

Black_Dragon43

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Question: How can a product person become a sales person?
That depends entirely on what the problem stopping you from being a good salesperson is. Typically that's either something technical - ie, you don't understand the sales process/psychology behind so you don't know how to go about it - and/or it's something to do with your attitude - you may know what to do, but you're not executing it well since you don't believe enough in the product, you're not turned on when talking to the customer, etc.

So which one (or both) do you say you have the most trouble with?

I’m naturally an analytical/engineering type of person and find it a struggle to sell.
From my observation (may not apply to you), people who are naturally analytical tend to struggle to sell because they don't give sufficient weight to the emotional side of things. Most people tend to buy for emotional reasons and justify with logical ones. One error this leads to, for example, is you giving the customer reasons to buy (benefits) instead of getting the customer to give you the reasons - remember that people want to buy for THEIR reasons, not yours, and that is something emotional that you want to take into account.

When you give someone reasons to buy, they naturally feel dominated. In a way, you are forcing them (by persuasion, but still compelling them) to buy. Whereas if a conversation goes like this:

You: Do you find that you have any problems with maintaining a constant pipeline of leads? (probing for problems)
Them: Well yes, actually now that you mention it, we always tend to have periods when no work comes in, but it's a struggle to maintain the pipeline full. Sometimes I get too many customers, and I can't handle all of them.​
You: Does not being able to handle customers cause you to lose out on money? (building up the pain)
Them: Yes, when our pipeline reaches full, we have to refuse customers, so all that revenue is lost straight out the gate.​
You: How good would it be if you could maintain a constant pipeline of leads without spending more time on it, AND have the capacity to handle additional work? (getting them to commit that they have these needs)
Them: Well, that would really be amazing! How would that be possible?​
You: Well, our SaaS takes care of automatically adjusting your campaigns based on the number of projects you have, so for you that means you can maintain a constant pipeline of leads without spending an additional minute on it. And what that really means to you is that you'll be able to spend more of your time handling additional work. And that's not all - our SaaS also helps you subcontract work so that you can focus on growing your sales even when you exceed your capacity. Does that sound like something you'd like for your business? (presenting your product as solving their needs)​

This question-driven approach makes them feel in control, even though you are actually driving the conversation through the questions you're asking.
 
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PizzaOnTheRoof

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That depends entirely on what the problem stopping you from being a good salesperson is. Typically that's either something technical - ie, you don't understand the sales process/psychology behind so you don't know how to go about it - and/or it's something to do with your attitude - you may know what to do, but you're not executing it well since you don't believe enough in the product, you're not turned on when talking to the customer, etc.

So which one (or both) do you say you have the most trouble with?


From my observation (may not apply to you), people who are naturally analytical tend to struggle to sell because they don't give sufficient weight to the emotional side of things. Most people tend to buy for emotional reasons and justify with logical ones. One error this leads to, for example, is you giving the customer reasons to buy (benefits) instead of getting the customer to give you the reasons - remember that people want to buy for THEIR reasons, not yours, and that is something emotional that you want to take into account.

When you give someone reasons to buy, they naturally feel dominated. In a way, you are forcing them (by persuasion, but still compelling them) to buy. Whereas if a conversation goes like this:

You: Do you find that you have any problems with maintaining a constant pipeline of leads? (probing for problems)
Them: Well yes, actually now that you mention it, we always tend to have periods when no work comes in, but it's a struggle to maintain the pipeline full. Sometimes I get too many customers, and I can't handle all of them.​
You: Does not being able to handle customers cause you to lose out on money? (building up the pain)
Them: Yes, when our pipeline reaches full, we have to refuse customers, so all that revenue is lost straight out the gate.​
You: How good would it be if you could maintain a constant pipeline of leads without spending more time on it, AND have the capacity to handle additional work? (getting them to commit that they have these needs)
Them: Well, that would really be amazing! How would that be possible?​
You: Well, our SaaS takes care of automatically adjusting your campaigns based on the number of projects you have, so for you that means you can maintain a constant pipeline of leads without spending an additional minute on it. And what that really means to you is that you'll be able to spend more of your time handling additional work. And that's not all - our SaaS also helps you subcontract work so that you can focus on growing your sales even when you exceed your capacity. Does that sound like something you'd like for your business? (presenting your product as solving their needs)​

This question-driven approach makes them feel in control, even though you are actually driving the conversation through the questions you're asking.
I know the psychology and the process behind selling, I just have trouble pounding the pavement and putting myself out there. I guess it's my attitude towards it.

I've read SPIN selling and your questioning reminds me of that very much. Very non-combative and a more diagnostic approach which I like.
 
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Black_Dragon43

Black_Dragon43

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I know the psychology and the process behind selling, I just have trouble pounding the pavement and putting myself out there. I guess it's my attitude towards it.

I've read SPIN selling and your questioning reminds me of that very much. Very non-combative and a more diagnostic approach which I like.
Yeah, for the attitude side of things, I suggest you really give Tony Robbins' Mastering Influence Program a try. Tony is both an expert salesman and a great motivator. And this is a 10-day program and the great thing is that it really does follow the SPIN model (even though it's never called that, and the terms used are different), but goes into a lot more detail into how you can actually apply it. It's by far my favorite sales program out there.

So for example...

Preliminaries + Situation Questions => Tony's Engagement Phase (steps 1-5 - this is where a lot of the attitude part is covered)
Problem + Implication Questions => Tony's Probe For Problems & Magnify The Hurt (step 6)
Need-payoff Questions => Tony's Create Conviction & Test Close (step 7)
Benefits => Tony's Make It Real and Assume The Sale (to avoid objections - step 8)
Commitment => Tony's Convert Objections Into Commitments + Make It Easy & Create a Future (steps 9-10)
 

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