Every Startup Needs a Sales Lizard

By Kevin on December 1, 2010 in Angel Investors, Sales, Success, Talent

The cofounders of an internet startup were pitching me for angel money recently. Typical story…about a year old, burned through their first $3 million dollars. No revenue, out of cash, and looking for $3 million more. I noticed they had several competitors, many which seemed to be generating more activity and more revenue than they were. And by more revenue, I mean they at least had some revenue.

I asked, “How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?” The company President answered, “We have a saying around here. We exist to serve the customer, not to sell the customer.” Ahhhhh, I was beginning to see their problem.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that insane customer service is a key to success. I do believe you need to focus on things like mission, employees, and the client experience. You should never start a company with the sole purpose of making money.

But come on…we’re in a stalled economy and they spent a year and $3 million dollars and had NO revenue. Somebody had better be thinking about how to “sell the customer”.

An old Irish friend had a term he used that stuck with me: Sales Lizard. He would say, “That guy is great. He’s a real sales lizard!” Or he’d say, “I love him, but I need to move him out of sales. Not enough sales lizard there.” What makes a sales lizard?

#1) A sales lizard loves people. She needs to make 50 phone calls a day. She gets down if she isn’t constantly talking to people. She makes friends with the waitstaff, the gas station attendant, the cashier. Most importantly, her clients become her friends. When she sees clients she gives hugs, not handshakes.

#2) A sales lizard has fun with rejection. Rather than hurting her feelings, rejection is energizing! It’s a game. “Oh yea, you’re not interested? Let me tell you about ____, now are you interested? No? Well instead of ‘no’ how about you remain open to new ideas and I’ll check in with you next month…”

#3) Sales lizards make no excuses. They will never tell their boss the brochure isn’t good enough, or the website needs to be redesigned, or the price is too high, or the leads are too weak. Lizards make their own success.

#4) A sales lizard is competitive. She wants you to “rack and stack” reps up on the board each week. How else will everyone know she’s the top lizard?

#5) A sales lizard embraces variable pay. She wants low base pay and high commission, because she’s going to make more than the President when she doubles the quota.

Often startups are founded by visionary leaders and technology geniuses. That’s fine. But as soon as you have something to sell, get a Sales Lizard.

(By the way, do you think you’re a Sales Lizard? If so, then you can certainly name the three greatest sales movies of all time? Leave a comment with your answer…)


Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and keynote speaker. Get more success and tips from his newsletter at kevinkruse.com and check out keynote video clips. His new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.

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