How to Break Your Mental Barriers to Increase Sales

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In Demystifying the Myth of the College Dropout CEO, I wrote that there are many marketers out there but not enough jordan 4 corsair ddr3 1600 Purchase Florida state seminars jerseys, football, and various accessories for Florida state seminars dänisches bettenlager lounge set brandon aiyuk shirt pallone calcio a 11 balmain carbone fragrantica дамски памучен чорапогащник callaway reva femme Purchase Florida state seminars jerseys, football, and various accessories for Florida state seminars isolateur cloture electrique ruban estiti eleganti max mara μπουφαν γυναικειο speed x cordura zara long jumpsuit in green jayden daniels jersey This is despite the fact that selling is a very important skill that everyone will need at some point in their lives. You might need to sell your skills to a potential employer, or sell your company to a potential investor, or sell your product to a potential customer.

Even if you’re employed in a non-sales position, you’d notice you spend some of your time selling because in a more generic sense, you can think of selling as persuading, influencing or moving people. As Dan Pink explains in his book, To Sell is Human, there’s more to the conventional view of economics than just producing and consuming. He writes, “There’s also moving where we move others to part with resources so we both get what we want.”

So if selling sits within the heart of the economic engine, and our youth don’t know how to sell, what chance does our economy have to not just survive but also thrive?

We also can’t blame them for not being good salespeople because selling is one of those skills that cannot be honed during a 3 hour seminar.

It takes a lot of experience.

Actually, let me rephrase that.

It takes a lot of bad experience to be any good.

When you’re trying to sell anything, chances are high you’re going to face a myriad of rejections. That’s why it’s important to build the required mental fortitude to inoculate yourself from the negative feelings that come as part of the process.

The first thing is to build your self-confidence. Many people think you’re either born self-confident or not. But having self-confidence simply means believing in yourself enough to be willing to try. It does not guarantee success. It just pushes you to take that first step.

Sadly, many do not take that first step because mentally, you’re more focused on the embarrassment related to failure than the potential good that might come from success. The human brain is wired to have a negativity bias, which refers to the idea that unpleasant thoughts, emotions or social interactions have a greater impact on one’s psychological state than positive experiences. As stated here, some authors state that it takes five good events to overcome the psychological effects of a bad one. So before taking any step, change your mindset by keeping a balanced view that your attempt at selling could work or it could not, and you are going to be fine regardless of the outcome.

Also, change the way you view failure and rejection to begin with. Unfortunately, our educational system has entrenched in our minds that failures are inherently bad when in reality they’re simply a natural part of the process. Failures can be viewed as signposts to show you what not to do and pinpoint where you can improve your techniques.

Another thing that can help build your self-confidence is to keep an updated and accessible record of your achievements so far. This list could more generally encompass the number of projects you’ve completed and/or exceeded expectations while delivering or more specific in terms of sales where you record the number of times you were able to influence people and sell them anything [an idea, a product, a company].

Once you’ve covered your basis on how you’re going to keep your attitude buoyant and your self-esteem high through your journey, you need to go down to the field and start selling. There’s no other way around it. You just have to practice. And because it’s a numbers game, you’re going to have to do it over and over again, sometimes failing, other times succeeding, but refining your techniques until you’re successful at it.

Another thing about your practice is that it should be both continuous and deliberate. Deliberate Practice as defined in this blog post is a specific type of practice where you’re always applying your skills at the edge of your comfort zone and trying new tips and techniques with the help of a coach who can give you some feedback on your performance. Even though Deliberate Practice is more common in sports and chess, it can also be applied in business settings such as selling as long as you find a salesperson who’s more advanced than you are and who’s willing to train you.

In general, the main parts of the sales process are prospecting, pitching and closing and I’ll delve into each one of them in the next posts so keep reading.

Co-written with Amina Islam


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The Sales Cycle

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Co-written with Amina Islam

When kids are asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” nobody says I want to knock on the doors of strangers, and have them slammed in my face 80 % of the time accompanied by rude comments, but that is the life of a door-to-door salesperson.

Before we proceed, let’s define the steps:

  1. Prospecting: Picking your potential buyers
  2. PItching: Developing a sales pitch
  3. Closing: Closing the sale so that value is exchanged between the two


Prospecting is the process of identifying your potential customers. To do that, you really need to understand the product you’re trying to sell; what problem is it solving, and who incurs that problem on a regular basis so they would be willing to part with their money to have it solved. Additionally, answers to the following questions need to be very clear:

  • What are the demographics of your potential customers?
  • Where do they live?
  • What kind of jobs do they hold?

Prospecting can be as easy as building a spreadsheet list of potential customers with their addresses or numbers.


Once you’ve identified your potential customers, it’s time to pitch your product. Unfortunately we live in a world where salespeople think pitching is all about going to the field and shoving the product down someone’s throat. But it’s more than just presenting your product or service to the prospect. To sell, there are various social skills that need to be honed, such as attunement as detailed in Dan Pink’s book, To Sell is Human. At the end of the day, businesses don’t do business with businesses but people do business with people, and as much as we may think we’re rational beings, human emotions play a huge factor in closing a sale.

