Sales Training for Entrepreneurs & SMEs

Essential Sales Training for Entrepreneurs That Want Rapid Growth

Reading Time: 11 minutes

1. Sales Courses for Entrepreneurs & SMEs

We provide a range of sales training for entrepreneurs, coaching and specialised sales support for Startups and SMEs throughout the UK.

The courses are both Open in that anyone can attend or they are available for delivery Inhouse where only your employees will attend.

This last option allows us the opportunity to customise each session to the circumstances and context of your business.

We also run an online Exec Sales Coaching programme for CEO’s and SME leaders where we provide 1-2-1 coaching and support to help you grow and scale your business.

Sales Training Courses for Entrepreneurs
Sales Training for Entrepreneurs

Dates and pricing for all our Sales Training for Entrepreneurs is available on the Sales Training Programmes page.

Back to Table of Contents

2. The Stress of Selling for Entrepreneurs

Regardless of the product or service, every Entrepreneur will at some stage have to sell. In many cases, Entrepreneurs don’t believe they can sell, however, all of them have already successfully sold their concept or ideas at Start-Up Schools, or Incubators, or Investment Competitions and even to Equity Investors who placed their faith in them. These Entrepreneurs can and do sell already, however when they move into the hard-fought arena of customer sales things can become more difficult.

Selling as a start-up is rarely easy and as the dream of going Viral starts to fade and the reality of years of blood, sweat and toil sets in, it’s no wonder a study from University of San Francisco shows 49% of Entrepreneurs will suffer from at least one form of mental illness in their life. Entrepreneurs are:

  • Twice as likely to suffer from depression
  • Six times more likely to suffer from ADHD
  • Three times more likely to suffer from substance abuse
  • 10 times more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder
  • Twice as likely to have a psychiatric hospitalisation
  • Twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts

Make no mistake, the role of the Entrepreneur or SME Leader is long, hard and stressful.

Despite this, in the UK 660,000 new companies are registered every year. The UK is a nation of Entrepreneurs yet the reality is that:

20% of these businesses will close within the first 12 months of trading

60% of these businesses will go under within the first three years

80% failure rate within 3 years.

Or to put it another way, 4 out of 5 Start-ups will be out of business within 3 years.

There are several reasons why businesses fail such as insufficient capital, the technology may be unproven, and or overtaken, or legal issues with patents and Human Resources can cause problems, however, Sales and the lack of growth is an area where Entrepreneurs and Start-ups struggle the most.

The struggle for sales and revenues puts negative pressure on the leadership team which can influence decision making, leadership styles and relationships both at work and at home. Sales will not fix everything but when you have a consistent flow of revenue, at the very least, it’s one thing less to worry about.

So what can be done to help Entrepreneurs sell more and reduce the mental burden on themselves, their team and their family?

Back to Table of Contents

3. The Two Main Stages of Entrepreneurial Sales

Our Sales Training for Entrepreneurs not only covers Professional Selling, it helps you put the structure, systems and processes in place for your business to grow consistently and sustainably.

Pre-Revenue Sales

Most Start-Ups are familiar with the phrase Pre-Revenue which is the time before money is coming in from customers. This doesn’t mean the company is in profit yet, however, it’s a positive sign as at least some customers have decided to invest in the solution.  

Despite the name Pre-Revenue this is an important sales time as the Entrepreneur needs to start the sales process. With most B2B Sales Cycles lasting 3-9 months and research from Gartner showing the average B2B deal has 6-10 decision makers this is a critical time to build the sales pipeline.

This is a difficult time for the Entrepreneur as the feedback coming back into the business is usually not all positive and the built-in Confirmation Bias every Entrepreneur has will urge the Entrepreneur to follow their instincts on what the final solution should be and ignore the feedback.
At this stage in the business the Entrepreneur should:

  1. Take on board and adopt feedback from the early-stage customers to increase the chance of repeat sales.
  2. Include the feedback from potential customers and try to accommodate their needs.
  3. Welcome feedback from colleagues in sales and marketing and provide a sense of inclusion so they feel valued and have a voice in the business.

