Propel Your Business Forward by Avoiding These Entrepreneurial Traps

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This excerpt is adapted from “Yes, You Can Take a Day Off: Escape the Nine Traps of Growing Your Small Business” by David A. Hiatt and Susan Hance Sykes. Copyright 2021 Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.  Sandler and Sandler Training are registered service marks of Sandler Systems, Inc.

The nine entrepreneurial traps

Let’s look at the nine common entrepreneurial traps that drive business owners to the brink of burnout, and then let’s focus on the strategies that will generate the fuel needed for afterburn so you can summon the boost of energy you need to propel your business to the next level.

Trap 1: “Setting a Vision Is Just for Big Companies”

  • What is your personal vision for your life?
  • What kind of leader do you want to be?
  • What is your vision for your company?
  • What is the purpose of your organization?

These are some of the big questions, important questions that need asking and answering and they are not just for big companies. As a business owner, you have the privilege of choosing your direction. You also get to choose who, if anyone, you want to accompany you on the trip. Whether your business is just you, you and a few, or you and a huge team, your goals and dreams matter. Setting a clear vision ensures that you are moving forward with purpose.

Setting a clear vision ensures that you are moving forward with purpose.

Trap 2: “Nobody Does What I Do Better Than Me”

This is the disempowering belief that it’s faster and more efficient to do something yourself than to teach someone else how to do it. This trap manifests in the business owner working too much in the business’s day-to-day tasks without allowing sufficient, or any, time for strategic planning that is to say, working on the business. This burnout-inducing belief creates a decision bottleneck where everything lands on the owner’s desk and a culture of learned helplessness flourishes. It’s not where you want to live.

This burnout-inducing belief creates a decision bottleneck where everything lands on the owner’s desk and a culture of learned helplessness flourishes.

Trap 3: “Sales and Marketing Are Basically the Same”

This is arguably one of the most dangerous traps for a business owner. As a business owner, you must understand the difference between branding and lead generation and selling. If you aren’t generating leads, aren’t converting your fair share of leads into clients, or are somehow confusing the two roles, you will run into trouble. Knowing where you are at any given moment along the sales/marketing spectrum is a great way to ensure you’re avoiding this trap.

Trap 4: “I Should Treat Others Like I Want to Be Treated”

This trap stems from a sincere intention to be a good business owner, employer, vendor partner, and customer-centric entrepreneur. All of that is good. But those good intentions can backfire when they don’t take other people’s predispositions and preferences into account. When business leaders assume that the way they like to receive information is how everyone likes to receive information, there’s a problem. The same goes for assuming that everyone likes to deliver messages in the same way you do. You need to understand that what motivates you as a business owner is likely to be very different from what motivates your employees.

Trap 5: “Selling Is All About Relationships”

While it is true that selling does require the ability to build sincere business relationships, the purpose of a sales relationship is to conduct business. This is a professional undertaking. There is nothing wrong with being friends with your clients and prospects. People do buy from people they know, like, and trust. However, that’s only part of the equation. People also want to be heard and understood. That requires great listening and questioning skills, combined with guts. It takes guts to risk asking tough questions. Posing tough questions is essential for making sure that your prospects feel heard and understood and for making sure you have the right solution in place, now and in the future.

Trap 6: “Ours Is Better, and That’s All That Matters”

This trap is the belief that since you have a great idea, product, or service, everyone will see the obvious benefits to working with you and the market will seek you out. When business owners fall into the trap of believing that the only thing that matters is being “better,” they often find themselves exhausted after a couple of years of trying to prove it to people. Your job as a business owner is not to convince others that your product or service is better. Your job is to help your prospects self-discover why they think what you are offering will solve their unique problems. This trap is an extremely common challenge for entrepreneurs launching startups.

Trap 7: “We Don’t Have to Sell Because People Call Us”

Also known as the “referral only” trap, this trap holds that all problems can be solved with branding, inbound leads, and referrals. All of these are important for business growth. But it is likely that a person-to-person sales process needs to be part of the picture. A referral certainly helps to build the “know, like, and trust” factor, but there’s more to sales than that. You may know, like, and trust your 14-year-old, but no matter how good their “sales pitch,” you’re not going to give them the keys to the car.

Trap 8: “I’m Not a Natural-Born Salesperson”

The “I’m Not a Natural-Born Salesperson” trap stems from a negative belief about sales and the stereotypical view that a good salesperson is always talkative and outgoing. In fact, a salesperson who talks more than they listen is a liability. Listening and building an atmosphere of trust and comfort are skills that can be learned. It is true that some behaviors are more natural to some than to others. Just as a person is not born an engineer, lawyer, or accountant, neither is anyone a “natural-born” salesperson. You can cultivate the skills needed.

Trap 9: “Sales Is Just a Numbers Game”

This is the belief that if one creates enough activity, i.e., the right number of outreaches, conversations, and proposals, eventually a sale will close. This is only partially true. The right activity executed poorly or with a “this will never work” mindset will yield poor results. The wrong mindset can generate a snowball effect that leads to crises of morale and cash flow.

(For fleshed-out descriptions of the traps, purchase the book below.)

“Yes, You Can Take a Day Off” is available now and can be purchased below via StartupNation.com.

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