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Selling in the new normal

A few weeks ago, I had a classic sales guy on the phone. You know, the one who talks non-stop, almost like he’s reading. 

“Good on him, he literally digested the sales script,” I thought to myself. Anyhow, I tried to explain that I was not interested in his business show, but I was interested in the webinars. 

He sends me a follow-up mail, a ‘copy-paste’ one, supposedly with all the information that I required. 

A week later he chased me, so I decided to read the kilometre-long e-mail. The first half was about how great his business show was and guess what? The second part was about how great his business show was and how much it would cost me! There wasn’t one word about webinars; the figures that I asked to see; nothing. 

A bit annoyed, I sent him a mail saying I was not interested in the business show. His answer: 

“Oh sorry, you might have misunderstood, the webinars are only for the business show exhibitors,” 

What the …? What had happened? 

Mr. Sales Guy, in his over excitement of seeing a duck (a.k.a me) while on his hunt, started to shoot like a maniac without even looking where the duck was going.  Not only did he miss the target but also scared this duck away forever. 

What did he do wrong? Well, in short everything. 

  1. I wasn’t a qualified lead 
  2. He didn’t know that I wasn’t qualified, as he hadn’t done any pre-sales preparation before we spoke.
  3. He was unable to assess my problem, because he just talked and didn’t ask any questions.
  4. He damaged the rapport because he didn’t listen and sent me irrelevant information.
  5. And moreover, he just contributed to the shitty image of “sales” and I really dislike him for that! 

The thing is, a sales person who doesn’t care about doing it properly and plays the numbers game can always go back and blame the price, the product, the competition. 

I’ve witnessed many women business owners being extra humble, minimising their achievements, positioning themselves as small as a mouse so that:

  1. They don’t give the impression of that “yucky” sales guy
  2. They avoid the risk of rejection. Because as an entrepreneur, when you can’t sell, the only person that you can possibly blame is yourself and it’s fricking hard. 

So, I have an existential problem when the sales guys don’t do their homework and further destroy the image of sales because we associate “selling” as being like them and it directly impacts our capacity to grow our businesses. 

So, tell me, how is your relationship with “sales”? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Have you done any work on it? 

As micro-business owners or solopreneurs, the minute we are in the presence of another human being, (work-related or not), we are in a potential selling situation. 

How come?

Because whether you are at a networking event or at a friend’s dinner party, as soon as you start to talk about “what you do in life” you create potential (potential clients, referrers, allies, ambassadors). In essence, you start to “sell yourself”. Yes, I know, it sounds a bit dodgy. What I mean by that is, as very small business founders, when we talk about “what we do”, we are selling our trustworthiness, expertise, reliability, knowledge, creativity and our worthiness of their attention. 

The primary role of an entrepreneur is to convert the potential into a reality – and this is true for all aspects of the business. From turning an idea into a business, transforming inspiration into innovation, building a team from total strangers or converting a lead into a customer (sales). 

The challenge is the yucky image of the “sales” pushes most women business owners towards the complete opposite of selling, which is: being extra humble, minimising achievements, diminishing success, being as small as a mouse, so that they are not seen as “salesy”. Unfortunately it’s hard to grab attention, make yourself heard and convert potential into reality when you are a little mouse. 

So let’s look into this thing called “sales”. Every sale has 2 basic obstacles:  

  1. Quality of the leads: I have talked about the lead quality in my recent blog post on lead generation. In short, check for 4 things to make sure that the lead is receptive to your solution: need, money, hurry, desire.
  2. Trust:  As I mentioned above, negative beliefs about the sales process, lack of confidence or lack of control about how you might come across, directly impacts the establishment of trust and credibility in you, which directly hinders the sales process. 

Great, now that we have established what could kill the growth of your company, let’s see how to overcome it? 

Here is my secret method: if you don’t like sales, don’t sell. 

Actually, please do not sell, instead: Plan, Prompt, Propose

Every sale has 3 main stages: Pre-sale, exchange and post-sale. I believe when you plan beforehand, you prompt enough with great questions and you propose a solution, you no longer sell anything. Instead you add value, and in the meantime you end up selling. It no longer feels yucky and confidence-eroding, but weirdly it feels like you are actually solving a problem, helping the person, thus it empowers you and boosts your confidence. It is no longer a sleazy process of “look at me, look at my product, look how wonderful I am,” but it is a professional strength where you investigate, diagnose and genuinely try to solve their problem. 

How does it work?

Plan: The planning is key in order for you to have control of each stage. 

  • Presales: During the presale, your planning is about qualifying the lead and making sure that you have enough knowledge to lead the conversation during the core exchange stage. You can do this for both service and product businesses with qualification questionnaires or simple online researching. 
  • Exchange stage: The planning at this stage helps you take and keep control of the process. It can be slightly different from business to business but your objective is to always get more information about their problem that you think you might be able to solve. Sometimes this stage can be in several phases, sometimes in just one click. But there are simple milestones that will always allow you to keep the control:
    • Framing – this helps you manage expectations: “It will take you 3 minutes to fill your membership form” – “Our meeting will take 30 minutes and If you don’t mind, I will be asking a lot of questions to understand your needs,” 
    • Discussion – at this point, unlike the sleazy sales person that we all hate, stop talking, start asking questions. Confirm with them that you understand their problem, their objectives, and that you might have a solution,
    • Close – Dare to get a commitment, even if it’s a “no,” 
  • Post-sale: This is all about the lifetime value of your customer. When will you contact them to ask if they were happy? To get a testimonial? To ask for referral? To simply send a Christmas card? Having a plan will increase your chances to grow the lifetime value of this customer. 

Prompt: As a person who will lead the growth of your company, if there is one skill that I would suggest developing, it is the skill of asking AWEsome questions. Whether you are a product-based business, an online membership or a 1-2-1 service business, talking to your audience and asking questions will not only help you convert them into customers, but will also allow you to improve your offer. I will be sharing some kick-butt questions during our upcoming webinar and on our worksheets. 

Propose: Magic happens when you Plan and Prompt first.  To start with you confirm whether you are a good fit or not for their problem. If you are not a good fit, you have already made a good impression by making them feel important and unique and they will remember this. If you truly believe that you are a solution for their need (hurray, you qualified them), knowing this boosts your confidence – and theirs. The confidence translates as professionalism and calmness, which most likely will establish trust. When these two obstacles are out of your way, all you need to do is propose: “Here is what I propose, I can either help you this way or that way. How would you like to proceed”? 

So, as a key take out message: if you don’t like to sell, please be my guest and don’t sell! That means, don’t talk about your product, your service, what you can do. Don’t provide a list of your credentials and a shopping list of your services. Instead, ask questions. Tell them how you help people, and please keep it real. If they are serious about solving their problem, then all you need to do is to establish trust. Trust is the only positive close of your sales whether you sell today or not.