The danger with all the points above is that customers can send you down a dead-end, and even when customers buy, it can be a false positive. Early-stage customers may demand additional features that increase costs and cause delays in production, so the Entrepreneur has to balance the need for revenue with the need to stick to the original MVP [Minimum Viable Product]. They need to keep asking themselves, “Is this part of the Sales Plan or is it taking us off course?” There may well be a requirement to go off course if the customer is going to provide much-needed revenue but often the customer simply distracts the Start-up for 3-6 months and ends up buying nothing.

To compound the difficulties that an Entrepreneur faces at some stage they may have to consider pivoting. Giving up on the original value proposition and moving to something similar or different.  

Many Entrepreneurs struggle with pivoting because they perceive the pivot as admitting they had made a mistake. For me, it’s a natural evolution and something to be proud of.

Pivoting is not something new in-fact its been around for years and there are some great examples such as:


Twitter started life as a place for users to find and subscribe to podcasts called Odeo but struggled as Apples iTunes took off and was difficult to compete with.  


Suzuki started as an industrial sewing machine manufacturing company in 1909 however due to a drop in demand after World War 2 they pivoted and launched their first motorcycle in 1952.


William Wrigley started as a soap salesman and gave away free gum with every purchase. Unfortunately, the soap wasn’t that good but his customers loved the gum so he developed his brands of Juicy Fruit, Spearmint and Doublemint.

The Value Proposition is never proven until you have a flow of happy and satisfied, repeat customers. Even then it’s easy to allow sales success to distract the Entrepreneur from the original business plan.  

The best way to stay on track is to find a Mentor who the Entrepreneur respects and who will act as a sounding board. There are many organisations worldwide such as Chambers of Commerce who will provide Mentoring services and if not simply ask your personal business network for recommendations. 

Post Revenue Sales

Most Entrepreneurs cover many of the different roles within a business such as Product Manager, R & D, Book Keeping, Human Resources, Production and Sales & Marketing which makes time management critical. Every Human Being has a Comfort Zone which is nothing to be ashamed of however for many Entrepreneurs Sales & Marketing is outside that comfort zone so they will naturally avoid it. Add in the fact that Sales is not a profession that provides instant gratification, more often than not Sales can take weeks, months and even years of hard work it’s easy to see why Entrepreneurs get demotivated when it comes to sales.

Sales Training for Entrepreneurs & SMEs
Sales Training for Entrepreneurs & SMEs

What often works best for Entrepreneurs is to create and follow the Balanced Scorecard from Harvard. Whilst all the examples of companies using the Balanced Scorecard are of large corporations like Starbucks, Tesco and Volkswagen it is possible to apply the same principles to a small Start-Up as you can see below.

The main advantage of the scorecard is that it constantly reminds and prompts the Entrepreneur to balance their time out between the four main areas of the business. There will be times when the Entrepreneur needs to focus more on one area than another however this can never be permanent. Our Recommendation would be to outsource Book Keeping and Finance to a professional contractor who will provide monthly management accounts.

Where possible delegate the legal compliance side of the People equation to an expert outside contractor to free up time. It’s not possible to delegate all the responsibility in the People Quadrant as the Entrepreneur will still need to coach and train the team where applicable.

As the business now has a proven Value proposition they can spend less time on their product and the production of the product and more time on Sales. As a minimum at this time, the Entrepreneur should spend 8 hours per week on sales campaigns that will drive short term revenue [less than 90 days] and 8 hours per week on the Sales Strategy which should provide the long term revenue in circa 9 months. Yes in B2B Sales it may take that long or even longer win a purchase order from a prospective client.

As the Startup grows and builds out the wider team, Scorecards are a great way to:

  • Align the day to day sales activities with the companies overall sales growth strategy?
  • Keep the Salespeople focused on the right type of sales activities and hold them accountable to these activities?
  • Provide an objective way to measure the sales performance and activities of our salespeople?
  • Align the remuneration of salespeople with the right sales activities that support the sales strategy?
  • Provide an objective way to report sales performance so we can identify skills gaps within sales management and the sales team?

