Sales is the lifeblood of any organisation, no matter its size – without sales, you have no business! And that applies if you are a sole trader, a social enterprise, a charity, a limited company or any other type of organisation. There is still no other role within an organisation, in any business, that is more important than the role of the salesperson, because arguably ‘nothing happens until someone sells something’ (Drucker).
Learning to sell is so important for you as an entrepreneur because you are always selling, not just your products, but your company, yourself, your vision. But if you have not done it before, selling can seem a bit scary. Don’t worry, it’s not, it is a skill (not a black art) and it’s a skill that can be learned.
Women in business can sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable selling: we don’t like to put too much pressure on customers. But selling today is much more about building trusted relationships over time. Neither side is in it for a fast buck and the good news is that women are really suited to this type of relational selling! Why? Because we are good at listening, have good emotional intelligence and social awareness, and are good at collaborating.
What do you think a customer wants from YOU at a Sales Meeting? It’s not your sales pitch rattled off parrot-fashion. The simple answer is ‘Answers to their Problems’. Your sales pitch only becomes interesting to your customers once you have understood and answered THEIR problems. Think of sales as something you do for someone, not to them: you are trying to help them solve a problem. Your product won’t be right for everyone, and that’s perfectly ok!
So how do you find out what their problems are? By LISTENING. Really carefully. And then listening even more. The best in class salespeople listen actively to what the customer has to say. Then and only then can the right questions be asked to uncover a problem your customer might have, that you just might have the solution for!
And remember, people buy from people, and usually from people they LIKE, and more importantly from people they TRUST. You need to have that ‘likeability’ factor and become a ‘trusted partner’.
Of course, in time, you will need to learn about handling objections, negotiating and closing techniques, all essential parts of the selling process, but right now, don’t worry about them too much. Focus more on listening and asking open questions so you can really understand a customer’s problems, being likeable and building a trusted relationship with people.
You already do this type of thing every day in other areas of your life, now you are going to apply it to your selling your own products and your own business. As you grow your business we would encourage you to do some formal sales and negotiating training – it will be so helpful to you – but in the meantime here are some pointers that can help you to get started and feel comfortable with selling.
1. Do your research before meeting a customer – you will come across much better if you know something about your customer and her organisation.
2. Be likeable and establish a trusted relationship over time. And remember it takes time, don’t expect a sale to take place on your first meeting.
3. Ask open questions to understand their needs, such as “What do you think about…?”, “How do you feel about…?” Avoid questions that would cause a yes or no answer early on in the discussion. Practice some different questions with your friends and colleagues and see how they answer them.
4. Listen to what your customers say very carefully – acknowledge to show that you have really listened to them and understand their problems. And listen again.
5. Promote the benefits of your product, not the features. Don’t sell people a yellow luminous pencil, sell them ‘a pencil that helps them see in the dark’ (if you have listened and understood that’s what they actually need).
6. The most common objection to handle is often price – “That’s too expensive!” In response ask them “Compared to what?”. That helps to flush out information and you can overcome the objection by using comparisons and repeating your points of value.
7. Don’t be afraid to say no, negotiate, find alternative points of ‘value’ or walk away without a sale. This needs to work for both you and them.
If you would like to learn more about selling, there are a number of courses available from various different organisations, and you can take a course either online or face-to-face. Or contact us for information on our new sales training course designed especially for women entrepreneurs and delivered by leading Scottish Sales Pracademics.