Nothing Happens Until Someone Sells Something

February 7, 2020

by Tom Galisano

Entrepreneurs usually have a passion for what they sell, but often have less of an appetite for actually doing the selling themselves. In my book Built, Not Born: A Self-Made Billionaire’s No-Nonsense Guide for Entrepreneurs, I talk about the fundamental truth that nothing happens in a company until someone sells something. That may seem obvious; what is less obvious though is that the best person to do that selling is the entrepreneur themself, at least at the beginning. When I started Paychex, it was just me and an office manager so if I hadn’t got out there and done the selling myself, we’d have gone broke pretty quickly.

Built Not Born

Often, entrepreneurs get someone else to do the selling right from the get-go and I think that’s a mistake. The lessons you learn by going out into the field and actually talking to customers are invaluable. It may be a baptism of fire, but it’s necessary if you are going to get the unvarnished truth about what you are selling.

Until you get out there and attempt to sell your product yourself, you have no idea how tough it’s going to be to get people to commit to making a purchase.

Only then will you hear what objections customers have and how they compare what you sell to what your competitors offer. You will also learn what motivates your potential customer base.

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to overestimate the salability of their products or services. When I receive sales projections for the businesses I am asked to invest in, I am sometimes amazed by how unrealistic they are. This tells me they have not done the necessary groundwork to establish what real customers actually think about what they are offering.

I talked about passion earlier; if you are an entrepreneur, no one has more passion for your business than you and there’s no one better than you to show your salespeople how best to make sales to your customers. The most effective way to train your sales managers and salespeople is to have been on the frontline doing it yourself. When I used to talk to my salespeople at Paychex about selling our payroll services, I knew firsthand what I was talking about. I knew what prospects were likely to say—what they liked and didn’t like about our services. I knew their objections and knew how to overcome them. More than that I’d built an intimate relationship with them and fully understood their needs. In short, I knew how to sell to them, and I knew how to market to them.

That experience is priceless. It’s imperative you personally learn to sell your wares and how to be productive at it. My advice to all new business owners is to be your company’s first salesperson and use the knowledge you gain to build a realistic sales strategy for your company based on hard facts, not wishful thinking.


Tom Golisano is Founder and Chairman of Paychex which he started with just $3,000 and a much-abused credit card. Today the company has a market value of $28 billion, employs more than 15,500 people and services over 670,000 customers. Tom’s book Built Not Born will be available from Harper Collins Leadership in February 2020.