Everyone agrees that acquisition and sales skills are enormously important for social enterprises. But there is a lot of inner resistance to the topic of sales.
Why is that?
Firstly, because most people who work in a social enterprise want to do something good. They want to help. They want to make the world a better place.
So do I.
In doing so, many feel that taking money for helping is dirty or bad, it makes them uncomfortable or embarrassed, because actually helping or giving should be altruistic and not require anything in return, right?
Yes, there are many issues where the philanthropic approach is the right one, in disaster relief for example. But there are also many areas where the innovative power of clever social entrepreneurs is in demand, and their performance must be recognised – through payment – so that they can successfully solve social problems and scale their impact.
On the other hand, because there really are many bad salespeople. I’m sure we can all think of examples where we were talked into buying something, so that we felt the famous “buyer’s remorse” after the purchase. But it doesn’t have to be like that, or rather: it shouldn’t be like that! Good salespersons do not persuade anyone, but help their interlocutors to better understand their interests and needs by asking intelligent questions and then work out together the individual benefits of the offer accordingly, so that potential business clients and partner organisations can convince themselves. More about ethical sales can be found here.
Let’s get back to the headline: social enterprises need profits. Profits that can be reinvested in the good cause. And for that you need strong partners, strategic business clients, investors or institutional funders. These are the ones you need to acquire. Whether you call it sales or acquisition, without “selling” your idea, your solution or your product, it doesn’t work. Without profits, it is very difficult to achieve a sustainable positive social or ecological impact. In short: No margin, no mission!