Consider this: you need cash to roll in. That cash has to cover business expenses and then add up to give you sufficient margin for profit. So when does the cash actually come to you?
When you sell, that’s when.
And selling is not something that only salespeople do. Back in the 70s and 80s we all knew what to expect when we heard the word “salesperson”. It usually meant a high-pressure pitch, maybe even someone ringing our doorbell or interrupting our dinnertime with a phone call.
But these days, functional boundaries in business have long disappeared – it’s not just the tie wearing, bag carrying, perennially smiling “salesforce” that is tasked with selling.
If you’re an entrepreneur, small business or solo-startup, you have to take up this job yourself. Your job has become multi-faceted and you’re the one responsible not just for selling your products and services but also for selling yourself as the face of your business.
Now, you may have no background in sales, you may not be predisposed to the “art” of selling, you may even detest the “idea” selling, but sell you must!
Marketing and selling are inseparable parts of each member of an organization and the “selling” of a product or service begins as early as the day it is conceptualized. So business owners set out on their own with respectable products and services (sometimes even great products and services) to try to generate leads. They call up strangers, meet them in person and try to pitch.
Days, weeks, and months go by and nothing happens.
No sale. No cash. Everything falls apart. Meticulous industry analysis and game plans unravel.
Companies with funding recruit salespeople for the hard job of getting to customers. The result? It still falls apart. How is it that sales don’t happen the way they were expected? Why do business owners and salespeople suffer from “lack of sales?” Why is it so hard to sell?
Let’s explore some of the most unforgiving faux pas entrepreneurs and small business salespeople commit and look at some ways that you can rise above them and start bringing in more business.
Falling Short On Volume Of Activity
Professionals involved in sales often wonder:
“Why don’t I sell enough to make some serious money?”
“Why am I not able to meet my targets?”
“Is it about me? The product? The economy?”
It’s almost never about the company, brand, product, or service; it’s almost always about you.
You don’t sell enough because you don’t have enough volume of activity.
Where are your numbers? If you had to meet 10 new prospects a day for at least one of them to convert, are you really meeting 10 strangers a day.
It’s hard just to meet 10 people every single day, let alone convince and convert them. On top of that, you have problems with logistics, wasted time waiting, and then the much-dreaded rejections. There are only 24 hours in a day, in spite of what Tim Ferriss thinks. So what’s the solution?
You do have friends: tools, streamlining and processes.
There are too many tools to cover here, but suffice it to say that with a little bit of research and trial-and-error, you can find tools to support your sales efforts, including everything from to-do lists to CRMs and contact managers. Skip the sticky notes. Make friends with technology and be sure that you’re organizing your efforts so that you know where your prospects are in your pipeline and what your next action steps should be.
It also pays to have a process for selling. Figure out the most efficient way to prospect, meet and convert.
There’s nothing wrong with coming up with a basic script that you can follow – not one of those fill-in-the-blank scripts that you read word for word, but a general structure for how you will approach your potential customers. That may include an initial meet-and-greet, a questionnaire, or a simple exchange of contact details. (Be sure to have a process for how you organize contact details, too!)
Finally, streamline everything by figuring out where you can cut down the seconds, what processes you can automate, and what activities you can simply eliminate. Just because you’ve always met a prospect for a two-hour coffee doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it that way forever. The internet is also a tool. You’ve got online meetings and video chats at your disposal. No need to travel the country, bag in hand anymore!
Examine each pitch you make – after you make it – to look for holes and ways to improve. Did your prospect’s eyes glaze over during your long-winded story about your last award? Did you waste a lot of time talking about features that didn’t speak to your prospect’s real needs?
Review, refine and perfect. It may take years but with practice and analysis you will find ways to prospect more and spend less time doing it.
Is Prospect Information Available? Yes. What Are You Doing About It? Nothing.
This is the digital age and almost everyone has some sort of online presence. Some prospects are hyperactive on social media. They go all out and are everywhere you look – they create profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, you name it. Some are inclined towards writing and have a blog of their own. You just have to look for them.