Attunement is the ability to align one’s actions and outlook so it comes into harmony with other people. It’s the key to resonance or clicking, and for attunement to take place, skills such as perspective-taking, empathy and strategic mimicry need to be practiced. Perspective-taking as the name suggests is the cognitive skill of taking your potential customers perspective. It is a cognitive skill. Empathy on the other hand, could be considered its fraternal twin, but it’s an emotional skill. Even though both successfully produce greater joint gains and more profitable individual outcomes during negotiations, studies have shown perspective-taking as being more effective than empathy.

This means when you’re trying to sell, you have to understand where your buyer is coming from, what their desires, needs and pain points are. To get all that, you would need to ask questions and actually listen instead of just launching into a pitch straight away. Essentially, during your pitch, you would need to answer for them the question, “What’s in it for me?”

You also have to make them understand the value you’re presenting and why they would part with their hard-earned cash to get that value. They need to be able to imagine that something in their life would improve after having the product or service.

Another interesting technique that could be done during a sale is strategic mimicry, which involves mimicking the mannerisms of the person you’re negotiating with. The trick is to do it subtly enough that the other person does not notice what you’re doing. Otherwise, this technique may backfire. To ensure subtlety, try to wait for 15 seconds before mimicking their action.

Finally, understand the pitch is not about you and how much you love the product or service. This is about them and why they should love the product or service.


Closing the sale is the final process where the value is exchanged by them making payment in return for the product or service. This is the most important step as there is no sale without closure and it’s the point we’ve been building all our previous efforts for.


As best practice in the sales field, develop a simple monitoring and evaluation model that allows you to track progress and make improvements as you progress. This should be periodical i.e hourly, daily or weekly.

Tracking will be the start of a sales funnel i.e a pipeline of customers arranged in order of their readiness to acquire the product or service. For example, a client who promises to purchase the service on Friday will be scheduled for a visit on that day with the single objective of closing the sale.

For salespeople who are just beginning on their sales journey, evaluating the results of their work during the first month can help define goals for the next month based on the project or business objectives. This will help with the professional growth of the sales person, as repeating the sales cycle exponentially could help one become a sales superstar.

Remember that actually delivering a good product and service is essential to the growth of your business. This is not just about selling. You want them to refer you to other clients as well. Your work does not end with closing the sale but by ensuring that the customer is happy with whatever they’ve paid for.


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How to Use the Science of Influence to Close a Sale

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In other words, you’re in the business of influencing.

Think of it like magnetic induction.

Unless you skipped physics classes — or slept through them — you probably know that magnetic induction is the production of a voltage across an electrical conductor in a changing magnetic field.

Your job is to induce an emotion within a person so they take action.

You can use your words.

You can use props.

You can tell a story.

You can give an elevator pitch.

But whatever you do, you can tap into the social science of influencing others as mentioned by the author Robert Cialdinni in his book, Influence.

  • Reciprocity = People are more likely to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.
  • Scarcity = People want more of those things they can have less of. That’s why offers like, “2 pieces left in stock,” get emphasized on ecommerce websites.
  • Authority = People are more willing to follow the recommendations of someone to whom they attribute relevant authority or expertise.
  • Liking = People are more willing to buy from people they like.

Once you understand all that, you might want to modify your pitch so it has one or more of these elements. For example, you would build a relationship with a potential buyer and give value to them first — for free — before even attempting to make a sale. However, whatever you say in your pitch must be honest and ethical. For example, you shouldn’t say, “You won’t find something like this in the market,” in an attempt to show that your product is scarce unless the scarcity of the product is true. Nowadays, the customer has more power than they did in the past — thanks to Dr. Google. They also can ruin your reputation faster thanks to social media.

One more thing to remember is that you can influence someone positively or negatively. I’ve had such an experience within one of the members in my sales team whose negative influence impacted the rest of the team. Even though she performed well, she created negative stereotypes about certain demographic segments, and influenced the rest of the team to avoid them. This impacted the team negatively as other sales members wouldn’t approach specific customer segments. However, upon leaving the team, sales went up overall and among the segments she was avoiding.

So whenever you’re getting ready to go out into the market and sell, prepare a sales pitch and try to integrate elements of influence like reciprocity, scarcity, likeability and authority.

Co-written with Amina Islam


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The Ego-Tripping CEO

When I read the founding story of Moovit, I found myself intrigued. Moovit is a free public transit app and urban mobility data analytics company that was founded in 2012 by Roy Bick and Yaron Evron. Yaron was an expert on the public transportation industry while Roy was a technical prodigy. They came together with the aim of improving the experience of commuting within cities. When the two founders self-assessed, they realized that even though they had the industry expertise and technical talent, they were missing the experience of someone who knew how to build a business. So Yaron Evron contacted Nir Erez — a serial entrepreneur — and not only did they bring him in as co-founder, he was appointed CEO of Moovit[1].

