Demand Generation is (Modern) Sales

Monday, Jul 5 (2021) | 3 min read

Reminder: I'm running a 2-hour masterclass on how we help teams find problem/solution fit in less than 90-days tomorrow at 2p CDT - Details here.

In my last email, I made the case for starting with Demand Generation for a new idea or existing product that hasn’t yet hit repeatability.

Demand Generation = Establish Repeatable Sales.

Throughout my own journey as an entrepreneur, I’ve taken “deliberate time” to up-skill my coding skills, management skills, writing skills, presentation skills, copywriting skills, design skills, marketing skills… But it wasn’t until just last year that I really committed to up-skilling my sales skills.

Sure I’ve done my fair share of reading on sales: Selling the Wheel, Spin Selling, The Ultimate Sales Machine, Challenger Sales to name a few of the best ones.

But at the beginning of last year, I made a deliberate commitment to apply these learnings towards the development of a new sales process for a complex new product from scratch. A complex product for me is one with many actors (users, influencers, decision-makers), lots of uncertainty, and no already built channel or path to customers.

When I shared this decision with my wife earlier in the year, she turned to me and said: “Oh no, why would you want to do that?”.

Why is sales such a dirty word and why do we dread it?

It’s probably from years of being on the receiving end of pushy salespeople, interrupt-driven sales, and supply-side pitches.

But, this is old sales.

And it’s no longer how people want to be sold.

As I ventured into my own sales journey this year, I came across several of these old sales tactics and even tested a small number of them with lackluster results — before abandoning them.

I also got to apply timeless principles with a little updating on tactics for the times.

It is these principles and new tactics that helped me go from a very early concept for a product to currently getting 5 demo calls automatically scheduled on my calendar with no manual intervention on my part (systems thinking). I have optimized the demo calls to a 40% close rate while raising (versus lowering) pricing a few times already. The goal is to get the close rate up to 80% in the new year (my litmus test for a mafia offer).

These principles and tactics are the basis of The Demand Generation Playbook and what I like to think of as “modern sales".

Old sales was all about exploiting the asymmetry of information between buyer and seller. In almost every market today, that asymmetry of information has lessened considerably or completely disappeared. You should expect your customers to know as much or more than you especially when you first enter the market. Learn before you pitch.

Old sales was all about out-pitching your competition. Modern sales is about out-teaching your competition. Here's why. Speed of learning is the new unfair advantage. And teaching is the best way to learn. So out-teach to out-learn.

Old sales was about squeezing people through a funnel. It was a numbers game where you tried to brute-force more conversion at every step of the funnel — even at the expense of downstream conversions. Modern sales is about thinking of sales as part of an interconnected system versus a funnel. You don’t squeeze customers through but rather guide them repeatedly towards value creation. The rest takes care of itself.

Old sales was playing the short game. It was just about customer acquisition. Modern sales is playing the long game. It’s about aligning acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral around a goal of making more happy customers (aka throughput / traction).

Old sales was about selling an already built product. Modern sales is about first deeply understanding the needs and wants of customers. Then designing a product to deliver on those. Modern sales is product development.

Old sales was something done by people with sales in their titles. Modern sales is everyone’s job - starting with the founding team.

Modern sales isn’t sales anymore, it’s demand generation.

Tomorrow, we'll dive into practical tactics and strategies for implementing demand generation for early-stage products during the masterclass.

Hope to see you then.

Ash