I meet so many businesspeople who have great ideas, strong execution, and a great passion for delivering value to their customers. The missing ingredient is sales. They hate selling or they’re terrible at it—or, most typically, both.
Yes, you can outsource selling—but usually you have to be good at it first. You have to unlock the messages that will persuade prospects to buy, and you’ll have to "sell" your salespeople before they can sell anyone else.
The Internet at first seemed like it would solve all of these problems, until you realize how many sites and services hate marketing content and mark any commercial activity as spam. Despite this, sales messages proliferate online—to the extent that we can hardly type a few keystrokes without something coming up in our browser or email inbox to sell us something. And the least ethical marketers are the most aggressive, so what gets through our filters are ads for counterfeit pharmaceuticals, get-rich-quick scams, and invitations to porn sites that would make Howard Stern blush.
Do you have to be a natural salesperson to run a business?
It certainly doesn’t hurt to be a "natural" salesperson, but it’s not necessary. Selling is a skill like any other, and you can learn to take your enthusiasm and excitement about your business and translate that to prospects, which is at the heart of salesmanship.
Wednesday is the day I set aside to blog about something I love (no one wants to read cranky rants every day, right?), and today I’m going to share my love of Jeffrey Gitomer and other sales teachers who base their methods on providing value. Gitomer is probably the best-known proponent of a genuinely new approach to selling—one that provides value before expecting to receive, that nurtures relationships and loyalty, and that tosses out all those cheesy sales techniques that make us all cringe.
The language of professional sales has always been that of a predator. Shark. Barracuda. Wolf. "You don’t kill, you don’t eat." Think Glengarry, Glen Ross.
The new selling methodologies reject this metaphor of predator and prey. They hold that without a win-win situation, you’ll never create any organic growth, because you don’t earn repeat or referral business. Everyone knows a shark has to continuously move or it dies.
My metaphor for the new selling methods is the friendly little clownfish. (Like Nemo.) Clownfish make friends with sea anemones, who nobody else likes because they’re poisonous. Because of this relationship, they get benefits—protection from predators (despite what happened to Nemo’s mom) and some beneficial food relationships. (They also eat anemone excrement and the males sometimes change sex. I make no such implications about salespeople.)
These new methodogies are vital in a low-trust, high-spam world. Cold calling and obnoxious closing techniques are even less effective than they ever were. The new techniques are also a lot more enjoyable. Steak knives optional, no self-loathing required.
Good resources for the reluctant salesperson
These have particularly impressed me. If you have a favorite not mentioned here, or experience with one of these, please leave a comment and let us know about it!
Jeffrey Gitomer, The Sales Bible, Little Red Book of Sales Answers, and his Sales Caffeine newsletter, available from gitomer.com. Gitomer offers one of the most valuable e-newsletters I’ve seen—I really do look forward to getting it every Tuesday morning. In print, his Sales Bible in particular gives a solid, workable methodology for selling even if you’ve always sucked at it. (As I have.)
Michael Port, Book Yourself Solid. Port provides a true step-by-step program aimed directly at the individual businessperson. His gentle, thoughtful book includes a variety of strategies including Web methods, holding meetings, direct mail and other ways to bring more (and better) customers to your business.
Miller and Heiman, The New Conceptual Selling. This is more technical, but if you’re a professional salesperson or need to make complex sales presentations to support your business, you simply must buy this book. This breaks the sales process down to the smallest detail. Port’s book is geared more toward casual conversations that you might have at a dinner party or networking event; Conceptual Selling will help you with a beginning-to-end process for formal presentations and complex sales cycles.