Robert Kiyosaki on staging waving to the crowd showing the CASHFLOW(r) board game

The Number One Skill Every Successful Entrepreneur Must Master

Learning how to sell doesn’t start in school

I’ve been traveling through South America during this last week for a two-day seminar in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A big part of my message throughout this trip was what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

There are lots of ideas out there about what it takes to start a great business, and lots of people who are willing to teach you entrepreneurship.

Take for instance Miami Dade College. Their entrepreneurship program features “some of the region’s top business leaders.”

Can high-paid employees teach entrepreneurship?

According to the Miami Herald, “Instructors include Adriana Cisneros, CEO of Cisneros; Francesca de Quesada Covey, Head of Platform Partnerships for Facebook in Latin America; Melissa Medina, executive vice president of eMerge Americas; Sam Cohen, GM for Lyft in Florida; and Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, CEO and founder of TheVentureCity.” Of that list of business leaders, only one seems to have actually founded a company (and it’s not very old), and another is CEO of company that’s been in her family for three generations.

I’m sure they are all very nice and accomplished people who can teach the students at Miami Dade College a lot about how to manage a business—but I’m not so sure they can teach them how to start one. For the most part, they are all high-paid employees. And high-paid employees have a very different mindset than an entrepreneur.

The missing key

How do I know this? Take a look at the topics that the students will be covering. “Students will work with teams of their peers to bring ideas to life. Topics covered will include startup strategy and execution, product development, project management, digital and social media marketing, user experience design, human resources and team management and organizational development.”

Can you tell me what’s missing?

In a word: sales.

It’s my belief that the number one predictor of the success of an entrepreneur is his or her ability to sell. I’m not talking just about the ability to sell a product, which is very important. But I’m also talking about the ability to sell a vision, a team, yourself, and potential partners and deals.

Growing your team through sales

Rich dad said, “Business and investing are a team sport.” Any company that wants to scale and become successful needs to have the best players on the team. As you grow, you can’t possibly direct all areas of the company from marketing to accounting to product development. You need to find the best people to run those areas of the company for you.

But how will you attract them? You must sell them. Sell them on the mission and vision of your company. Sell them on the product roadmap you have. Sell them on your prior success. These best employees have many options, so you have to stand out in a crowd.

Getting investors through sales

Rich dad said, “If you want to be a successful capitalist, you must know how to raise capital and how to use debt to make money." When it comes to building a successful business, you must have access to Other People’s Money, or OPM.

As you grow, key players on your team will be your investors. Whether you’re looking to go down the venture capital road or wanting to raise equity from friends and family, you have to know how to sell.

When it comes to raising capital for your business, potential investors are going to be looking at four key things: the project, the partners, the numbers, and the management. Your ability to speak forcefully about those—and to overcome any objections—will determine your future. This is primarily a sales job.

Getting partners and deals through sales

The famous truism is that no person is an island unto himself or herself. Much like your team of employees and your investors, growing your partnerships in business is extremely important to your growth and success.

For instance, if you are building a software product, it is key that you find ways to partner with other people for marketing and selling your product, as well as building integrations so that your software can work well with other software offerings out there. In many cases, over half the sales of a product can come from partners.

Or if you’re in real estate development, you might need to build partnerships with owners of a construction company and with officers at a bank. The point is that you can do everything by yourself. You need good partners with whom you can make great deals that are mutually beneficial.

Once gain, in order to accomplish this, you need to have the skill set of sales. Partners, just like your employees and investors, will be buying into your mission and vision, as much as your financials. If you can’t convince them to follow you, you’re doomed to fail.

How to learn sales

When I was a young man graduating from the Merchant Marine Academy, I had two choices before me. I could get a secure job in the shipping industry making $70,000 a year for only six months work, or I could get a job with Xerox as a salesman.

My poor dad begged me to take the secure job. My rich dad told me that if I wanted to really start my own business, I should work to learn—in this case learn how to sell. I took my rich dad’s advice, and it was some of the best advice I’ve ever had.

At first, I was a terrible salesman. I was dead last each month. I thought it would be easy because I had a business degree from a prestigious university. But I learned nothing about how sales really works in college. Xerox was the true graduate program I needed in how to sell and become an entrepreneur. By the end of my time at the company, I was the top salesman, but it took a lot of work and humility to get to that point.

If you want to be a successful business owner, today is the time to focus on building your sales skills. That might mean taking a job as a salesperson and working to learn. It might also mean learning how to speak publicly through a community like Toastmasters. Or you could read books by people like Rich Dad Advisor Blair Singer, who is a master at sales.

Where you won’t learn sales is at a university, even in programs called “entrepreneurship.”

So, get selling.

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