Sales are an area that many of my clients find challenging. For many of us, sales is not a natural skill set, and is often something people have negative associations with and strong reservations around. We’ve all encountered “bad” sales people in our lives, those that are purely focused on getting you to part with your money because THEY want the sale, regardless of whether what they’re trying to sell is actually right, or of value, for you. And of course there’s that lovely stereotype of the sleazy 2nd hand car salesman (think Danny Devito in Matilda!) which few of us want to be associated with.
And that’s a huge part of the problem, often when we think “sales” we think first of this stereotype, and we mistakenly associate ALL sales with this negative image, rather than separating out the distinct differences between GOOD and BAD sales. No wonder so many of us have reservations around sales, if something in our brains is associating “sales” with “bad” we’re not exactly going to be rushing to get out there and close those deals.
But as business owners, our MAIN JOB is usually to sell our product or service. Even if we’re not in a customer-facing role and the ones directly closing the sales with clients, we have to “sell” our products and services to our staff so well that they can go out and perform that role for us, we have to “sell” our business to potential partners and associates we want to work with, we have to “sell” our business continually through our marketing and our branding and our positioning. Without sales there will be no business.
So how can you build your confidence and get great at sales to propel your business forward? Here's 6 top tips that might help:
1. Stop Selling! I think often when we talk and think about sales we’re coming from a business-centric place. We want to achieve “x” sales this quarter because…. Goals and targets are great, I’m a huge advocate, and you want to use these targets to drive your marketing and to track your conversion rates to continually improve. BUT when you’re actually sat in front of a prospective client, you want to let go of YOUR targets, YOUR wants, and instead shift your focus to THEIR wants and needs. Get to know what their problem is, what their need is, and if you can see that you can solve their problem then simply offer your product/service as the solution. This can help shift your mindset from thinking about "making sales" to just "helping someone to solve a problem". If you go into a meeting thinking of it as a “sales meeting” that can be a lot of pressure to come out with a specific outcome, if however you think of it as just getting to know someone and building a relationship, then that feels relaxed, and if you’re relaxed you’ll be more confident and you'll build a better relationship, and the chances of it being appropriate to offer your services will also increase.
2. Not everyone will, or should, be your client. I talk to my clients a lot about defining their values, getting clear on who their ideal clients are and who it is that they really want to work with. In the early stages of a business often we’re just looking to get clients, any clients, and we’ll work with almost anyone because we just need to bring the money in. However, as the business evolves we want our client base to evolve with it, and this means making conscious decisions around who we want to work with and who’s a great client fit for us (and equally who’s not!) As we start to get clear on this and communicate it in our marketing and our language 2 things will start to happen. First, we’ll start to attract clients who are a great fit for us because they “get it”, and equally we’ll start to dissuade clients who aren’t a great fit because our messages won’t resonate with them. This means the people we are having meetings will already be part-qualified as a good fit and have a higher chance of becoming paying clients because they resonate with our brand. Secondly, we start to approach potential client meetings with the mindset that this is OUR chance to get to know them to see if we even want to invite them to become a client, if we feel they’re even going to be a good fit for us and our business. This gives us back our power, shifting the mindset away from “having” to make a sale, to “inviting” them to become a client IF they’re right for us.
3. Don’t be afraid of NO. For many of us, it’s fear of hearing that word the prevents us from even wanting to ask for the sale, but it’s important to realise that someone saying no is not a bad thing, it can actually be a great thing. One way to disassociate from the perception of no as a negative, is to realise that no is inevitable in getting to yes, in several different ways. Firstly, no-one converts 100% of their sales, it’s just not realistic to expect that, so even if you convert 99% that means for every 100 meetings you ARE GOING to hear at least 1 no. If you’re unwilling to risk hearing the word no, then for the sake of avoiding that 1 person you could be missing out on 99 other sales!!! This is why it’s important to know your numbers, this is something I bang on about all the time to clients, but if you know what your conversion rate is, then you know how many No’s you’re going to have to sit through to get to your YES, and once you know that, the No’s don’t seem so scary. In fact, they start to become a great thing, because you realise that every time a potential client says no to you, you’re now 1 step closer to that next client who’s going to say YES!
