Ralf Klis: I’m not a sales person

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By Ralf Klis, FutureLab’s owner and technical leader.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

I’m not a sales person. Period. This should be a tweet, but I got so much feedback recently about the whole matter that I’m going to elaborate in a little article.

I must confess. FutureLab have had two attempts to hire a good sales employee. They both failed badly and while I’m not going to get deep into personal details, I want to talk about how a small business can deal with this setback.

When the small business starts

When I created FutureLab, it was a tool to provide invoices for my professional, high quality programming services. With a Masters degree in Computer Science and two international certificates in project management, I was in high demand in the industry. If we went back in time and you asked me whether I was planning to create a business I’d certainly have said “no”. But the demand for my services grew, so I hired my first employee to help. And then we grew again so I hired another employee, and so on. And that’s where we’re at today. FutureLab is a fully fledged company experiencing high growth.

But here’s the thing. I’m a technical person. I don’t like calling myself a “director” – in fact my email footer said “team leader” until I had to change it recently as more and more people were asking to talk to the director. I’m not a business person, nor I am a sales person, or accountant. I think of myself as a good HR person purely because I treat other employees the way I’d like to be treated in a company.

Sales are so difficult, and I hate it

Every small growing business has the same problem: how to get new sales. And here are the years of trying and testing and making sure that we’ve got those leads so they keep the lights on. However, not all business owners like sales – in fact I hate it. But if you asked me how do I sell then, I’d answer “I don’t know”. And in that answer there’s much more knowledge than you think.

No one will sell better than you

I have accepted that the sales that I make are not by a sales person. We sell very specialised services, customised web solutions, web apps, web systems, we build start-ups – all that cannot be put in the sales pipeline. People who come for our services are not looking for off-the-shelf solutions. They are looking for state of the art web solutions, hand-crafted WordPress websites that are not only tailored to their requirements but also leave the competition scrambling to catch up. Therefore, people coming to FutureLab don’t want to hear how awesome we are, how much things will cost or which template to pick. Customers are coming to FutureLab to feel special, to talk to the people who actually do the work, who fully understand the requirements and can immediately provide valuable feedback. They come for consulting and assistance. Yes, assistance, because we partner with our customers, we don’t get contracted to get the job done, send the bill and never see you again.

So why have I written this article? Because out there, there’s another Ralf who’s just starting a new FutureLab and thinking “I hate sales, maybe I’ll give them to someone else”. You can, but no one will ever sell better than you, because whether you’re a one man band, team of 10 people or 1000, you will always be the face of the company. And even with a team of talented sales people, you will sell much better, because it’s your creation, your knowledge and your expertise. And get used to it. I, with a sigh, just did.