In terms of sales training for entrepreneurs, there are a myriad of places to start however it can be difficult to understand the best place to start and focus your sales efforts, especially as the business may have limited sales data to rely on.

It’s also easy to get distracted by Social Media and Marketing that delivers no tangible results but does provide “Brand Awareness”. In many cases, the business will go bust before the Brand Awareness generates real sales leads that provide revenue. Brand Awareness is important however it’s more often used as an excuse when marketing campaigns are not delivering qualified sales leads. As a Startup the business needs sales and this must be the priority.

We recommend a very simple two-pronged approach to sales, one that drives revenue in the short term via Sales Campaigns and the second that drives revenue in the long term via a simple Sales Strategy. The Sales Campaigns and are focussed on one product or service which allows for a much more targeted approach than generic marketing and the Sales Strategy is a longer Strategy to dominate the Google search engine.

Back to Table of Contents

4. A Different Type of Sales Strategy

Many companies create or pay an Agency to create, a Marketing Plan that is 40 -50 pages long with Competitor Analysis, Market Analysis, SWOT and PEST Analysis. These things are important however many of these should have been undertaken as part of the original business plan. Furthermore, they will segment and target customer groups, have Brand Development and Communications Strategies, and will, of course, include Social Media.

These plans are never implemented because they are too big, too long, and too complicated for an established business let alone a Startup to implement. Lastly, nearly every Marketing plan will include some form of paid promotion where new leads are acquired via Facebook ads, Google PPC or some other short term and expensive tactic. Ads have their place but they can be expensive and are tactical, not strategic.

The biggest challenge for every entrepreneur is time, or rather the lack of it and when the marketing strategy includes, for example, the different Social Media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram most Entrepreneurs are spread too thin and end up doing 3 channels badly rather than mastering their market segment in one channel.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This approach to selling does not work for 4 out of 5 companies, numerous studies show this, so we think it’s time for something radically different.

Sales Training for Entrepreneurs & SMEs
Sales Training for Entrepreneurs & SMEs

Back to Table of Contents

5. Sales Strategy vs Sales Tactics

The dictionary defines strategy as:  

“a detailed plan for achieving success in situations such as war, politics, business, industry, or sport, or the skill of planning for such situations”.

Tactics are however the methods that we use to achieve the objectives of the plan. There is normally one Strategy however it may include many tactics to achieve the objectives in the plan.  

As an example, one client decided on a Sales Strategy that would achieve closer and deeper relationships with their customers. The tactics they employed was to train the Salespeople on how to build greater rapport. Another tactic they implemented was to create communication plans for the salespeople so they could track and measure all the contacts between the salespeople and the customers. Another tactic was to measure Customer Satisfaction via their Net Promoter Scores.

Sales Tactics are important but they will be less effective if they are not part of an overall Strategic Sales Plan.

Social Media is a Tactic, Sales Training for Entrepreneurs is a Tactic, Conferences & Events are a tactic and yes they can all deliver improvements and results, however, those results would be magnified if they were part of an overall Sales Strategy.

Back to Table of Contents

6. Sales Campaigns for Startups and SMEs

Sales Campaigns are a short term tactical play to generate revenue within 30 – 90 days. These are important as they form part of the overall sales strategy but are accelerated and targeted. Whilst the Sales Strategy is for the many, Sales Campaigns target the few, but albeit high-value prospects.

These campaigns should be centred around one product or service and are largely outbound by nature. It would be difficult to scale a business with campaigns alone however they should provide a faster and more targeted route to market and revenue than the Sales Plan which by definition will take 9-12 months.

Like everything else in the business, in order to scale it’s best to systemise the campaign process and the example below shows a 9 step process that can be completed in 90 days. This process is end to end which means that Account Retention and growth is built in before customer acquisition. This approach of “starting with the end in mind” ensures the right prospects are targeted and the maximum return from customer lifetime value.

