As I sit here updating our website, thoughts have been racing through my head...likely the same ones anyone has when they are starting a new business. Although we've been planning this for a long time and have put the effort into developing a sound business model, a battleplan never survives contact with the enemy. Entering any market as the new guy or the little guy is a challenge. For reassurance I keep thinking, "we have the product." From my utopian understanding of business, that's what it's all about. If you have a good product at a good price, it will sell. But my real world understanding infringes on those happy thoughts. If you have the product, even the best product, poor marketing will sink you. Additionally, if you are entering an old market with new product you must first overcome the "people like what they know" barrier. You have to be able to sell your product.
Therein lies the problem; I know I'm a terrible salesman. But something happened the other day that may have clued me into why that is and how to fix it. Whenever I try and "sell" something, I get awkward. I just don't enjoy selling things, it makes me uncomfortable, and once I become uncomfortable my potential customer gets real uncomfortable. The other day, though, I went to the store to buy a new router bit; and, in addition, to ask for advice on an issue I was having with some shaper tooling. I asked the gentleman behind the counter his advice (I was at Woodcraft so yes their employees actually know stuff). I said "I'm having problems running this bit in my shaper," and showed him the bit. His eyes bugged out of his head and he proclaimed "holy cow I've never seen a bit that big!" The other salesman came over to see what the commotion was about, he too was blown away. The salesman asked what I was using it for. So I explained to him that I was making beehives and there was one particular feature I wanted to have and that bit was necessary for it but I couldn't get it quite right without compromising safety (that feature was the handle depth). He asked how necessary it was. I then, unknowingly, enthusiastically started explaining how I was going to start selling beehives. From top to bottom I went over the hives and on what and why I was doing things differently. I talked through my processes, my failures, and even showed him pictures and videos, all while smiling ear to ear the whole time.
After several minutes I realized I had been talking for quite awhile, so I stopped and apologized for blabbing his ear off. He said not a problem at all, I really enjoyed listening. I told him I had to have the handle depth, it would make my hives that much easier to handle and I needed it. Then something happened I didn't expect. He asked for my business card and said he wanted to buy a hive! I was blown away. I can't sell anything. I can talk my way out of a sale in no time. But this gentleman was so adamant about wanting to buy one of my hives, that when I told him I had no business cards yet, he said "bring me one when you get one, please don't forget." I said absolutely, paid for my new router bit and thanked him for the advice. Immediately after getting in the car I called my wife and told her "I think we're going to be successful," and explained what happened. After explaining it to her I told her I don't know how it happened, I'm a terrible salesman. She said, "you can be very passionate dear."
That was all. All it took was letting it out on the why's and the how's; my passion guided the conversation from there. And the result was a sale, but I didn't just sell my hive. I'm confident the quality of our product, as well as the features of it will garner attention. But the most important thing I learned from the other day was that by speaking openly and passionately about my work and product, I not only sold a hive, but more importantly I sold myself.
So as I sit here continuing to update our website, and later when I'm at work, and tonight when I lay down in bed, and my mind races with worry of what happens if I fail, I'll try and remember, I'm doing this because I love it and people respond to passion and authenticity.