Sales war stories. More specifically – entrepreneur sales war stories. We’ve all got them. These are the realities of doing something new and brave, the stories we usually only tell our closest friends.
Hands up if you’ve ever –
- Had a bank account go down to single digits?
- Made a bold decision when you were almost sure you could do it?
- Raised your price as a step towards believing in the value of your offering, while desperately hoping that it wouldn’t put off the customer?
- Done something generous before all your invoices were sensibly paid?
- Wondered if you were mad or visionary?
Being an entrepreneur involves taking risks. Sometimes it means passionately believing in your idea when you’re not quite sure that it’s still sensible to do so.
In the words of another entrepreneur – ‘We need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.’
An amazing sales war story from the tech sector
One of the most amazing sales war stories I ever heard was told at an NZ Rise event two years ago.
An IT entrepreneur told his incredible story of blind faith and almost obsessional commitment. He knew that his business was amazing but had unfortunately struck a cashflow blockage.
The business moved into some disused space owned by his friend. Even so, money was still tight. It got to the point where the electricity was going to be cut off at 12 noon in a few days.
It just so happened that this was literally just before a group of funders/buyers was due to visit the business, to consider their investment.
This was a very critical meeting. Could they pull it off with no power?
He gathered his staff together, explained the situation. Perhaps everyone’s pay cheque was riding on the outcome of this meeting, perhaps they all had a touch of blind faith.
‘Okay team, the power will be going off at 12 noon. We have this important meeting, so just pretend that you’re working. Make it look realistic so that they don’t notice anything unusual.’
Just before 12 noon, he boiled the kettle.
The potential buyers arrived. He offered them a cup of tea, using the water in the kettle (which was, thankfully, still warm).
The meeting went well. The discussion flowed. Nobody appeared to notice that the electricity had gone off.
As the visitors walked through the business after the meeting, they remarked on the busy team members working so hard.
‘What incredible focus your team has! We’ve never seen anything like this before – usually everyone is talking and very noisy, but your team are so focused on their work!’
His team were obviously very good at working with their blank screens. The big deal went through and everything was secured.
How to keep entrepreneurs mentally well when they often take huge risks?
Was this a completely mad thing to have done, to have put his team and his family through such a high level of stress? This entrepreneur had carefully created an amazing business. He honestly knew that he was doing something very worthwhile.
For many people, this level of stress is far too much. There is so much awareness of mental health issues, and of the huge pressure that SME business owners and entrepreneurs are facing. How far is too far to believe in your dream?
We most definitely need good advisors and support people around us when we courageously step out. Good advisors will tell us when we should hang in there, and when we should change tack.
This is also why VC funding and government support is so important to the growth of industry in NZ, especially the tech industry. There’s only so far that businesses can go on, if they are waiting for sales to confirm and invoices to be paid.
Sometimes the business development against the odds involves taking a calculated risk that your vision really does have legs.