Most people go into business because they have talent or experience in a particular area and have spotted a gap in the market. As entrepreneurs, they are often highly skilled at what they do, fiercely passionate and firmly committed to their goals, but their sales abilities may be somewhat lacking (unless, of course, we’re talking about a sales person starting out in business).
One thing that any business – but especially a start-up, one-man-band or SME – simply cannot live without, is sales. But selling isn’t easy. While most entrepreneurs will aim to put a professional sales person/team in place as soon as they can afford it, that doesn’t answer the immediate need. What about now? What needs to be done to drive the business forward?
“I’m not a sales person” is a phrase we hear all too often, yet all of us are ‘selling’ something every single day – be it our ideas, our opinions, getting the kids to eat vegetables…(you get the idea!). It’s also quite common for people to find it easier to sell someone else’s ideas than to put their own across. But whatever your sales experience may be, and whatever doubts or misgivings you may have, don’t write yourself off just yet.
In this guide, we’ll show you exactly what is needed to successfully sell your product, along with giving you ideas and inspiration for getting started. It all starts with putting an end to any mental blocks that may have crept in. Sometimes, simply acknowledging they’re there, will work wonders. As for your next steps, we’ll now talk you through them in this guide.
What to do when you need to sell but don’t know how to
In the digital world we now live in, with all the tools and technology you have at your fingertips, the process of selling has become much easier. Nothing, though, will ever be able to match the power of a face-to-face conversation, when it comes to convincing someone to become a customer. The secret to success lies in finding a good balance between the two. That means using technologies that can support you and make the whole process run much quicker and more smoothly, while in tandem working on perfecting your people skills, so you can go in and close the deal.
Create a really good lead generation process
When selling your product, especially if you’re really pressed for time and money, let the internet do the hard work for you. A good lead generation process can work like a well-oiled machine – it will attract the right kind of leads for you, qualify them and nurture them along, till you finally step in to close the deal, before then helping you retain them long after a sale is made.
Throughout this text, we’ll show you the methodology (which we use ourselves) and how you, as a small team, can take advantage of it:
Methodology stage 1: Drive traffic
High quality content is king when it comes to driving traffic and you need to be producing it, whether it’s blog posts, videos, downloadable pdfs or social media posts. Your website should work as a hub for it all and anything you post must always be interesting and of value to your target audience. Having a clear picture about who that audience is, where to find them and what type of content will appeal to them most, is an important first step.
As well as content marketing, there are lots of other methods you can use to drive traffic to your website. For example, taking part in networking, or hosting your own in-person events. Using software (like ours) can enhance your efforts even further, by showing you who has visited your website, even if they never share their contact details with you.
Methodology stage 2: Prioritize leads
Your website should be hard at work for you 24/7 365 days a year, informing and converting visitors. With Lead Forensics software, you will be able to start prioritising leads as soon as someone visits your website, rather than having to wait until they convert on an offer (such as giving their email address in exchange for a pdf download). You can start building your leads database immediately and segmentation based on set criteria can be done automatically. You can also be alerted when desirable leads, such as those key companies you’ve been working away at, or who you have on your wish list, show up on the site.
If you spend time getting your strategy and content marketing process right, then you’ll be attracting the right type of visitors through your lead generation. This takes away any need to cold call and waste time speaking to people who’ve never heard of, and much less want to speak to, you. The leads you approach will be people who are already interested in what you have to offer, which overcomes a huge hurdle.
Methodology stage 3: Have a sales conversation
In order to speak to someone about purchasing your product, you need to know what to say and how to say it. Here’s what you need to think about:
Develop your pitch
Before you pick up the phone and talk to someone – which is always frightening if you’re not a trained sales person – you need to get your facts straight and your head in order. Working out a clear, understandable and convincing pitch is a key element here. Sitting down to work out your pitch is actually a great exercise in itself. It will help you pinpoint your key messages and what you’re about, so you can express the true essence of what it is you do.
