I hate sales.
I hate vying for people’s attention. Asking for things and facing potential rejection. Trying to shove things down people’s throats.
That’s a specific stereotype of the sales process, one that is all too common. The first image that comes to my mind.
But there is another way. And it’s important to find that other way.
Because I believe that sales are crucial for success in life. I’m a product guy by nature. I love building and creating things. But if I can’t get it out in front of people who will use it, what is it worth?
I’ve been listening lately to Omer Khan’s podcast, with a focus on sales. How can I get better at sales in a way that feels authentic to me? In a way that won’t leave me terrified?
Below are some insights I’ve gleaned from several episodes and my own soul searching:
You must ask for things
I love being self-sufficient. I don’t need anything from anyone. And I don’t like being that person who takes what is supposedly a fair price and asks for a discount.
That said, there are many times when what you’re asking for is in no way inconvenient to the other person (more on that below). Many people are happy to help, advise, assist. Asking for money might be the hardest thing, but what if you started small? Ask for advice. Ask for a connection. Make a point of proactively talking about your passions instead of bottling them up inside, and see how many more good things come your way.
“You have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk”
I trained as a therapist, so this should be more natural to me. But I often forget, and in the excitement – or anxiety – of the moment, I start talking. By listening more, you do two things. Firstly, you develop a better relationship with the other person. And most sales are forged out of relationships, not just ticking a bunch of boxes.
Second, you can identify the other person’s pain points, and see if what you’re selling currently solves it – or if you can create something that will. There might be people who are just not a good fit, It’s better to listen early and discover this quickly, isntead of wasting everyone’s time.
Consult and give value
Closely related to the idea above, is the concept of joining the conversation as a consultant.
I hate sales, but I love consulting. I love hearing people’s problems, deeply understanding their process, and trying to deliver value – even for free – that can help make their life easier. This might be a tip, a book i’ve read, a resource I know of.
Come to every conversation with the perspective consultant – listening, giving value. If it happens to be that your core offering fits with your value-giving mission, perfect! It will be an extension of your overall mission to help others.
Screen for yourself
This idea comes from the world of dating. Instead of focusing on being liked by the other person, see if they are the right fit for you.
Early on in my own businesses, I resolved to only work with awesome people. People who were positive, polite, and gave me the time of day. If you encounter someone who is not all that, rude or won’t give you the time of day, move on. You wouldn’t want them as a customer anyway. It’s you, it’s them.
A brilliant question in this same vein can be asked as soon as you get on the phone – “Why did you agree to talk to me?” Assuming they get solicited by many people every day, your prospect has chosen to spend time speaking with you. What was it about you that they liked? Was there anything about what you offer that piqued their interest?
Break it down into bite size actions
The first step to successful sales is goal setting. Define your profit target for the year: it should be a stretch -more than last year’s, but still realistic.
You should have a metric of how many prospects you need to reach out to who actually go through the process and become paying clients. Working backwards off this number, you’ll know how many people you need to contact each year in order to hit your sales goal.
This might end up being a pretty large number. Break it down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals, and you should have a much more manageable goal of people you need to reach out to every day.
Tying it all together
If I had to summarize this all together, I’d say that my goals is to reach out to a certain number of people every day and just listen. Listen to how they do their work, and listen for anything at all that I could help with.
Chances are you know more about advertising and marketing than the people you are reaching out to, and you can have valuable advice to share with them that can help you establish a strong – and hopefully profitable – relationship with them.