Do you hate selling? Does the very idea of having to promote your goods or service make you turn cold?
Whether you like it or not, selling is an essential part of any business, regardless of the product or service you offer. If you set up a business without banking on the need to sell, or if the idea of generating new business makes you run a mile, you may simply need to change your mindset.
Why does selling get such a bad rap?
Let’s face it, most people have a clear view on what makes ‘bad selling’. We have all had experience of poor customer service or felt pushed into buying something at some point. You only have to think of the archetypal pushy car salesperson, or look to the conniving silver-tongued stereotypes portrayed in movies (Wolf of Wall Street, Jerry Maguire, Glengarry Glen Ross to name but a few) and you can understand why selling (or what you assume that involves) has a bad reputation.
Maybe you are an entrepreneur or run a small business that was set up to launch a specific product or service to a specific market, based on a specific innovation or gap in the market, or to exploit an area of expertise. Selling might very well not be part of your core skillset and one that you need to learn fast.
Or perhaps you have recently been promoted to a senior position in an accountancy or law firm and now all of a sudden you are bequeathed a new healthy sales target to sit alongside that old friend, the chargeability target. You might find this new territory daunting – after all, your promotion may have been based on technical skills or experience, not necessarily your ability to sell.
Or maybe you work for a small or medium sized organization which has a joint sales and marketing function – two different beasts requiring different skills and experience but that are attempting to fulfil the same objective. If you are all of a sudden required to start selling, this might very well fill you with dread.
There may also be other, more personal, reasons why you might hate the idea of selling. Maybe you have a fear of rejection or failure, or worry you will come across as pushy, intrusive or manipulative? This begs the question – are high performing sellers born or made? Is it nature or nurture?! If you’ve spent all or even just some of your career in a sales environment, then you may well have a natural ability to sell. There is also plenty of research about that stipulates if you want to be a high performing salesperson, you might very well need to display specific personality traits.
However, not being an extrovert or a natural born seller doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in sales. If many salespeople were born to sell, how come less than half of all sales reps meet their targets? Being gifted with an innate talent for selling isn’t enough. The truth is that many high performing sellers learn how to best apply their natural skills and are structured and strategic in their approach.
If you find selling daunting and overwhelming, here are some practical tips:
1. Are you selling products or helping to buy?
In our opinion, having a sales mindset that focuses on helping customers to buy is an extremely effective approach to selling. This mindset is based on the idea that the salesperson’s role is to facilitate the customer’s buying process, rather than trying to push a particular product or service onto them. Let’s remember that over the past few years, buyers have had it tough. On top of a global pandemic, many businesses have experienced tightening of budgets, an increase in the number of stakeholders involved in approving a particular purchase, lengthening of the customer decision making process, and more – all of which have placed increased demands on the average buyer. And research is proving our customers need our help more than ever, with more than 75% of B2B buyers stating that their latest purchase was very complex or difficult. So however demanding you might find selling, the truth is that buyers are finding making that purchase even more challenging:
“As hard as it has become to sell in today’s world, it has become that much more difficult to buy. The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling, it is actually our customers’ struggle to buy.”
– Brent Adamson, Former Principal Executive Advisor (Gartner/CEB) & Co-Author of ‘The Challenger Sale’.
It will come as no shock to hear therefore that buyers value suppliers that make it easier for them to navigate the purchase process. By assisting customers through their own buying journey, you can build strong relationships with them, earning much needed trust and loyalty and ultimately close more sales without the pressure of becoming that pushy salesperson you feel pressured into becoming. Furthermore, you can elevate your position as a Thought Leader by providing your prospective customer with information to help them through their purchasing process.
2. What’s your selling strategy?
Before you start selling, you should take some time to develop a clear strategy that outlines the steps you intend to take in order to meet your sales targets. This will help you feel more organized and focused when it comes to selling your product or service. A good sales strategy considers:
- Target market: Who are your ideal customers? Where are they located? Are they industry-specific? What are their typical needs and pain points?
- Sales objectives: This might include specific revenue targets split by geography and/or industry, an ideal number of customers you want to acquire or a specific number of products you want to sell.
- Sales process: What steps will you take when selling your product or service? Without a clear roadmap, you will only make the process of selling harder than it needs to be, even if you’re a talented salesperson or have the perfect product or service for your audience. This might include how and when to generate leads, present value, nurture prospects and existing customers, and close deals. Having a common structured approach will allow all customers to have the same experience when buying from you, whether you are the only one selling or part of a broader team.
- Sales channels: There are many different ways you can communicate with prospective customers, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket, especially if the idea of cold calling turns you off. E.g. email marketing, advertising, digital marketing, social media, in-person events, conferences etc. This helps you to reach a broader audience among your target market and increase your chances of success.
- Self-Assessment: Regularly check in on how you are doing against your sales target – are your efforts paying off? If you’re not achieving your sales goals, don’t be afraid to adjust your approach and/or your sales process. Routine monitoring will help you to stay on track and make informed decisions to improve your sales results.
