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'Sales is Like Oxygen,' and So is Education

Wendy Torrance

Wendy TorranceDuring my years at the Kauffman Foundation I have seen firsthand the effect that education can have on the development of entrepreneurs and their companies. The entrepreneurs with whom I have worked have taken the lessons they have learned and applied them to great effect in their endeavors as founders. These entrepreneurs benefited from opportunities to learn critical skills, and from gaining an understanding of crucial decisions or junctures that often can derail entrepreneurial businesses.

Experience suggests that when entrepreneurs learn about founding team dynamics, strategies for handling objections in the sales process, and the ins and outs of intellectual property law, for instance, they can better assess the consequences of their choices, increase their effectiveness, and, ultimately, improve their prospects for success (or understand when the course they're on may not yield the results they wish). In designing the modules for Founders School, my aim was to help entrepreneurs acquire these skills and knowledge.

Our initial series have focused on knowledge that often is overlooked in traditional entrepreneurship curricula and on providing knowledge that addresses important issues that often derail entrepreneurial businesses. One of the first series covers entrepreneurial selling. Not only is sales vital to any venture (one entrepreneur we interviewed, Brad Morehead of LiveWatch Security, powerfully described sales as “oxygen” to his company), but selling in an entrepreneurial environment is also very different from selling in a corporation.

The entrepreneurial selling lectures are presented by Craig Wortmann, clinical professor of Entrepreneurship at the Chicago Booth School of Business. Craig's course in entrepreneurial selling at Booth was named a nationwide best course in entrepreneurship by Inc. magazine. Craig’s module on entrepreneurial selling provides founders with a thorough understanding of how important the founder's role is to selling in the early days of the venture. As Craig puts it: “Nothing happens until something gets sold.” The entrepreneurial selling series provides invaluable tools and information that will help entrepreneurs build a successful sales model cycle and find their way to those early sales that can make such a huge difference to the business.

We're pleased to present sales as one of our first topics for another reason. Our founder, Ewing Kauffman, was a consummate salesman. From his early experience selling eggs and laundry services, Mr. K developed selling skills that propelled him from salesman to Midwest regional manager at Lincoln Labs. Ultimately, his sales skill and dedication helped him build his own company, Marion Laboratories, into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. You can hear about selling from Mr. Kauffman himself in our Founder Genius series. He extols the virtues of confidence, determination, and knowing your product. Great advice from a master salesman.

Explore our series on entrepreneurial selling. Find out how what a sales model cycle should look like for your company. Learn how to qualify and how to deal with rejection and objections. Hear from other founders about how they've managed these challenges. Develop the skills to have productive conversations. Create powerful stories that will compel others to take an interest in who you are and what you do. Finally: Ask yourself the pivotal impact question: How could what I learned today change what I do tomorrow?

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