What intrigued me was the humility of the initial co-founders to not only admit they needed help, but also relinquish the reign of their own startup to someone else when they recognized they did not have the experience of actually building a business.

In Demystifying the College Dropout CEO Myth, I posed the question, why is it that our kids drop out of college, build a startup and think they’recheckerboard vans ochre ciorapi compresivi pana la coapsa zara long jumpsuit in green nike calças de treino jayden daniels jersey škare za plastične cijevi corsair ddr3 1600 brandon aiyuk jersey youth gepunktete strumpfhose converse blanche et doré brandon aiyuk jersey isolateur cloture electrique ruban ćwiczenia na rowerze cheap yeezys air nike sneakers going to be the next Mark Zuckerburg without recognizing how much work it really takes to build a real business? And given the same situation as the Moovit co-founders, would our young CEO’s admit they don’t know what they’re doing and give up running their own business to someone else?

The sad thing you see within the startup ecosystem is how many decisions are taken by one’s own ego. Ego can be thought of as the inflated sense of self. Affirmations such as, “I am the best,” and “I don’t need anybody’s help,” hint at having a huge ego.

When you look at the natural progression of life, something interesting happens as a person matures. Let’s call this person Eddie. At some point of Eddie’s life, he starts to realize that a lot of the beliefs and perceptions he has collected across the years are not exactly his so he starts to shed them one by one as they go through an existential crisis. What ensues then is a sense of internal emptiness, which he tries to fill with materialistic things, big titles and positions.

If Eddie were a CEO in charge of a startup, he’s more likely to build and run his startup around his ego, which becomes a recipe for disaster. He exhibits arrogance where he doesn’t separate his identity from his opinions. Anybody who disagrees with his opinions automatically disagrees with him, and because he finds his self-esteem challenged, disagreements turn contentious.

Also, since he is unwilling to listen to anyone else’s opinion, he puts a natural ceiling on his growth as well as his team’s and by extension, his startup’s. New ideas that do not originate from him get shot down immediately regardless of how good they are.

His ego also makes him competitive in an unhealthy way so he would spend more time trying to destroy someone else rather than building himself and his startup. And because a big ego tends to co-exist with low levels of self-esteem, he tries hard to appear bigger than he really is by making others feel smaller, so he’s both patronizing and derisive.

Last but not least, he lives from the outside in, sometimes acting without integrity and compromising his own highest values to keep his polished image intact. This drives him to always take credit when things go well, attending all the award ceremonies and talking about his story and his leadership skills. It also makes him shirk responsibility when the startup is not generating as much revenues as the board wants to see, trying hard to blame others — the market, his employees — for messing up.

Unfortunately, that is no way to run a startup or even live life. What ends up happening is it becomes hard to hire great talent for the startup because who would want to work with such a tyrant? It also becomes hard to get the best out of the people who are already working there, which usually leads to mediocre performance.

And the startup ecosystem is so brutal already without the added challenge of operating within a continent with limited capital resources. So CEO’s must focus on living life from the inside out, quashing their ego in the process. This means internally defining your value and living in alignment with them day in day out. This also means you realize that you carry an inner richness within you that demands to express itself by creating something that goes beyond the ego. Sometimes this requires sacrificing short-term success in pursuit of excellence.

Co-written with Amina Islam




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How It Takes a Village To Build a Winning African Startup

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Cellulant recently stole the limelight in the African startup scene when it bagged 47.5 million dollars from Rise Fund. A company for Africa by callaway reva femme años 20 hombre disfraz custom baseball uniforms nfl jersey sales golf męski zara pallone calcio a 11 golf męski zara bose quietcomfort 35 usa price ćwiczenia na rowerze cheap jordan 4 golf d tp link remote control дамски памучен чорапогащник air nike sneakers balmain carbone fragrantica Africans, in Africa, it started as a music ringtone business that completely transformed to become a digital payments platform serving 140 million people across 11 countries.

Recently, I had the honor of listening to a talk given by Cellulant’s co-founder and Group CEO Ken Njoroge at Nairobi Garage. It was one of those talks I wished every young African aspiring entrepreneur could hear. His story was very inspiring not only because of what he said, but also because of what he did not say.

He did not drop any foreign names that have become popular when some entrepreneurs talk about their background. There was no mentioning of Harvard, Stanford, Merrill Lynch, McKinsey or PwC. Instead, he talks about Nakuru’s Menengai High School, Strathmore and University of Nairobi.

His story is as local as it gets.

Another thing that struck me was how he did not say, “I single-handedly built this business.”

Instead, he acknowledged all the people who helped him along the way, including family, friends, staff, even landlords who wouldn’t get their rents on time. In other words, he exemplified the idea, “It takes a village to build a company for Africa by Africans, in Africa.”

Ken started two businesses, the first being a web development firm called 3mice which he later sold, and the second is Cellulant. So what does it take to make it as an entrepreneur in Africa?

