In the uber-competitive world of entrepreneurial sales, it helps to learn from the best. And, Babson College Associate Professor Vincent (Vini) Onyemah is one of the best.
We sat down with Onyemah recently to learn more about what he has been up to and why he says entrepreneurial sales is the single most important business function. We gleaned valuable information that will be helpful to entrepreneurs and seasoned professionals alike.
Sales from an Early Age
“I started selling when I was 11 years old to survive.”
Onyemah is from Nigeria, he speaks seven languages (he can sell in all of them), he started two businesses, and he currently teaches sales and marketing at Babson College, the No. 1 ranked school for entrepreneurship.
It Starts with the Light Bulb
“Sales is the lifeblood of any organization,” said Onyemah. According to him, any business that isn’t selling is dying. Moreover, selling should start as soon as you have that lightbulb moment.
“You start selling. You hit the road. You hit the pavement. You go meet those customers that you had in mind,” said Onyemah.
“And, you let them tell you, before you invest too many resources, that this is a bad idea, or a good idea. This is why it’s bad, or this is why it’s good. This is what would make me buy the product. Or, this is my pain when it comes to this issue,” Onyemah said.
What Is Entrepreneurial Sales?
Entrepreneurial sales is, well, everything.
As Onyemah describes it, entrepreneurial sales is not just revenue generation, though it’s that, too. Entrepreneurial sales also is everything else.
“It’s selling to get revenue. Selling to convince suppliers to give you good products at a good price. Selling to suppliers to increase the number of days of credit you have. Selling to investors to put in more money. Selling to someone to be on your advisory board. Selling to your colleagues to be partners with you. Selling to get talent to come work for you. All of these are selling scenarios but people don’t see it that way,” said Onyemah.
A Must-Read for MBAs
Onyemah doesn’t just know how to teach. His last book entitled, Entrepreneurial Selling: The Facts Every Entrepreneur Should Know, came out in 2017 and the Spanish version went on sale in February of this year. It’s now required reading for all MBA students at the famed IPADE Business School in Mexico City.
“This book is based on the field research on five continents, talking with entrepreneurs about how they made their first sales, and what they learned from it,” said Onyemah. “It’s full of advice. It’s full of frameworks. It’s full of how-to examples.”
You Need a Coalition
“When I say that an organization that is not selling is dying, it’s not just from the point of view of revenue generation,” said Onyemah. “It’s also the ability to convince several players to come play with you. To say yes to you. That is selling.”
“Because a tree cannot make a forest, you need a coalition of actors to be successful. For that dream to become a reality, you have to know how to sell.”