This March marks the 8th year I have been teaching entrepreneurship as a subject. In every group of 35 students I teach I come across a handful on fire. The wild, out of control, let me change the world fire, as well as the slow burning, smoldering, I will get through everything fire. All I have to do is to make them see the end goal and they are generally able to figure the rest out.
Over the years in the list of questions that students ask as I help them get their ideas closer to commercial reality the most common, the most troublesome and the most awkward question is:
How do I sell? How do I convince people to say yes? How do I persuade them to give me a chance and a shot?
While you can always direct them to books on marketing, business development and sales, to my knowledge no one ever wrote a book that gave you a roadmap to do all three. Typical text on marketing cover dimensions around marketing decisions (the C’s and P’s) or industrial or retail branding, business development talk about the art of deal making, closing and negotiating and tomes on selling talk about prospecting and lead generation. But there is hardly one book that you can point a student or a dreamer to and say read it and at least you will have a place to start.
For example from Chapter 5 on How to Launch, pick a neat set of tools including
- Tell a Story. Everyone wants to buy or share your dream, not a number.
- Present the big choice first. Then the small one (the one you really want)
- Reduce the number of choices. (Make it simple – thought Guy isn’t sure if it works the other way round also).
- Sell the salient point.
I have always liked Guy’s way of breaking the Art of the Start down to a science and his admission that it is not science. He first did it with his Art of the Start speech (the California TIECON edition). The speech is now a regular feature on day two of my classes and the framework he presents is what I use with my students to put flesh around the bones of their ideas. For instance in the part where we help students move their concept to the real world we ask them a few qualifying questions.
- Why do they care about their idea and can they describe it in such a fashion that their audience can feel their passion and energy?
- Why do their customers care about this product and how would they describe it?
- How do they create meaning with their work and is it (or would it) be really a worthwhile use of their time, energy and life?
As students stumble around inside themselves trying to find the right answers you can immediately tell who has been on fire and dreaming for how long. For the dreamers and the fire people have it down pat. They know the answers before the question is even asked. For others the questions serve as a sifter that filters dreams from noise, meaning from mindless chatter.
The questions above originated from the Art of the Start. And seeing them at work really give you a lot of respect for Guy’s list of processes and checklists. Which is one way of looking at Enchantment – It’s a book of checklists for dreamers. Not touchy feely, hand waving stuff but things that you can use tonight and see if Guy’s trial by fire approach works for you. Individuals like me like me who are founders and geeks in search of an algorithm to persuade and influence people so that we can go out and change the world by converting others to our cause.
Not sell but convert; not convince but enchant.