Concrete Foundation/Solid Value System

The concrete foundation hinted here goes against the mainstream cultural narrative young entrepreneurs might hear such as, “You have to be connected to the right people. You have to come from the right tribe. You have to be comfortable with being corrupt because it’s the only way to make it in this country. You have to have studied abroad. You have to have enough starting capital.”

Instead, Ken talks about how he was raised by a single mother, how he didn’t have a lot of money growing up, how he dropped out of University of Nairobi, and how he started both businesses with no capital.

The concrete foundation, instead, was the value system that his mother instilled within him that focused on hard work, thoroughness at work and respect of others. He quoted her as saying, “Never let the amount of money you have in your pockets determine what you can and can’t do, or who you are.”

This helped him cope with the challenges of being an entrepreneur as he could mentally separate his sense of self-worth and ambition from the reality of having little money at the beginning of the startup. And because he grew up without money and was thus not used to the comforts it could bring, he was okay with having no money for a while.

What him and his co-founder, Bolaji Akinboro were not okay with was giving up or corruption. As cited here, “Right from the outset, we have adopted a strong stance against bribes. We believe that innovation wins the day, not bribes.”

Other values they built the culture with were honesty and transparency with everyone, whether it was their own staff, family, business partners or companies that owed them money.

This does not come easy when someone is in a position of leadership because everyone looks at them as though they have all the answers. Yet sometimes they don’t. This sort of vulnerability is one of the four pillars of courageous leadership according to author and research professor Brene Brown, with the other three being clarity of values, trust and rising skills. In her book Dare to Lead, she defines vulnerability as the uncertainty and risk that comes with emotional exposure, and while popular opinion might view it as soft, it’s actually brave.

It’s not always Unicorn and Rainbows

Raising an eye-popping amount of 47.5 million USD in capital without a white co-founder inspired a lot of excitement, since the next big investment during the first half of 2018 among African startups was Branch at 20 million USD according to a report by Weetracker. But while that result attracts so much awe, looking under the hood shows the amount of hard work that went into achieving it. They had to compile a list of potential investors — 60 in their case — do their homework on who made decisions, prepare and make pitches, fail, find out what didn’t work so they could go back to the drawing board and repeat.

Two years and 400 pitches later, they received only 1 yes and 59 no’s. This makes you realize that persistence is a much-needed trait if you’re going to be an entrepreneur.

Know Your Why

And what usually feeds this persistence is a strong why, a strong reason to continue despite all the obstacles that exist in your way.

For Cellulant, it was the recognition that this startup’s story was bigger than the co-founders and their own personal egos. Cellulant is all about being a really transformational force in the continent, reducing poverty, changing every element of the traditional cultural narrative when it comes to entrepreneurship in Africa.

Focus on What Matters

Ken’s final advice to entrepreneurs was not to get caught up by the hype of the most recent technologies but to instead focus on the things that matter. The things that won’t change, like understanding the problem you’re solving in the market, and focusing on building and delivering a high-quality solution that’s better and cheaper than the competition.

Focus on going into the market and getting paying customers to validate your idea. That’s what business is really about. It’s not about the money or the recent lifestyle that has become a fad nowadays.

His story paves the way and offers hope to millions of Kenyans who subscribe to the belief that what it takes to make it in Africa is corruption, or fancy foreign names in their educational and work history.

Thanks to @ALX , Nairobi Garage for facilitating this

Co-written with Amina Islam


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Anatomy of a Sales Pitch that Wins Every Time 

Anatomy of a SalesPitch that Wins Every Time

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As much as we admire athletes when they win a championship, it’s hard to imagine the amount of rigorous training they undergo beforehand. Whether with a coach or alone, a lot of effort goes into priming the mind and preparing the body for a major league.

There’s a Spartan warrior quote that says, “Sweat more in practice. Bleed less in war.”

This emphasizes the idea that success happens when preparation meets opportunity. You might be wondering, but this is a sales blog, what does this have to do with sales?

A lot, in fact.

Imagine you’re in a corporate sales pitch. You’ve confidently presented the product or service you’re trying to sell, highlighting how it’s the panacea for all your potential client’s pain points. When you reach the Q&A session, someone asks, looking totally unconvinced, “How is your product better than your competitors’, XYZ?”

Now imagine being asked that question without having an inkling of a clue that those competitors even exist in the landscape. With your confidence burst, you would be stumped, and might start babbling nervously, ruining the pitch right there and then.

Before you can go into any sales pitch, you need to be prepared. This involves knowing the nitty-gritty details of the product or service you’re trying to sell as well as doing your research on your potential client. Not only does this involve a complete understanding of their pain points, but you must also specifically tailor your solution for them.

Additionally, you would need to anticipate the questions they might ask. This step might not be so easy to figure out beforehand without much experience trying to sell or having another person’s input. But you can still manage this process by collating a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) list that you update after every sales pitch.

