Some people consider starting and owning your own business to be the American dream. The thought itself is inspiring for many: breaking free from the rat race, from corporate greed, and, most importantly, being your own boss.
What many people don’t realize is just how much money, time and resources you need to succeed. The idea for a business is only a small part of the equation. After a long, stressful battle to launch, many new businesses get buried in debt and fade away. I’ve seen signage for a new business go from “grand opening” to “liquidation sale” within six months.
One thing’s for sure: Building a business is tough. For those of us in sales, though, we are in a fascinating position. Like an entrepreneur, we are driven by a desire to obtain the greatest market share possible.
How do you build a sales business?
Successful sales hunters build their sales businesses as if they are running their own businesses, but with more freedom than a small business owner. We build our business with an entrepreneurial mindset focused on the future while paying attention to the current marketplace at all times.
Salespeople Vs. Business Owners
Successful sales hunters build their sales businesses as if they are running their own businesses. In a lot of ways, we are running our own businesses. As a reminder, the only real difference in how a sales professional works compared to a business owner is that salespeople don’t have any overhead costs weighing them down. In many ways, we have more freedom than a small business owner.
How so? The small business owner has to feed the company, even in success. With sales, the company feeds you. Knowing this, if you treat your sales position as if you are running your own business, you will reap the rewards for your hard work. If you can approach it with the same drive, ownership, and level of commitment as an entrepreneur, then you stand a real chance to succeed.
Sure, you have to share the profits with the company you work for, but most commissions are a lot better than any normal salary I’ve seen. So the million-dollar question is, “How do we build our sales business to succeed?” We build our business with an entrepreneurial mindset focused on the future while paying attention to the current marketplace at all times. That’s exactly what I did when I started my notary business.
Find Your Niche and Stick to It
The secret of my success was I simply paid attention to the general marketplace of real estate. I noticed there was a propensity to hand off the final step during the home purchasing process — the document signing — to an external individual for the notarization. Looking at the bare minimum requirements, I wondered, “What would it take for someone to hire me as the notary instead?”
After doing research, I picked a specific niche to service in closing new construction home loans. From there, I formed my business around how I could differentiate myself within this already specific niche. You see, it’s all about the details within the details. It’s all about where you can make yourself the expert voice.
My sales pitch was basic: “Just hire me and I can help you with everything you need.”
For example, athletic shoes aren’t a new market. So don’t be the person who just sells athletic shoes. Be the person who knows the best shoes for point guards to wear. Don’t be the person who just sells mobile phones. Be the person who knows the best mobile phone for teachers to use. That’s the power of finding your niche.
Even though home building was already a specific marketplace, I still had competition. There were other notaries more established than I was. So the next question I had to ask myself was: “How can I set myself apart from the competition?” I took inventory of my experience through exploratory questions: What do I do best? More importantly, what do I know best?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had vast experience in every other aspect of the real estate transaction process. So much so, I started selling my expertise in the marketplace. I wasn’t just your dime-a-dozen notary. I became a one-person signing process. I could answer a wide variety of questions raised by the buyer (or buyers) about the process, freeing the escrow officer to allocate their precious time to other aspects of the deal. By hiring me for my expertise, they could simplify their lives.
My sales pitch was basic: “Just hire me and I can help you with everything you need.” I firmly established the “why” for me, but the “why” for home buyers didn’t seem quite right to succeed long term.
Identify Your Unique Value
So I kept digging, kept searching for the treasure within my own business structure, and really looked at the whole home-buying process. Even if you think you know everything about your market, look again. Remember, treasures don’t sit on the surface.
When I looked again, I learned the only time a buyer sits down with any representative to talk about escrow, apart from their real estate agent, was during the closing process. Someone in my position was literally the one person a buyer would sit down with for over an hour to decide whether they should sign their life away on the biggest purchase they will probably ever make. Talk about a big deal!
After talking through my thought process with the escrow office, they understood the advantage in having me handle the issues arising during the entire escrow process. I could explain everything to the buyer, help them truly understand all the complex paperwork. I made people actually read the documents. In fact, I made myself read the documents of the loan package. I couldn’t justify asking someone to sign a document I myself hadn’t read.
My purpose — and my value — was to make sure the entire process wasn’t a headache for the escrow office or the buyer by ensuring we were all literally on the same page. So when the client went home, and their family and friends asked them how the closing went, instead of them saying the usual, “It was pretty mind-numbing and I just wanted to be done with it,” my goal was for them to be able to smile and say, “It was actually pretty easy and enlightening thanks to Mike.”
Keep an Entrepreneurial Mindset
I took this same concept with me when I went to work later on for a Fortune 500 company. In fact, my little notary business was the exact reason they wanted me. Once I started, I created a team of notaries, recorded training videos for them and made sure when the time came we could offer those same services to our customers.
As a hunter, you may never even see a 20-point buck for years, but the more prevalent eight-point and 10-pointers will prepare you for the day the big buck decides to show up. In other words, the entrepreneurial mindset from my notary business opened doors and prepared me for bigger opportunities down the road. That’s why it matters now what you do with your sales business. You never know what’s next.
Excerpted from the book Treasure Hunt: A Common-Sense Approach To Building a Successful Sales Career by Michael Hinkle. Copyright © 2024 by Michael Hinkle. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written consent of the author, except as provided by the United States of America copyright law.