As part of the Duke I&E Certificate, alumni entrepreneurs have the opportunity to serve as mentors for students in their courses. Some of them have offered to be guest bloggers for us! Read more for their perspectives and expertise on being innovators & entrepreneurs in the world beyond Duke. Today’s post is by Haley Lynn Gray, from The Leadership Girl.

Many times when an entrepreneur is in the beginning stages of starting a business they have great visions and ideas. They get off to a good start, and they focus very hard on building the “perfect” product that they just know someone will want to buy. But they tend to lose sight of something very important. Ironically, what they lose sight of is the importance of actually selling their products or services once they’ve started the business. So they give very little thought to what it will take to build a marketing and sales team and get things sold.  

You can start a company with a fantastic idea, but if you can’t sell it, you will fail. You can start with a mediocre idea, but if you can sell it, you will dominate the world around you.  Marketing is a very different animal now than it was a few years ago. Your customers want a story to go along with your small business, and you’re going to need a good communication strategy so they’ll feel good about buying from you.  

When I’m judging startup teams, I see marketing added on as a late afterthought, when instead, it should be integral to the entire company. Everyone needs to be marketing and selling rather than just relying on a sales team to take care of it for them. Many entrepreneurs starting out are surprised by how hard it is to find and hire the right sales people for their team. Instead, they should hire themselves as their first sales team, and build out from there. When people can build a relationship with them, it becomes much easier to get those sales and grow their business. That is possibly the most important job that the leaders in the organization will have — selling it to everyone who will listen.  

If you can master sales, you will grow your business and massively improve your chances of success. Give the attention to your sales organization that it deserves!


Haley Lynn Gray is CEO and founder of Leadership Girl, a graduate of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and a serial entrepreneur. She is also a mom of four and Girl Scout Leader. Haley is passionate about helping women achieve their potential, and empowers them to overcome obstacles in leadership positions and entrepreneurial ventures.