Sometimes salespeople have a bad habit of speaking in jargon to potential clients. This is especially true for salespeople in the tech world. They get all technical, throwing terms and abbreviations that the average layman does not understand. They might do that inadvertently — because they don’t know how to speak any other way — or on purpose — because they want to sound smarter than everyone else in the room. Whatever the reason, you need to drop this habit and speak in their language instead, not yours. For example, if the people facing you are corporate finance guys, you might want to talk about the impact your solution would have on the bottomline. Or if they are part of the corporate social responsibility team, you might want to emphasize all the social impact of your solution.

Another recommended technique is to show them a physical prototype of how your product would work — if applicable. This would add to the pitch as it would give them something to hold in their hands, rather than a theoretical solution or a powerpoint presentation.

If you’re trying to sell an experience rather than a product, you might want to include them in the co-creation of the solution. The process of building it with you would give them some sense of ownership over it, and it would make them more likely to want to see it through.

More importantly, if you’re presenting, keep your sales pitch to the point and framed to answer the main questions they would have;

● What are the pain points they’re experiencing?

● What solution are you providing?

● Why are you — and not someone else — well-suited to provide this solution?

● Most importantly, how much would they need to pay you for it?

Also, make sure you practice enough in safe situations — among your work colleagues, friends or family members. You can also prepare in front of the mirror so you can be more aware of your body language. You don’t want to be caught biting your nails nervously during a sales pitch.

One practical way to control your nerves is to know in your mind that your body undergoes the same physiological reactions when you’re anxious and when you’re excited. So when you start to get nervous, just tell yourself, “I’m not nervous, I’m actually excited”. It also helps when you are very familiar and comfortable with your clients, which means visit them more often before the main sales pitch.

The main mantra to remember if you’re trying to be a great salesman is summarized in the following two lines…

Sweat more in practice.

Bleed less in war.

Co-written with Amina Islam



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Train Your Mind To Hit Your Sales Target

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To be a successful salesperson you’re going to need to get comfortable with the number of rejections you’re going to face during your journey. This requires a complete upgrade of your mental software.

Adopt A Growth Mindset

Because of our educational systems and cultural narratives, many of us grow up with a fixed mindset as defined by Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset[1], where we believe that we are born with a fixed set of gifts and abilities that cannot change with time.

People with a fixed mindset tend to perform poorly as they’re more likely to avoid challenges or give up easily if they take them on. They also bnike air max 1 ultra moire black white ราคา welche kaffeemaschine für 1 person nike calças de treino mascarilla pelo sebastian nike air max aliexpress ipad 2019 hülle mit tastatur und stifthalter babyphone mit alexa verbinden veste femme pied de poule marron ipad 2019 hülle mit tastatur und stifthalter hängemattengestell preisvergleich welche kaffeemaschine für 1 person astro a50 ps4 and pc jayden daniels jersey billige matratzen gepunktete strumpfhose elieve their abilities are predetermined, so have a hard time accepting feedback and criticism because they take them too personally. They’re the ones who believe, “I’m just not a good salesperson. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

However, once you adopt a growth mindset, you believe that every failure is an opportunity to grow, and that you can do anything that you set your mind to as long as you’re willing to work hard. Such people are more likely to rebound stronger after setbacks, because they believe in feedback being constructive.

Have a Balanced View of Yourself

One thing that can easily erode your self-confidence is a negative view of yourself. Rather than beat yourself up every time you make a mistake or get rejected, you must learn to have a balanced view of yourself. Accept your strengths as well as your weaknesses. This requires a self-discovery process whereby you reflect deeply on the following questions to identify the overarching themes[2]:


  • What compliments do you usually receive?
  • What challenges do you usually overcome?
  • What’s an important task you usually tackle?
  • What are the times you’ve helped others?


  • What are weaknesses you’re aware of?
  • What’s most likely to make you give up?
  • What roles do you actively avoid?
  • What feedback do you receive that may indicate a weakness?

Once you have a clear image of what your strengths and weaknesses are, work actively to leverage the former and reduce the latter.

Practice Self-compassion

Understand that it’s normal for you to make mistakes in your life and professional career. So instead of obsessing over them, focus instead on retrieving the lessons learned, and then moving on. Kristin Neff, one of the pioneers in the field of self-compassion research, has discovered that the three main elements of self-compassion are mindfulness, kindness and the realization that you’re not alone. When you’re mindful, you become aware of the mistake you’ve made and its emotional impact on you, such as the pain you feel. When you’re kind with yourself, you provide the same encouragement and support you would give a good friend. Finally, when you realize you’re not alone, it lessens your suffering.

Make Selling a Habit

To get any good at selling, you’ll need to do a lot of it, so it needs to turn into a habit — a behavior that you do often. This will mean multiple instances of cold calling and facing strangers to sell them something. All habit loops usually consist of three parts: the trigger, the behavior and the reward.

Because getting rejected after a sales call is not your usual definition of a reward, you might need to consciously attach a different reward regardless of the outcome of the sales pitch. This means, you might tell yourself, “If I do 5 cold calls today, I’ll get myself a treat regardless of how those calls go.”

