I’m going to take a step back from last week’s column on Asking For The Order to go over some basics in sales.
We’re all looking for ways to increase sales these days, quite the challenge in this ever-changing business landscape. As the economy continues to force small businesses to develop new revenue sources in order to survive, consumers are being forced to make more discriminating choices. As a result, many companies are turning to a more classic, needs-based sales approach. Simply stated, the better a business can meet the needs of its prospective customers, the greater the likelihood that it will get the sale and more sales equals more revenue. Easy, right? Not quite.
Adding to the challenges caused by an already difficult market is the fact that so many people, including many small business owners, feel terribly uncomfortable with the prospect of having to sell. Some look down on sales because they fear rejection or because they don’t want to be perceived as being disingenuous. Others simply don’t think they would be very good at it. Preferring to leave the selling to someone else, they draw a distinct line between themselves and anything having to do with sales. Research points to any number of reasons why so many share an aversion to selling but the end result is usually the same: When your sales are down, your business will suffer.
The truth is we are all in sales and that’s just as well given that the economy is forcing many companies to reduce the resources they might otherwise allocate to hiring salespeople. Though resources may diminish, the urgency to bring in new sales, does not. Now more than ever, small businesses owners, indeed everyone, must look at sales in a new light and reconsider their role in the selling process. But don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. Consider the following keys to sales which have helped me throughout my career.
Never miss a local story.
Do you know what you’re selling? Think again. Most of the time it’s not your product or service at all, it’s your company and your team. That’s right, your company is the ultimate product, and if you understand what your company stands for, you’ll want to share it with those around you. If you’re not passionate about your company’s purpose, then you can’t be passionate about your product.
This rule is so basic, yet so overlooked. That’s because most people identify the verb “selling” with the term “pitch.” The reality is that selling begins before the salesperson utters a single word. People who are good listeners are much better at sales than people who are good speakers. They attain a better understanding of their prospect’s needs and can fit them with the right product. Bottom line: If you’re not fulfilling your customers’ needs, you’re not going to be selling much in this economy. I’ll dedicate a future column to practical ways a small business can better listen to their customer’s needs.
This is perhaps the most valuable sales rule because it’s true across the board, and despite its simplicity, may also be the most enlightening. Here it is: “People love to buy but they hate to be sold.” Once you understand and respect what that means, you’ll start focusing on nurturing relationships rather than just trying to get a sale. Rules 1 and 2 above will become easier to follow.
Now there’s only one thing left to do: Ask for the order. This might seem like a difficult thing to do, but remember my message from last week’s column: You’re not getting paid to open doors, you’re getting paid to close the deal. There’s nothing wrong with letting your prospects know that you’re interested in their business. When you’ve met all of the customer’s needs and you’ve answered all the questions, then you’ve earned the right to ask for the order so go ahead and ask for it.
Remember, whether you’re formally in the sales profession or not, you already have what it takes to implement these four rules in your own business and start increasing your sales. The fact is, as Tom Peters puts it, “We are all in sales. Period.” Parents, teachers, politicians, technicians, scientists, doctors, husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. You may not sell widgets, but you sell yourself and your ideas every single day. Every parent raising a child, every applicant at a job interview, and every teenager who puts on cologne for a first date, is selling. Whether or not they close the deal is another story. Happy selling!
Manny García-Tuñón, executive vice president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.