3. What value are you bringing?
Before you start selling, make sure you are clear on what it is you are offering to your customers. Your product or service likely offers a unique value proposition that sets it apart from competitors. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a question of listing the features of your product or service. Instead, focus on the benefits that each product can provide – this will help prospective customers see the value in what you’re offering and why they should buy from you specifically.
4. Who do you know?
We all know the adage – it’s not what you know but who you know. Building an extensive network of potential customers and partners can be a great way to generate leads and make sales. Attend networking events, join industry groups, and reach out to potential customers to build relationships. And don’t be afraid to think outside of the box – for example consider anyone you may have worked with in the past, maybe an ex-colleague or a previous customer, who may have moved on to a new role which could open up an opportunity for you.
And don’t forget to consider if you’re influencing the right people. In our experience, most salespeople and account managers tend to focus their efforts on the parts of the customer’s business they’re most familiar with, or the stakeholders they know best. But these aren’t always the individuals responsible for making the final decision. Make sure you find out who are the right people to engage with, and take the time to build a relationship with them as well.
5. Are You Pitch Perfect?
As previously highlighted, buyers have a tough job. They are often faced with a myriad of options and a series of suppliers they could choose from – all of whom appear to be offering similar solutions. As such their buying decision may come down not to WHAT’S being sold, but HOW it’s being sold to them. A well-crafted and well-delivered sales pitch can get your prospect excited about the opportunity you’re offering and encourage them to take the next steps with you.
Sellers who might well have done a good job in the early stages of their sales process can often fall at the final hurdle during their presentation or sales pitch. For many, the very idea of presenting a pitch to a customer can bring them out in a cold sweat. It might feel forced and unnatural, especially if you are lacking in confidence when it comes to public speaking.
But like anything, if you haven’t dedicated time and effort to practicing this skill, then don’t expect it to come naturally. Luckily it does get easier if you are willing to practice and build the skills needed to be effective. Even the world’s most accomplished public speakers spend time practicing and preparing before each presentation. Practicing your sales pitch in advance will help you feel more comfortable and confident when talking to customers. Stand in front of a mirror or practice with a friend or family member until you get it right – remember, practice really does makes perfect!
6. Are you really listening?
As salespeople we’re told that it’s a good thing to ask questions, but like any other skill, effective questioning takes conscious effort and practice.
But if we’re asking the greatest questions, without truly listening to the responses we receive from the customer the impact of those questions will be hugely diluted. Like questioning, listening is a real skill.
Effective questioning and listening will help you gather quality information around customer needs and concerns, and identify a best fit solution. The better the fit of the solution, the greater the value it will add. This will lead to a more compelling proposal, and in turn improve your chances of making a sale.
7. What’s next?
Don’t be afraid to follow up with potential customers after your initial conversation. This can help keep you top of mind and increase your chances of winning the sale or progressing to the next stage.
8. Is honesty the best policy?
Whatever you do, don’t make promises you can’t keep, or try to hide any potential drawbacks of your product or service. Being honest and transparent will help build credibility and ultimately earn trust with your customers. By improving the trust that our customers and partners place in us, we can expect to strengthen our relationships and our competitive position.
9. Can you grow?
If approaching new prospects makes you freeze in fear, then consider this alternative approach – nurturing existing customer accounts in an attempt to drive further growth. Provided you have established a mutually beneficial relationship founded on trust and a positive customer experience, it’s a proven strategy to increase volumes.
Depending on the nature of your business and the relationships with your customers, try to find an opportunity to seek their feedback and enquire about any further needs that you can help them meet, as a natural extension of the service already being provided. Don’t forget to use your effective questioning and listening skills to dig deep and uncover additional needs that you can help to serve.
Additionally, you may want to consider whether or not incentivizing your customer base might support this growth strategy (e.g. via loyalty schemes, price reductions, free upgrades, free shipping, early or exclusive access to sales etc).
10. Are you investing in skills development?
Investing in the development of your sales capability is critical to the success of your role and your business, whether you enjoy selling or not.
Make sure you (and anyone else involved in selling) are well-trained on the sales process and strategy, products and services, and target market. It’s not just about being equipped with the knowledge, skills, and techniques needed to effectively sell products or services, handle objections, negotiate deals, and close sales. Equally as important is the development of skills needed to help your customers to buy – to build genuine connections, ask effective questions, actively listen, and build trust.
In doing so, you will see an increase in confidence which will translate into increased sales revenue, improved business performance and better customer relationships. The return on your investment, whether in terms of time, resource or finance, will be significant. Ignore investment in your development and no matter how good your products and services are, you won’t get any better at selling.
So there you go, our top tips on how to overcome your fear or hatred of selling. If you need any further support with increasing your selling confidence and ability, we’re here to help – feel free to get in touch!