The first people you sell to are the ones who work for you.
For a very brief moment a bajillion years ago I was an office manager at a very new marketing startup.
The CEO had just signed the lease for the office. It smelled like dust and packing tape. There was no furniture yet besides a folding table and chairs, but one wall was lined with boxes of swag, so there was that.
“As our office manager, you’ll be responsible for our office,” said the CEO, tossing me a foam stress ball with the new company’s logo printed on it. “You’ll provide any administrative support we need.”
“Okay,” I said, giving my new swag an obligatory squeeze. “And who will I be working with?”
“You’ll report to the Manager. She’ll mostly be telling you what to do.” he said, opening another box. “Do you like hoodies?” It didn’t happen exactly like that, but it may as well have.
I met the Manager. “The CEO says you have a lot of drive and ideas,” she said. “That’s great. You should always feel free to tell me about any ideas you have, so I can bring them to the CEO."
“Okay,” I said, “that’s great, because I have some ideas about how we can be more productive and I’d like to work my way up in the company.”
“That’s nice,” said the Manager. “Here, I have some papers for you to shuffle.” It didn’t happen exactly like that, but it may as well have.
Some time later the Manager came by my desk. “I’d like you to start making some cold calls to prospective customers,” she said. “Here’s a list.”
“Isn’t that more in the sales teams' wheelhouse?” I asked. “I’m not very interested in being a salesperson and making cold calls.”
“Oh, don’t worry, they aren’t really cold calls. They’re more like a non-zero-probability-of-warmth calls,” said the Manager.
“Did you get my email about making our onboarding process more efficient?” I asked. “I can start working on that if you think it makes sense.”
“Sure,” said the Manager, leaving the call list on my desk.
Most of the logo had worn off my company stress ball when I went to see the CEO. “I have some concerns about making these cold calls.” I said.
“Oh?” said the CEO, looking up from a mug of coffee with the company logo printed on it. “What’s that?”
“Shouldn’t the sales team be doing this? I imagine they’d be better at it, having had sales training.”
“Oh, sure,” said the CEO. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to the sales team.”
“…Do we even have a sales team?” I asked.
“Oh, excuse me, I have a phone call.” said the CEO, waving me out of his office.
On my last day there, I went to see the Manager. “I don’t feel I’m making much of an impact here,” I said, “I’ve decided to resign.”
“That’s fine,” said the Manager, “because the CEO wants to fire you anyway.”
“Oh,” I said, surprised. “What for?”
“What for?” she said, surprised. “For what you said. You didn’t make any cold calls.”
It didn’t happen exactly like that, but it may as well have.