- Include key frames of reference within your pitch: For example, you could say “Over the last 5 years we have worked with over 100 clients, helping them to streamline their order taking process by implementing simple to use yet powerful tools to drive business results.” In contrast to simply saying “We build really cool software for procurement departments.”
- Figure out your features and benefits: People are always going to be interested in the benefits of what your product has to offer, the question of ‘what’s it going to do for me?’. Only later will they delve deeper into all the features. The most famous example of this is the introduction of Apple’s iPod. At the time, it wasn’t the best or the cheapest MP3 player around. While other brands centred their advertising on how many gigabytes their devices had, Apple talked about having “1,000 songs in your pocket” and people bought into that in huge numbers. Start by taking out a spreadsheet and noting down all your features, then in the column next to it list all the benefits and what they mean for a person using the product.
- Prepare for objections: List all the objections you may hear from a potential customer. There are likely to be different types. One main type of objection may be caused by a lack of understanding about what you are offering. This means you have more work to do in your explanations, so enhance your content to address these issues. Other objections will then fall into one of the following 3 categories: no interest, no time, no money. Have answers prepared for all of them.
Work on your soft skills
Soft skills are those skills we can sometimes mix up with talents. You may hear someone say “she’s so good at talking to people” or “he’s just a people’s person”. While some personality types may have a head start in this area, that doesn’t mean that a shy, more introverted person cannot improve their communication skills. It just takes a little more work.
There are some key skills you will need when taking part in a sales conversation, which can also help in any other life situations. They are:
Communication: This is a vast area but being effective here all stems from being able to actively listen. That means you’re not sitting there figuring out what you’re going to say next, rather than listing to what the other person is saying. Developing this skill takes time and practice but will be worth it in the end. Use any opportunity you can to improve your communication skills, such as attending seminars and training, or perhaps even joining a local drama group. The latter would also help you a lot with developing confidence.
Know how to ask questions: Along with your broader communication skills, this is especially important for sales conversations. When you learn to ask solid, open ended questions that help you steer the conversation in the direction you want, you’ll have a lot more success. Good sales people know how to ask a great question, when to remain silent and how to actively listen to an answer before digging deeper into the subject.
Increase your EQ: EQ refers to the emotional intelligence quotient, which is how well you deal with emotions – both those you are confronted with and your own. When emotions run high, whether in happiness or anger, intelligence will usually drop. This can make it hard to be heard or to listen. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to deal with emotions as and when they arise. Certain workshops can teach you more about this fascinating field.
Tip: A conversation starter, for those who find small talk difficult: After asking “What do you do for a living?” follow up with “Oh how interesting. How did you get into that?”. Usually, they will start telling you their life story and all you have to do is respond with an “ahhh” and “ohhh” as appropriate. This will end with the person feeling very positive about talking to you.
Methodology stage 4: Close the sale
By this stage, you have attracted a lead, you’ve converted them with an interesting offer on your website, you’ve qualified them as a hot prospect and spoken to them over the phone or in person. Now it’s time to close the sale.
It is surprising how many sales people fear asking for the sale, so don’t feel like it’s only you. The key point here is to be able to spot the signs of sales readiness. When a prospect starts asking about logistics, terms and conditions or payment plans, you know it’s time to switch it up a gear.
If you’ve followed the route of content marketing and consultative selling, then this closing moment should present itself without you needing to do much. The simplest way is to then ask about logistics and terms. You are making arrangements to deliver on your promise. All that’s then left to do, is for them to sign on the dotted line.
Methodology stage 5: Retain and grow
This is a particularly important stage for anyone who has a hard time selling. It’s always going to be more challenging to find a new client than it is to keep hold of the ones you already have. The nature of your product or service will obviously have a bearing, but always look for opportunities to cross sell or up sell additional services, or ways to offer an upgrade to a more sophisticated solution.
The most important thing to remember is that if you have a great product and deliver outstanding customer service, then it won’t be that difficult to sell. Keep that in mind and work on the skills that you really need, then hire in talent as soon as you can, to help you move on to the next level.