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– What do you need to see in a company before you’ll invest?

– What is the main reason startups fail?

I’m not a venture capitalist but I have started and bought many companies. Some failed. Most succeeded. On a recent trip to my alma mater I stayed with friends and had the good fortune to meet their daughter who was the executive director of a VC firm in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, North Carolina area known as the Research Triangle.

I asked her the above two questions.

There has been a lot written on these questions, but I wanted to hear it first hand from someone in the trenches so to speak.

Here were her simple answers: Besides the typical requirements like a good idea and a good strategy, she needed to see a stellar sales person as a part of the team — someone with sales experience and a solid, provable track record in sales— before she would invest. And the main reason why startups fail, unsurprisingly, is not having that great salesperson.

In my article, “8 Reasons Why Startups Don’t Succeed,” I listed this (number 4 on my list of 8), developed from my years as a founding member of the Startup Founders group here in Silicon Beach. I saw a lot of fellow entrepreneurs walk in and out of the doors over many years, and it got to the point where I could tell if someone was going to “make it” after about three meetings.

On selling, I quote Steve Blank the famed Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Stanford University professor who said, “You will find no answers inside your office”. You have to “get out of the building and knock on doors”. Ah, the dreaded knocking on doors.

There are many great resources to close sales. I like, “ The Asking Formula,” by John Baker. It’s a short read, self-published and it lays out a formula to get to yes that’s simple and easy to follow. Everyone who needs to sell should read this book. I also googled, “How do I learn to sell?” My search gave me over 6 billion results. I read the first page, and honestly, there was a lot of great advice and training suggestions. And finally, I wrote an article on how I learned to sell, “Selling encyclopedias door-to-door taught me 5 crucial facts about selling.”

I do believe selling is something many people are uncomfortable with, but one that every entrepreneur needs to do. And if you think you really can’t sell, find a cofounder who can. That’s the advantage of partners; they bridge gaps in our skill sets.

Cynthia Wylie is the founder of Bloomers Island and a published children’s book author at Penguin Random House. She writes about big kid’s stuff like economics & business, too. CynthiaWylie.com

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Cynthia Wylie
Cynthia Wylie is a hard-driving entrepreneur with a successful track record. She was raised on a farm which taught her the habit of hard work from an early age. Her recent startup, Bloomers Island has become the standard bearer brand for children to live healthier lives and make healthier food choices as well as inspire in them a love of gardening and nature. She has received two patents on her seed starters, SeedPops which have been sold in over 5,000 stores in North America including Target, Nordstrom and Costco Canada. The first five books of her nine-book series have been published with Rodale Kids, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Previous companies where she was a partner/co-founder include X-Large Clothing, the seminal streetwear brand, and Maui Toys, the activity toy company recently sold to Jakks Pacific. In addition to starting and selling companies, Ms. Wylie does business consulting with The Project Consultant. She focuses on raising money, turnaround actions, and strategic and tactical planning in operations for small manufacturers. She is a founding member of the Startup Founds Group in Silicon Beach, a group designed to process issues and problems that all startups inevitably face. She started her career in Investment Banking writing private placement memorandums and developed an expertise in helping companies to raise money, including over $1 million in seed capital for her latest company. Her B.S. degree is in agriculture from Pennsylvania State University and she has an M.A. in economics from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. She is the part-owner of her family farm in Western Pennsylvania. She raised four children and loves writing, reading, learning foreign languages, and growing plants and companies.

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