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Why entrepreneurs need sales skills

By John Anderson - Posted on 28 May 2015

John Anderson, Director of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, discusses the importance of salesmanship in growing a business.

I have specialised in entrepreneurship and growing and scaling businesses for more than 20 years. To me, the word entrepreneur has recently been hijacked by politicians and the media, and today it seems to be synonymous with start-ups and only start-ups. Twenty years ago the word was hardly in use but today everyone with a business is called an entrepreneur.

However, the definition of entrepreneurship I have always worked to focuses solely on growth. To me entrepreneurship is growing a business of substance and scale, whether that business is started from scratch, inherited or bought. In relative terms, it is easy to start a business but to grow a business and to sustain that growth is the real challenge.  That is the focus of our work at the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship here at Strathclyde Business School.

The great thing about a subject like entrepreneurship is you cannot teach or research it in isolation – it always involves entrepreneurs whether that’s through guest lectures, case studies or hosts for student projects. It is very practical and very relevant.  The global success of big brands like Babson and MIT is what drives us to do more – more research, more teaching, more engagement with entrepreneurs and business builders.

Developing world class sales skills is a huge requirement for Scottish businesses. Entrepreneurs need practical skills, tools and strategies that they can apply immediately in their business leading to real results and growth.

Every entrepreneur needs to learn to sell. Selling is vital to every business and an emerging entrepreneur may have little, or no, sales experience but it is vital that they are selling their product or service from day one. If you don’t sell enough, your business won’t last. Equally serious, high growth potential businesses that require to raise money to grow often have to raise further funding as sales targets are missed. Many people think ‘selling’ is something that comes naturally – an inbuilt talent that can’t be taught. In fact there are many selling skills and techniques that can be learned and just changing your mindset about what selling is can help enormously.

To address the lack of sales skills in Scotland, we are working with sales experts Iain Swanston and klozers, to develop our sales leadership credentials here at the Hunter Centre. We are very pleased to have been selected by Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise (SE) to work with them to jointly deliver Sales Training and Sales Coaching to ambitious growth companies in Scotland. In total, nearly 45 entrepreneurs and businesses on the HIE and SE High Growth Programme took part in the Entrepreneurial Sales Strategies masterclasses in Inverness and Glasgow.  We have also designed and delivered a new Sales Workshop for the Scottish Enterprise Start Global Programme participants.  The feedback has been great and we are looking forward to seeing some tangible results from those that took part and watching their businesses grow.

We will also be continuing the strong emphasis on sales as part of our new Growth Advantage Programme, the first core growth programme from a Scottish Business School, which begins this week.

It is exciting to be taking the lead in this important area, to help to raise the profile of the profession of selling in Scotland and to deliver practical programmes for entrepreneurs with real growth ambition.

To find out more about the Growth Advantage Programme and how it can help grow your business click here.

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