Selling is nothing more than providing someone with a product or service that will enhance or improve her life. And whether your job description includes the word “sales” or not, you are in fact in the business of selling. Each day you must sell a hundred different things: an idea to a coworker, a restaurant recommendation to a spouse, a goal or resolution to yourself. You may not realize it, but the average person spends the majority of his day trying or another. So it only makes sense to learn how to sell in smarter, more effective ways.
BREAKING DOWN THE BARRIERS
The first step to becoming a better salesperson is getting past those pesky mental barriers that stand in the way—the most prominent of which is the fear of failure. Luckily, there’s an easy way to overcome this one: just accept it. Accept that you will fail. A lot. Guaranteed. And since you can do absolutely nothing to prevent it, you might as well learn to accept it from the start.
Failure is nothing more than a prelude to success—and a poetic one at that. It puts your work in perspective, strengthens your will, and makes you an all-around better entrepreneur. Simply put, the quicker you learn to fail, the faster you’ll begin to achieve. As Lori Greiner says, “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
One of the biggest struggles first-time business owners face is a lack of self-assurance. It’s natural of course to feel uncertain about something you’ve never done before. Bu the only way to convince other you’re worth investing in is to invest in yourself first. That means never undercutting your value, discounting your abilities, or feeling guilty for demanding your worth. It means walking into a room not as a hobbyist or amateur, but as a professional who is just as worthy of being there as anyone else.
Recognize that you will make mistake; understand that selling require tremendous time and care; accept that you are worthy of achievement. Only once you’ve done each of those will you ever be able to embrace your role as a salesperson and begin closing deals.
THE EVOLVING SALES PROCESS
Assuming your business is centered on a product (as opposed to a service), you’ll either be selling to a consumer, retailer, or distributor. You may even be selling to all three. And while the ultimate goal is the same, to close a deal, the process behind each varies greatly.
Consumer: when selling directly to a consumer you essentially have three channels to consider: online, via your own brick-and-mortar store, or through some type of event, like a tradeshow or market. The obvious benefits of selling your product directly is that you retain complete control of the experience and improve your margins. Not having to share the profit with an outside retailer or distributor can wonders for your bottom line. But, of course, this strategy also presents many challenges—the most common of which is gaining awareness. For consumers to patronize your business they must first know you exist. That means your brand must be strong and compelling enough to stand on its own. Otherwise, you could have difficulty attracting new customers, which is why many companies choose to sell through retailers or distributors.
Retail: selling to individual retailers can certainly be an effective way to get your product to market, but it can also take considerable time and effort. Depending on whether you’re selling to a franchise or independent business, you could find yourself bombarded with requests for meetings and pitches—many of which won’t necessarily lead to a high volume of sales. What’s more, many retailers, especially franchise operations, prefer to go through distributors as it’s often the quickest and least painful way to purchase inventory. It’s easier to make one, larger transaction that five smaller ones. Therefore, the best option for many businesses is to work with a distributor.
Distributors: A distributor has relationships with a network of retailers, which means your product has the potential to reach a larger audience. However, it also means that both the distributor and retailer are making money off your product, which of course affects your profits. Still, working with a distributor may be a wise option; a smaller percentage of something is better than a larger percentage of nothing. In order to attract a distributor, it’s important to have a scalable product that doesn’t cost too much to fulfill. The goal for a distributor is mass. They may also be more attracted to a business with a line of products, as opposed to one single product.
Prospecting: If you wish to gain customers, you must know where to find them. In other words, your first step should be to identify and cultivate potential leads. Let’s say, for instance, that you’ve started a landscaping business and you’re targeting local business owners who own more than one property. While you may not have a surplus of those folks in your immediate networks, it’s likely you regularly interact with people who do. Discovering qualified prospects is a never-ending process and should be a major priority for every business owner.
Planning: Oprah believes that luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation. And you know what? She’s absolutely right. While you don’t often have control over the opportunity part, preparation is 100 percent your responsibility—and one you must take with the utmost seriousness. Before approaching a customer, make sure you’re as prepared as possible. Spend significant time researching the needs and challenges of your potential consumer, and be sure to include those points in your pitch.
Approach: Think of this step like a first date. The immediate goal isn’t to propose marriage; it’s to begin building a relationship. When you make an initial approach, be sure not to come on too strong. You don’t need to seal the deal right away. You need to first build rapport, establish a friendly connection, and begin the conversation. Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. When you visit a retail store.
Needs Assessment: Since the entrepreneur and the salesperson are actually the same individual, their ultimate goal should be the same: to solve a problem. After you’ve established an initial connection, the next step is to assess specific needs that the particular customer may have. This is probably or service fits in the customer’s life. During the step, you’ll want to ask smart, board questions that allow you to gain as much insight as possible.