4. Don’t be afraid to overcome objections. Following on from the point above, when someone says no you have an opportunity to continue the conversation to find out WHY it’s a no for them right now. Often, by continuing the conversation beyond that initial “no” you’ll be able to get an understanding of the persons objections and often be able to overcome them, perhaps there was something they weren’t clear on and you just need to give them some more information for it to become a yes, maybe they’re concerned about finances and you’re able to mention your payment plan. You can’t expect to get everything that every client needs to make a positive decision into the initial part of the conversation, if you’re continually getting the same objection then perhaps it’s something you need to look at improving in your initial communications, but everyone’s different and what each client needs to make a buying decision will be different. An initial no isn’t a rejection, or indeed a final no, it’s a chance to take the conversation to the next level and dig deeper into what the client needs from you to make it a yes, if you walk away at this first no you’re missing out on a huge number of potential clients who would probably have become a yes but you just didn’t take the time to explain further.
5. Stop taking it personally. For many business owners their business feels like an extension of themselves, and they take great pride in their service/products and put a lot into their client relationships. This means that when someone says no to a proposal, there’s often a temptation to take that personally, and of course few people are going to be chomping at the bit to put themselves out there if they’re viewing any refusal as a personal rejection. So it’s important to disassociate from our businesses and remember that it is indeed just business. As mentioned in point 2, you only want to be working with clients who are a great fit for you, and if they’re not ready or able to say yes to your proposal right now, then they’re either not a great fit for you as a client, in which case it’s better they say no, or they’re decision not to proceed right now actually has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. For many of us we may decide we want something, but not be in a position to buy it for several weeks, months or years even, so the fact that we might say no to it right now doesn’t mean that we don, ’t want it, or that we don’t see it’s value, or that we don’t appreciate a sales person taking the time to explain it to us, it simply means that right now we’re not willing to proceed, maybe we don’t have the finances yet, maybe we’re just about to move house and we know our focus will be distracted for the next few weeks, maybe we need to get our own business the next level before we feel we’ll have the capacity to make use of it. Whatever the reason, none of these are about YOU. If you’ve done a good job of building a relationship, spending time with the client and making a proposal that you felt was appropriate to your understanding of their needs then you’ve done a great job. If we take the decision personally we naturally get defensive, our walls go up and we tend to shut down the relationship slightly, whereas if we realise that a no isn’t about us, we’ll go back and see if there are any objections we can help overcome, we’ll maintain the relationship and keep in touch, and when they are finally ready to buy the chances are pretty high that they’ll come back to you then.
6. Trust yourself! This one’s a big one but for me the simplest and most obvious. If you know that you’re great at what you do, and if you know that you deliver great customer service, and if you know that you make proposals to potential clients with integrity (where you can see you can really offer a service or product that they need), then not only should you never feel uncomfortable about asking for a sale, if you can solve someone’s problem for them then it is your duty to try to make that sale, and to try to make it as well as you can, because you can make their life better. I quickly realised this in my own business, I help my clients create massive results and achieve massive change, and if someone was sat in front of me who didn’t currently have their ideal business and I could see that they were a great client fit for me, and that I could help them make that shift then I owed it to them to make that sale because I KNEW it would change their life. If I backed away and let fear get in the way, yes I’d be costing myself a sale, but more importantly I’d be leaving that person stuck in their current situation where they weren’t happy, and that wasn’t ok with me. If you know you’ll do a great job for your clients, you’ll provide the product/service that they need and you’ll do it really well, you owe it to them to try and make that sale, because if they don’t buy it from you, chances are they’ll buy it from someone else instead and you can’t guarantee that your competitors will offer the same quality or service and uphold the same values – maybe they are the sleazy salesperson stereotype!
Hopefully some (or all) of the above will help you to build your confidence around sales, now go try them out and start making some sales!!!
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Thanks for reading and happy selling :)