When Did Sales Become Unsexy?
Vann Alexandra Daly is a Miami-born, New York-based crowdfunding producer who gives life to art she believes in. Alex was recently named the “crowdsourceress” for her expertise in crowdfunding. Over the course of a year, Alex has raised millions of dollars for clients including Oscar and Emmy-nominated filmmakers and Neil Young. She has served on panels at distinguished film festivals and universities and consults Knight Foundation art grantees. In addition to her crowdfunding successes, Alex is a producer for the feature length documentary Cocaine Prison, which has received support from the Macarthur Foundation, Cannes Film Festival’s Fonds Sud Cinema, Sundance Documentary Fund, Tribeca Latin America Fund, Bertha BritDoc Journalism Award, and more. Her other films have been selected by the world’s most prestigious festivals including Sundance and Tribeca.
Sleazy, ugly, and gross are all words that come to mind when the word sales comes up. The question is, why do we shy away from a process that is at the center of everything we do?
Sales, quite literally, is the economy—more sales equals a bigger economy. Increased sales means more jobs and booming businesses in return.
However, the sales playbook has been completely rewritten over the past two decades. Before the Internet, where did you go to learn about products? How would you know which vacuum to buy or which refrigerator was best for your apartment? The knowledge holders were salespeople. Consumer information was clenched tightly and revolved around cold calls, qualified leads, demos, mass emails, television broadcasts and radio ads. Stockbrokers were calling homes telling people a stock was exploding–people answering those calls had no easy access to the NASDAQ index or Google Finance to check whether that information was true. It began to feel predatory and all those other words, too: sleazy, ugly, gross.
In the age of information technology this dynamic has flipped entirely. Salespeople no longer hold the keys to information anymore; the consumer does. Awareness, engagement, social networks and direct marketing drive consumer loyalty. That is why people feel that crowdfunding is empowering, and sexy. At its very core crowdfunding targets these areas by giving creators direct access and allowing contributors to make informed decisions about products they are inspired to support.
Yet while crowdfunding is the new thing, the projects that are successful are the ones that use the basic sales tactics that successful salesmen have used all along. Because with crowdfunding you are still trying to sell something—contributors still need to be interested in order to donate money to your project. You’re just not knocking that contributor’s front door.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. Both parents owned their own business and now my brother runs a sales company. My brother does things "the old fashion way”—cold calling, in person meetings, and he does it very well. While my work in crowdfunding is part of a new economic wave, I still ask him questions constantly. Because even though the Internet changed everything, the fundamentals are unchanged. We will always need to be salesmen if we are looking to capitalize our businesses. It's the only way businesses will survive.
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