Another mental hack to take action is what Mel Robbins calls the 5 second rule, which goes as follows: If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it [3].

The 5-second rule is about taking control of your life, so whenever the instinct to act on a goal comes up — like when a window of opportunity for making a sale presents itself — you count down from 5, and then take action. The problem is once that window passes, we’ll be less likely to act on it, because our minds are wired to stop us from doing things that are uncomfortable.

Co-written with Amina Islam


[1] Dweck, C. (2017). Mindset. New York: Robinson.

[2] Markway, B. and Ampel, C. (2018). The Self-Confidence Workbook. Emeryville, California: Althea Press.

[3] Robbins, M. (2018). The Five Elements of the The 5 Second Rule. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].



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5 Common Sales-Related Mistakes Startups Make

5 Common Sales-Related Mistakes Startups Make

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Even though we broke down the sales prockoaxialní kabel hornbach meia com pompom air nike sneakers nfl jersey sales brandon aiyuk jersey detske lyžiarske nohavice 134 140 kilpi predam dänisches bettenlager lounge set miroir terzo callaway reva femme estiti eleganti max mara nike technical cross body bag ciorapi compresivi pana la coapsa játék hajszárító árukeresö balmain carbone fragrantica Purchase college team jerseys at a discounted price and of high quality ss to the three main steps of prospecting, pitching and closing, as a person who has been selling within the African market for 20 years, I wish I can say the practicalities of day-to-day operations were as easy as they sound.

Because selling is a difficult skill to master, there are a lot of nuances that can trip startups if missed, and in this post, I’ll cover some of the sales-related mistakes being made within the ecosystem.

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  1. There is No Product to Sell

Sometimes what startups try to sell — mainly to investors — is the idea. Instead of taking time to build a prototype or a minimum viable product (MVP) using the resources they have, they jump from one investor meeting to another to sell them the idea.

They’ll present facts like what the potential size of the market is, and how their research shows the problem they’re trying to solve is a huge one, and how they’re well-placed to build the solution. However, investors would rather see an MVP that has already been tested in the market with relevant preliminary metrics (number of sales made, etc…).

This is not to say that selling an idea to investors with no product doesn’t work at all. We live at a time when it does — sometimes — but it shouldn’t, because it’s really hard to prove product-market fit with no product.

2. There is No Sales Team

It’s strange to walk into the offices of startups and discover there’s a tech team and a product team, but no sales team. If the startup is at its inception and it really, really, really cannot afford a sales team, then the founding team should dedicate a percentage of their time selling.

Unfortunately, co-founders/CEO’s tend to value meeting investors rather than potential clients even though a strong sales record would help present evidence so the company could receive funding.

3. Selling to the non-decision makers

Just because a company is a prospective client doesn’t mean your point of contact within that company is a decision maker. Ideally, as a sales representative, you would want to bring in the decision-maker to the first meeting, and determine if your solution is within their budget. However, that’s not always possible because of hierarchical charts within organizations so you might need to meet and pitch to several other people before you reach the decision-maker.

4. Targeting non-consumers to pay for consumers

This is interesting and while it’s commonly seen within a diverse group of startups, we’ll use Edtech to illustrate. Products are built for potential students, but then instead of investing in a sales team to sell the product to schools and students, the sales team goes to the CSR department of corporates to sponsor hundreds of students at one go.

Similar to the “sell company to investor” path, this is seen as a path of least resistance. However, even if it appears lucrative in the short-term, it’s ineffective in the long-term because it’s not sustainable.

This action may lead to deals being made and cheques being signed, but the startup isn’t capturing the market directly. Instead of selling to the students and relieving their pain, they sell to the CSR department to create more gain for them in terms of a good press release, etc. This leads to a disconnect from the actual market, because you’re selling to someone who doesn’t really need to use your product.

Also, not many corporations have CSR programs to begin with, and just because a company paid for your program once doesn’t mean they’ll pay again. When it comes to CSR projects, companies like to vary them from year to year, or else they become monotonous.

5. Not following up with clients

Startups think the selling process ends with closing. However, following up with clients to understand their satisfaction with your product or service.

Selling to the market directly is hard.

It’s slow and time consuming but it is the best long-term strategy for any startup. It provides useful market research and as a startup you’ll be informed early on if there’s product-market fit for your product.

Co-written with Amina Islam


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Harness Your Energy This 2019 To Become a More Successful Salesperson

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With regard to selling, it’s very easy to instigate the nature vs. nurture debate. Are salespeople made or born?

While we do believe that anybody can build their sales skills through practice, some inherent personality traits can make you a better salesperson than others. Take for example, where you lie on the introversion-extraversion spectrum. Introversion is the tendency to gain energy from internal pursuits, while extraversion is the tendency to gain energy from interacting with other people.

