A couple of weeks ago we were fortunate enough to have Colin Coggins and Garrett Brown, both sales professionals, investors, and professors, stop by the CSUF Startup Incubator office in Irvine to host a seminar on how to be better at sales. Here are some of my notes from that event that I hope are valuable to entrepreneurs struggling with sales. (And if you are looking for one-on-one help improving sales for your company/startup reach out to us at csufentrepreneurship@fullerton.edu for information on how working with one of our consultants can help your business.)

The Speakers

Garrett Brown and Colin Coggins are Adjunct Professors of Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, where they teach “Sales Mindset for Entrepreneurs.” They are known for their unique philosophy on growing sales and revenue that focuses on Emotional Intelligence, personal development, and building positive, contagious sales cultures. Recently, Garrett and Colin built and led the sales team for Bitium, a B2B SaaS company that was acquired by Google in 2017. In addition to teaching, Garrett is on the executive team at ListReports where he heads up Sales and Customer Success, and Colin is the Chief Revenue Officer of Chanje.

Garrett started his career as a lawyer and was the person who was representing entrepreneurs all day, every day. During that time, he realized that it looked like the entrepreneurs were having a lot more fun so he went out and got a gig at a startup to sell corporate sponsorships. He did well and, as happens in startups, quickly advanced to be in charge of all of sales at that startup. Since then his startup career has blossomed and he has done so well that he is now also an investor.

Garrett’s partner in business and as a professor at USC is Colin and right out of college Colin went into the sales profession but he definitely did not like it right out of the chute. That was until the third month of his first sales job when he decided to throw the rule book out the window and do things his own way. Well, it worked and he was so good at it that he was the youngest sales executive at multiple companies, one of which he helped get to acquisition.

Develop Your EQ

Paraphrased from Colin: The highest functioning sales people aren’t the ones who read the most books or listen to the most podcasts on sales. Instead, they are the people who have a high emotional IQ (called your EQ). They are socially aware enough to know when they are losing someone and can change course mid-conversation. These are people who, after selling something to someone, they are thanked for what they did because they helped their customer achieve something on a higher level. Instead of buying a car, they bought safety for their family.

From Garrett: Before calling someone, find out three things that you love about that person. If you are going to try to convince someone to buy something that you are selling it’s a good idea to get to know the person. It helps to create trust and at the very least gets people away from the feeling that sales is all about saying no but that it can also be about making a connection.

Play the Right Game

Salespeople hear “no” all the time. And, guess what? Both Colin and Garrett think that “no” is actually one of the best things that you can hear and the earlier on in the sales process that you hear that “no” the better it is. No provides clarity, it lets you know that they are not interested in what you are selling. You can learn from this experience and grow from it. That knowledge is something, in Colin’s words, that you can add to your tool belt and might prove to be invaluable in the future.

Hearing “no” doesn’t have to be the end of the relationship and you still might end up getting the sale, but something will have to change. Instead, if you don’t hear “no” but “I’ll think about it” then you don’t have clarity and that sales process can drag on for quite some time.

Logic and Emotion

For the speakers, Garrett is more on the logical side of the spectrum while Colin is decidedly on the emotional side. But which one is the better salesperson?

It depends. Colin talked about how while his emotional appeals helped people get interested Garrett was always the one who ended up closing the sale.

From my perspective, I think that a good first step is to fully understand what it is that you are doing. Really understand whether you are making an appeal to emotions or facts or, maybe, a mixture of both. Sometimes it is hard to really know which tact you are taking so try bringing someone else along with you are practice your sales pitch with someone you trust to figure out what your strategy is.

After you have a pretty good idea of what kind of pitch you are making then you can move on to figuring out what customers in your industry respond to the most favorably.

Ask Questions

“Get people to tell you why they want to buy.” That was from Colin and the point is to get people to convince themselves that they want to buy what you are selling.

Video of Colin and Garrett at UCI

CSUF Startup Incubator

Entrepreneurs who are accepted into the CSUF Startup Incubator work with our entrepreneurial experts over a six month intensive launch period that includes: access to office space, quarterly investor pitches our entrepreneurs can participate in, free events, a dedicated one-on-one coaching relationship with one of our more than 700 startup experts, and so much more! If you are ready to learn the right way to go from concept to launch, please go to this page or contact a CSUF Startup Incubator representative at csufentrepreneurship@fullerton.edu.

Published by CSUF Entrepreneurship

We teach, coach and lead the principled, cross-disciplinary practice of entrepreneurship. We believe that, through determined practice, leadership and team work, our students, faculty, clients, volunteers and alums can systematically recombine the new and the old to forge new ventures, create an entrepreneurial culture, and dramatically benefit our community.

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