Presentation: Now that you’ve established a connection and assessed any specific needs, it’s time to pitch. Don’t waste your energy trying to sell the features. Instead focus on how your product or service can solve the customer’s specific problem (s). Going back to the landscaping business, the customer doesn’t care if you have high-powered, top-of-the-line equipment. That’s only interesting to you. However, superior equipment probably means you can perform the job faster and more efficiently than the competitor, which will ultimately save the customer money. Now that’s interesting. Always frame the pitch around the consumer’s needs, not your own.
The Close: Of all the steps in the sales process, this is the one that’s most often botched. Although there are many famous closing “techniques,” closing a deal isn’t about trickery or manipulation. If you’ve masterfully executed the previous steps and established a baseline of trust, the close should be seamless. When you have your customers’ best interest at heart, a good close goes back to the original goal of solving a problem.
Follow-Up: Closing a deal isn’t the end of a relationship; it’s the beginning. Maintaining communication is crucial to the long-term success of any customer relationship. Once a sale is closed, it’s your job to make sure the customer has a pleasant experience and that all expectations are met with precision and care. Find creative ways to regularly follow up with customers and show that you’re genuinely interested in their satisfaction. Relationship are the heart of any business, and you want to make sure yours are strong and prosperous.
THE ART OF NEGOTIATION
The art of negotiation is a fine one, with many subtle intricacies. There are, however, a few helpful tips and tricks that anyone can use to instantly become a better negotiatior.
Whether you’re negotiating with a large corporation or a single individual, you must be willing to walk away. Even if you need the money, even if you’re hungry for the business, if a deal isn’t in your best interest you must not be afraid to turn it down. Being motivated to close a deal is great, but not if it ends up ultimately hurting your business.
TIP: “google should be your best friend. If you learn to search properly and are willing to spend the time exploring, I believe it can teach you more than any business school ever could. Call it Google equity.”
NETWORKING LIKE A PRO
Networking is about adding value. Period it has nothing to do with how they can help you. Quite the opposite. It’s about how you can help them. How can you make someone else’s project that much better? How can you find a solution to a challenge that person has been stuck on?
This idea may seem backwards if you’re used to viewing networking merely as an opportunity to self-promote. But if your goal is to build long-term, meaningful relationships, approaching networking from a place of generosity and authenticity is really your only choice.
Below you’ll find a handful of tip and tricks designed to help you improve your networking abilities. Try to apply some of these the next time you find yourself at an event.
Do Some Digging: In the digital age there’s no excuse for being underprepared. Do preliminary research on some of the people who will be in attendance. Using a combination of social media and offline resources, there are usually plenty of ways to uncover who you may encounter. You won’t be able to have productive conversations with everyone, so choose three or four people to target and focus your research around them. Remember: it’s about the quality of the relationship, not to quantity. Find out where a person went to school, her work history, maybe even something about jer personal life. You never want to come off as creepy, but being informed about a person’s work and life will make it that much easier to make the most of your time with her.
Talk Less; Listen More: The next time you go to a conference, spend five minutes in the hotel bar, and you’re guaranteed to heat it: the gentle hums and murmurs of countless me, me, me’s and I, I, I’s. for whatever reason, most people thing that good networking is about talking. But the best networkers know it’s really all about listening. In fact, the right ratio should be somewhere around 80/20—20 percent talking, 80 percent listening. When you listen, really listen, to what the other person is saying, you’re able to quickly deduce how you can best add value to the relationship. What’s more, you’re giving someone the opportunity to do what most people love best: talk about themselves. By asking smart questions and showing legitimate interest you’re likely to come across as likeable and smart.
Follow Up: when it come to networking, this is the place where most people fumble. After establishing a new connection, you should immediately follow up. In fact, you should do so within the first twelve to twenty-four hours. Depending on the specifics of your interaction, most often a simple email will suffice. In it, you should remind the contact where you met, touch on what you spoke about, and fulfill any promises you may have made. Again, you’re trying to establish yourself as a resource—nothing more.
Keep detailed records: Not only does a great networker spend more time listening than she does talking, she also knows the value of recording her insights and keeping detailed records. It’s important to keep track of whom you meet, when you meet them, and what you speak about, you may also wish to include any observations you make during the encounter. For instance, if you overhear your new contact tell the waiter she doesn’t drink, that would be something worth noting. This way, should you ever meet outside the office, you know to suggest coffee, not wine. It may sound small, but it’s often the little things that can make a big difference.
This Article is taken from Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business
Written by Arshad. A