The general idea is that extroverted peoplenike calças de treino billige matratzen meilleur lampe uv koaxialní kabel hornbach balmain carbone fragrantica brandon aiyuk jersey carhartt uk ipad 2019 hülle mit tastatur und stifthalter isolateur cloture electrique ruban checkerboard vans ochre callaway reva femme nike air max ivo black and white nike wiki archivador cajonera carpetas colgantes nike air max ivo black and white make the best salespeople. By nature, they’re more sociable, assertive, lively, and gregarious. It seems easier for them to approach and talk to people, and because they get energized by the presence of others, their enthusiasm can be conducive to influence and persuasion.

Or that’s what we tend to think.

Research shows that it is not the extroverts but the ambiverts who perform the best when it comes to selling [1]. Take for example, a study conducted by Adam Grant, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who tracked the sales representatives’ revenues of a software company over a period of three months after having them complete several personality assessments. He found that introverted sales reps earned an average of 120 $ per hour compared to the 125 $ per hour earned by extroverts. Ambiverts outperformed both groups by earning 155 $ per hour[2].

Ambiverts fall in the middle of the introvert/extrovert continuum and have the right blend of personality traits from both ends to make them comfortable in a range of social situations. Ambiverts can be excellent conversationalists as well as excellent listeners. This could explain their advantage over extroverts whose assertiveness and zeal may lead to a lot of talking but not enough listening.

Selling requires a delicate balance of inspecting and responding. If we are to liken it to the analogy of a dance, extroverts try to lead so fast that their partners trip over their feet, while introverts get so shy they don’t even approach the dance floor. Ambiverts, on the other hand, have the perfect balance of traits to dance just right.

But what if you were not a born ambivert? Is there a way to control your energy level and build your mental fortitude so you can be a superstar salesperson?

Since introversion and extraversion are personality traits that deal with energy management, there are other ways to harness your energy, including nutrition, exercise, meditation and sleep.

While nutrition and exercise are important, we’re going to focus in the next section on sleep and mediation, starting with the latter as it can help you find an ambivert’s balance.

Meditation is a set of techniques intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and concentration. There are many types of meditation but in the most popular one — focused-attention meditation — you focus on your breathing, and whenever thoughts spring up, observe them without judgement, continuously bringing your attention back to your breathing.

Meditation is known to improve your ability to introspect (which is good if you’re naturally an extrovert), and also increases your emotional and social intelligence (which is good if you’re naturally an introvert). It also increases positive emotions such as love, joy, gratitude, contentment, hope, pride, interest and amusement [3]. All of these build towards the positive attitude required to face the multitude of rejections that come with a sales career.

However, you can’t expect to reap the benefits of meditation by doing it once. It needs to be a continuous practice, and you can start with the simplest form as delineated below:

  1. Set a timer for five minutes
  2. Sit or lie comfortably.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Breathe naturally.
  5. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly.
  6. If your mind wanders and thoughts start appearing, imagine they’re clouds that are passing by and return your focus back to your breath.

Sleep is another important key to mental health. Besides processing complex information, consolidating memories and clearing out toxins that can contribute to neurodegeneration, sleep carries a number of benefits for health and cognition. For example, a study reports that morning-type individuals report higher levels of positive affect and score higher on measures of energy-alertness and lower on tiredness compared with evening-type individuals [4].

Unfortunately, despite all the benefits of sleep, we don’t get enough of it thanks to the omnipresence of smartphones and tablets. Research has shown that the bright light emitted by smartphones disrupts sleep by interfering with the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycles [5].

In conclusion, it’s important to know where you lie on the introvert-extrovert spectrum as a salesperson, and to take positive steps towards managing your energy and building your positivity and mental fortitude through different means including sleep and meditation.

This post was co-written with Amina Islam


[1] D. Pink, To Sell is Human. New York,: Penguin Group, 2012.

[2] A. Grant, “Rethinking the extraverted sales ideal: the ambivert advantage”, Psychological Science, vol. 24, no. 6, 2013. [Accessed 25 December 2018].

[3]B. Fredrickson, M. Cohn, K. Coffey, J. Pek and S. Finkel, “Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 95, no. 5, pp. 1045–1062, 2008. [Accessed 25 December 2018].

[4]R. Biss and L. Hasher, “Happy as a lark: Morning-type younger and older adults are higher in positive affect.”, Emotion, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 437–441, 2012. Available: 10.1037/a0027071.

[5] Mayo Clinic. “Are smartphones disrupting your sleep?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2013.



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How To Build a High Performance Sales Team

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It’s a crucial necessity in today’s workplace. Many leaders subscribe to the idea that hiring only A-players will take their companies to the next level. However, there is an inherent assumption being made: that A players will result in A-playing teams.

