Richard White, author of ‘The Accidental Salesman Networking Survival Guide’ talks about some great insights to help you sell better.
You have fulfilled a longstanding ambition and started your own business. You have decided to leave paid employment for a life of independence and eventual affluence. Congratulations! You now have a career in sales! Every month thousands of people stumble into sales by default by starting a business and then go on to struggle to consistently generate enough sales for themselves. If they are lucky they lurch from feast to famine and back again!
I actually got into sales by accident myself, around 15 years ago. I became the head of a business unit within a medium sized consultancy. It did not take me long to realize the job was predominantly a sales role. Like so many people who start a business, I hated the idea of selling. I was a professional not a salesman! My saving grace was my ambition. I was determined to cling onto my significantly expanded salary and my dreams of one day running my own consulting practice.
I was excited when I came across Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and specifically the modelling aspect. I invested in my own NLP training and set about building a model of excellence for selling IT consultancy. I created it just for myself and called it ‘Soft Selling’ for want of a better name. I was looking for a style that helped me succeed in sales without feeling like I was selling or that my clients felt like they were being sold to. I needed to be sure I would gain and maintain the trust and respect of my prospects and clients as an expert rather than being seen as a pushy sales person. I also needed for the approach to be backed up by a solid and measurable process based on sound sales principles. Sounds like a tall order?
It took me three years to go from hating selling to loving it and outselling most of my colleagues. I never felt like I was selling when with clients but the reality was that I never stopped! The wonderful thing is my clients loved my style and would often do the selling for me. Over time I realized that the key to my Soft Selling system was not the techniques but the mindset behind the techniques. When I started studying top sales people in other industries I was surprised to find that they actually shared a similar mindset even though the process and techniques were different.
So how do you develop the confidence to sell without a personality transplant? I thought I would share 5 of my best insights I have gained along the way. Unfortunately there is not one silver bullet or pearl of wisdom that will magically turn you into a fearless red meat-eating sales person. Adopting each insight, however, will give a significant boost to your confidence and collectively they will provide you with all the sales you need.
Insight 1 – Become a student of sales
In order to master anything you need to become a student. When you decide that you are committed to becoming confident and competent with sales then you become open to learning. You need to develop your own style that works for you and that is why reading and learning is important. Just fifteen minutes study a day adds up to 7.5 hours a month. That’s a whole day! If you don’t have time to read then buy some audio books and listen to them in the car or when you are doing the chores around the house. You should also give yourself feedback and review your performance and seek to be making small improvements all the time rather than big gestures.
Insight 2 – Learn how to motivate yourself
Activity is everything in sales and motivation drives activity. I like to think of it as ‘motive for action’. Having clearly defined and motivational goals is a start. You need to have them for the long term as well as the shorter term. If your goals do not excite you into action then get some that do! As well as clearly defined goals make sure you have a roadmap for achieving the goals. This will ultimately break down into sales activity. Your goals do not have to be materialistic at all but they do need to be compelling enough to drive you forward.
Insight 3 – Work on your people skills
People do business with people they know like and trust. Professionals typically are introverts to some extent and their people skills can be further developed . Although personal development will reduce levels of shyness and increase self confidence, it will not change an introvert into an extravert. That’s not a problem in sales, especially if you want to sell to executives. Where having the ‘gift of the gab’ can actually be a disadvantage.
Insight 4 – Get good at discovering the motivation to buy
Developing self-confidence, excellent people skills and high levels of motivation is all very well but if you do not have what people want to buy then you are going to have a hard job in sales! If you assume that people do not buy products or services for no reason at all then you need to discover the motivation to buy. There are only two primary motivators – pain and pleasure. Pleasure in sales is about the prospect moving towards something desirable. Pain is about moving away from something undesirable. Often the potential buyer wants both! I discovered that it was much easier for people to justify spending money to move away from something they do not want. In the current status quo and I made it my business to find a target audience where I had credibility and they had real unresolved pain.
Insight 5 – Learn to tell stories
If there is one skill that will help you to sell without feeling like you are selling it is storytelling. All the top sales people do it naturally and you can learn to do it too. People who like each other trade anecdotes and talk in stories. If you incorporate storytelling into your style then you will find everything so much easier! You can use stories in so many different ways in sales. For example, when you first meet someone ask them their story of how they started in business. It really helps to break the ice much better than any rapport technique I know. Have your own stories about how you started in business and how you have helped clients to successfully resolve their problems. You can also develop stories to inoculate against objections and to up-sell other products and services.
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