Sales Campaigns are great learning tools as people learn more by doing than in a classroom environment. As the campaigns roll out it’s important to capture all the information not just in terms of results but in terms of “How To” so that skills can be transferred and you can create the company’s Sales Playbook.

Back to Table of Contents

7. Long Term Sales Strategy

One of the challenges with Sales Strategies is that they can seem complicated and almost a black art when they shouldn’t be.  

In our opinion, the best Sales Strategy is 12 months long, which can be viewed as short, however, because of changes in technology and the market your Strategy should be agile and whilst it might not change substantially over 12 months, it may need refining.  

The Long Term sales strategy below is applicable for every business unless you have the one product in the world that buyers do not search for on Google.  

OBJECTIVE – the outcome we want

Create a consistent flow of qualified sales leads into the business

STRATEGY – how we will achieve our outcome

We will earn a place on the first page of Google for 20 key phrases that our target audience, with buying intent, is actively searching for.

SALES PLAN – the roadmap with milestones to achieve our goals

We will create compelling USER FIRST content that is optimised for page 1 of Google.

Search Google for “Exec Sales Coaching

and see for yourself how we get on Page 1 of Google

It’s not a one off either, you can search for “Online Sales Coach”, “Online Sales Coaching”, “Enterprise Sales Training”, “Grow Sales Coaching Model” and many more.

Yes getting to the first page of Google is not easy but the rewards far outweigh the effort. The first page of Google will not get you more Likes, Retweets or Lovehearts which are great for the ego, but rarely deliver any revenue. Social Media does have a place but for a Startup, it can be more of a distraction. In many cases, if done properly the first page of Google will deliver more qualified sales leads than the business can deal with. These are leads that are already pre-qualified and part-sold on your brand and your solutions which means they are much easier to convert.Β Β 

Back to Table of Contents

8. How do You get to the first page of Google?

Getting to the first page of Google is difficult, time-consuming [at least for the first 12 months] and requires consistency, dedication and a lot of research. We receive 10 emails a week in our Spam folder promising Page 1 of Google and we immediately delete them, so why would your business get to the first page of Google? 

As of 2020, there are 600-million blogs on the internet with Tumblr being the largest blogging platform, with more than 488.1 million blogs. WordPress gets about 77.8 million every month and other CMS toolsβ€”close to 2.5 million.

It’s a difficult and crowded space with 2 million blog posts being published every day which immediately makes every Entrepreneur think their blog will never be found and simply disappear into cyberspace the minute they hit the publish button.

The reality is your website will never be found if you don’t know and understand what the Google Algorithm is not only looking for, but how you can present your content in a way that makes it easier to be found, read and promoted by Google.  

Why You Can Get Listed on Page 1

  1. Rather than thinking this is impossible if you think about it there are already hundreds of thousands of companies who are on page 1 of Google every minute of every day. So it is possible.
  1. All the research, statistics, case studies and information that you require to get to Page 1 has already been done and the information is on the internet for free. You just need to know where to look and then apply the processes to your own business.
  1. All the research, statistics, case studies and information that you require to get to Page 1 has already been done and the information is on the internet for free. You just need to know where to look and then apply the processes to your own business.
Selling System for Entrepreneurs & SMEs
Sales Training for Entrepreneurs & SMEs

This Strategic Sales Plan will provide a consistent flow of leads between 9 and 12 months from the start which cannot be short-circuited as the Google Algorithm takes time to find and trust your website and content.  

Back to Table of Contents

To learn more about how to Validate your Value Proposition check out 8 Steps to Prove Your Value Proposition.

Discover more about how our Sales Training for Entrepreneurs to helps them scale their business at How to Scale a Business Super FAST.

Share this page

Verkooptraining nederlands

Author Bio

Iain Swanston has spent over 30 years in B2B sales selling, training and leading teams both domestically and internationally.Β  In addition he serves as an Associate at Strathclyde University Business School where he has delivered the sales content for the Masters in Entrepreneurship since 2015.

Related Posts