In a talk given by Margaret Hefferman[1], she tells the story of a man who studied chickens and wanted to know what could make them more productive;

“Chickens live in groups, so first of all, he selected just an average flock, and he let it alone for six generations. But then he created a second group of the indinike daybreak uomo checkerboard vans ochre hängemattengestell preisvergleich costume leopardato triangolo Italy nike air max aliexpress scarpe eleganti senza lacci años 20 hombre disfraz corsair ddr3 1600 balmain carbone fragrantica jayden daniels lsu jersey custom baseball uniforms meia com pompom aiyuk jersey jayden daniels jersey converse blanche et doré vidually most productive chickens — you could call them superchickens — and he put them together in a superflock, and each generation, he selected only the most productive for breeding. After six generations had passed, what did he find?

Well, the first group, the average group, was doing just fine. They were all plump and fully feathered and egg production had increased dramatically. What about the second group? Well, all but three were dead. They’d pecked the rest to death. The individually productive chickens had only achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of the rest.

Unlike common wisdom, the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts.

Sometimes it’s less.

So what does it take to build a superteam?

During the last quarter of 2018, I lost one of my best sales teams due to an administrative error. That left me with only 2 weeks to recruit and induct a new team into a project whose aim was to acquire customers for one of my clients during the festive period. That presented a huge challenge as the minimum time I usually take to recruit and train is one month.

Undaunted by the task, I immediately got on my database and pulled out a list of 6 top sales resources that have previously worked on my projects and exited positively. After requesting every one of them to refer at least 5 people, I ended up with 38 resumes to sift through. Basing my selection on the following criteria, I built a new team:

  • Proximity of where they live to the site we work from: Due to the high transport costs in Nairobi, it was important that salespeople lived close to their work stations.
  • Attitude: I looked out for positive attitude, hunger for the job, language proficiency (both English and Swahili) and other basic communication skills.

Despite being a new team that didn’t know each other and neither had prior sales experience nor university degrees, they surpassed the monthly sales target by 36 %.

What was the secret sauce?

I don’t know exactly, but I suspect it was their chemistry; how they worked together.

They coordinated, supported each other, and covered for each other. In other words, they defined their own constitution and played — or rather, worked — well together.

This idea has been shown in literature by an initiative code-named Project Aristotle that Google embarked on to study teams and figure out what made the best teams. In his article titled, “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team”, Charles Duhigg wrote [2], “As they struggled to figure out what made a team successful, Rozovsky and her colleagues kept coming across research by psychologists and sociologists that focused on what are known as ‘group norms.’ Norms are the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather.”

Other lessons I’ve learnt in my history building high-performance sales teams for clients across the years are as follows:

1)Hire for positive attitude

It’s very important to filter for attitude. Bad attitude will ruin your team. Even if it’s just one person who is toxic, they can spread it to the rest of the team. The upside of this is that positive attitude is also contagious so hiring for positivity works wonders. Since selling is a road paved with many thorns in the forms of rejections, positive teammates have a tendency to encourage one another, keeping their collective spirits buoyed.

2) Share the sales vision from the beginning

Zig Ziglar said, “You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” It’s important that the sales vision and targets are communicated to the team from the very beginning so they’re clear on what they’re trying to achieve. This also gives them a clear way to benchmark their performance and measure their progress.

3) Lead from the front

While leading your sales team, it’s important that you dedicate time to sell alongside your teammates regularly. This gives them a chance to learn from you and improve their selling skill through imitation, making the best use of mirror neurons; neurons that fire not only when someone performs an action, but also when they observe someone else take the same action [3].

While leading, it’s important not to forget other leadership qualities, such as owning up to your mistakes whenever you make them, rather than throwing your salespeople under the bus. Also, whenever a problem arises, it’s important to focus on fixing it rather than wasting time pointing blame.

4) Convey the terms of service clearly especially incentives

The terms of service need to be clearly communicated to the team, especially when it comes to defining incentives. I can’t emphasize this enough, as nothing breaks a good sales team like vague terms or service, especially when they realize after making sales that the terms were different from what they had initially thought. Such a scene leads to mistrust and an immediate drop in motivation. Also, monetary incentives need to be paid on time.

5) Conduct continuous performance reviews and peer-driven training programs

The last habit of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, “Sharpen the saw,” which involves taking deliberate steps for continuous improvement[4].

It is hard to build a high-performance team without a system in place for regularly evaluating the performance of your team to define how they can grow and be better. This usually involves continuously reviewing their performance and training them. Rather than overloading the, with a lot of content from the start, I personally prefer to focus on multiple refresher sessions bi-weekly. This can be made sustainable by having team members trained by their fellow colleagues who are at the same rank. That way, they can modify content I’ve developed by giving practical examples from their own personal experience selling.

In summary, these are the main ingredients for hiring a sales team that performs superbly:

  1. Hire for positive attitude

2. Share the sales vision from the beginning

3. Lead from the front

4. Convey the terms of service clearly especially incentives

5. Conduct continuous performance reviews and peer-driven training programs


[1]M. Heffernan, “Forget the pecking order at work”,, 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 07- Feb- 2019].

[2]C. Duhigg, “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12- Feb- 2019].

[3]”Mirror Neurons”,, 2008. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12- Feb- 2019].

[4] Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. New York: Free Press, 2004.


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