Even if they aren’t so very obvious, you can be sure they are online somewhere, having conversations on forums or Q&A sites. Are your customers foodies? They could be complaining about terrible restaurant service on Yelp. Are they website administrators? They could be waxing eloquent on hosting providers at Who Is Hosting This. Are they adventure aficionados? They could be discussing the outdoors at TripAdvisor. You get the drift…
They could be doing nothing but playing Farmville on Facebook.
Once you dig it out, there’s an abundance of information on your prospects. Immerse yourself in it. What do they like? What or who do they talk about? What are their interests? What frustrates them? Where do they live? What might be their income level?
Too many salespeople don’t take time out to peruse this information before touching base with their prospects. Now, that’s unforgivable.
Hard-core “sales” used to be done that way, but if you jump into selling your stuff, however God-given you may think it to be, without learning what your potential customers want, you’ll soon turn into an Ambot. Pain motivates people more than pleasure. Understand where your customers’ pain points are. Genuinely try to soothe them. Business will follow.
If they don’t have a pain point, cater to their pleasure point. If there isn’t a pleasure point, create one. How do you do this? Try small talk. For once, stop being a sales bot and have a human-to-human interaction. Even if you didn’t create a sale, you just created a brand.
Long gone are the days when you had to dig through a telephone directory to call up complete strangers. With all that information available, is anyone really a stranger?
Not Connecting With The Customer
While you meet those ten people on your list, are you doing everything that you ought to do? Most entrepreneurs and sales professionals aren’t.
Some salespeople launch into a pitch right away. Entrepreneurs sometimes commence drawn-out conversations about the “startup story” or exhibit their unbridled passion without identifying with the person they’re trying to sell to.
When you sell, you might be tempted to talk about how radical, gravity defying, and out of the world your product or service is. But with all due respect, your customers really don’t care. As Mike Myatt over at Forbes said, if you want to increase your revenue, stop selling.
Customers care about themselves. You care about you. Yet, because you are on the receiving end (or the gainful end) of the transaction (money-wise), you should plug the temptation to keep selling and let your customers be the center of attention as they pour their hearts out, with their thoughts, opinions, stories, questions, or answers to your questions. When you listen before you speak, that’s the start of doing it right.
You can then be sure your body language is conducive to building a positive relationship. You don’t need to be a psychologist to do that. Start with smiling more often. Put away your smartphone and bring out the smart you. Simply align your body congenially, at a comfortable distance, from your prospect. Be friendly in general – make sure you’re not unconsciously intimidating or pressurizing them.
Ask the right questions, let customers answer, ask more questions, lead the conversation into a problem-solving mode. Finally, when it feels right or when the customer asks for it, you talk about how your products or service can make their life better.
Giving Up On The Non-Sale Transactions
So, you did all that you had to do: found out a lot about your customer, met her in person, and asked her questions. She gave you the answers. She then vented out her frustration and explained what her problem is. You showed her exactly how you can help.
But not every customer buys.
She might not be able to buy – maybe because she doesn’t have the right approvals. Perhaps the competitor has a better deal. It could be that the time just isn’t right.
What do you do? If you’re like most salespeople or business owners, you’d walk out.
Walking out is not an option in sales. There is always the possibility that if a person isn’t ready to buy now, they may be ready later. For this, you need a systematic way to stay on their radar. You need to be ready with the hammer when the iron is hot.
There are at least two ways to do this: One is CRM. Educate yourself on how you can track your customers and build a lasting relationship with them. Another is email marketing: if they aren’t buying your product, sell them your brand and your value.
You could also take a different route and simply thank them for their time. Offer to help them by referring another friend (who may work for competition) to come in and help your customer. Stand by to ensure that the transaction with your friend (or your competitor) goes smoothly.
What does that get you?
How about trust, a bag of quality referrals, and a possible customer later?
Making sales takes commitment, practice and understanding who your prospect is and what she needs. You cannot be sitting in a cubicle and trying to sell (even if you were using LinkedIn Sales Navigator). You still have to hustle. You still have to move about. You have to flirt with the impossible.
That’s how business owners and salespeople sell while earning good karma too.
How do you sell? Please let me know in the comments!