I have never worked a day in my life without selling.
If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard”
– Estée Lauder (Josephine Esther Mentzer), Businesswoman, Cosmetic Company Co-founder.
Who owns the selling function at your company? Would you say it’s a particular person, or maybe a team? Would you say it’s you?
If you answer any of those things, you’re wrong. Well, you might be right—but you’re doing it wrong. Sales shouldn’t be the sole job of just one person in the company. If you’re doing it right, sales should be driven by everyone in the company. Whether it’s going to pitch clients, set up marketing campaigns or sales funnels, or just interfacing with suppliers or partners or even employees, everyone in your organization should be not just empowered to sell, but doing it naturally. That is the secret of building a truly great company.
Take Stripe, for example. Stripe makes a set of tools that make it easy for website developers to charge money from their customers. Hardly revolutionary, right? At first glance, it hardly seems evident that every engineer, every designer, every HR person at Stripe is not only equipped to sell Stripe, but is actually actively doing it day to day.
Yet that is what happens. Stripe is not only one of the most successful technology startups—if it were public, it would be worth more than Goldman Sachs—but it is universally adored. It’s the one company everyone in tech wants to work at. Yet they make “infrastructure”, which is high on the list of the most boring words ever. How do they do it?
The secret is their extremely strong mission and the culture they have built around it. Their mission? To increase the GDP of the internet. If that’s not ambitious, I don’t know what is. As a result, they draw to them all the internet nerds and people who believe what they believe: That the internet should power more of our lives and our economies. Many of those people are extremely smart and driven. But that still doesn’t explain how they get everyone in their organization constantly sell.
They can achieve that because of the unique culture they have created. It starts with picking the right people—people who are kind, smart, and genuinely warm and inspiring to others. Then they match it with a culture of collaboration and innovation that allows them to speed up the delay between receiving feedback from customers and executing a solution, called the OODA loop.
Combine the mission, people, and culture together, and you get an organization that is primed to constantly sell not only its products but sell its own story and mission, and inspire admiration far and wide. If you haven’t realized yet, this is the “good” kind of selling—the kind where people don’t even realize they’re being sold to.
So how can you replicate this in your organization? You don’t need to be a couple of Irish super-geniuses like Stripe’s founders to do it. Here are the concrete steps you can take right now to create a company that sells itself the same way Stripe does:
- Start with the why. Dig deep and figure out what overarching mission your company can be devoted to. Then ask the hard questions: Are you actually contributing much to that? Stripe’s mission works because it is believable. You can’t just make up a mission statement, slap it on your website, and expect it to get the same results. No: You need to embody this mission. If there are activities you’re engaged in that don’t serve it, take a close look at them to see how you could change them so that they do serve your mission.
- Communicate constantly about why your mission is a good thing. Stripe’s “increasing the GDP of the internet” is effective partially because they have done such a good job of making sure that every single employee understands not only how Stripe does that, but why it is desirable for society as a whole. Their reasoning is that if the internet has more GDP, life will be easier and more efficient, and economies will grow faster and be less wasteful.
- People who don’t clearly get and align with the mission, get rid of them. Simple as that. People who do, hire them.
If you do, you’ll create the kind of company that sells itself—because everyone in it is selling, all the time.
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