The Dreaded “S” Word

Entrepreneurs love being creative, dynamic, bold, innovative….but they often hate SELLING. Which is kind of funny, seeing as how that is the key to generating revenue. Women business owners especially struggle with what they perceive to be “annoying”, “slick” or “deceitful.” But if you don’t believe in the value of your goods and services – you as the person who knows them the most initimately and cares about them the most – how do you expect anyone else to?

Fiona Walsh spoke yesterday at a CRAVE Seattle Coffee Chat about igniting your sales. She’s a business advisor and has a a knack for putting sales processes in place no matter what your business. Marketing and sales go hand in hand, and a lot of her advice also stems from having a strong brand story. As someone who put marketing processes and campaigns in place to “stock the sales pipeline” for enterprise software sales reps, I thought she did a great job of breaking things down to the simplest terms, especially for people that may conduct consumer sales and not B2B.

Effective sales is about telling your story and addressing your customers needs. Its a conversation showing how your offerings can solve someone’s problem or help them achieve their goals. Too often we try to say what we want to about our company without addressing the value we provide and why people should care. Both solopreneurs and million dollar businesses are guilty of this. It’s also about empathy – putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, addressing their pains and offering solutions. She cited a recent Harvard research study that stated “empathy” was the #1 trait for a successful salesperson.

Here is Fiona’s list of the most common sales mistakes people make:
1) Assume it takes one call to close the deal: As we talk about with branding, you have to consistently be in front of someone at least 7 times before they may be willing to buy. There is a lot of noise, so you need to have multiple touchpoints and offer new and different value each time. Maybe send interesting articles, invite people to events, stay in touch about promotions and special offers. Don’t assume once is enough.

2) Not clearly communicating what you sell: I see this one over and over again on branding projects. You need clarity on what you sell and to whom. Who is your ideal customer? Who are you talking to? What problem are you solving for them? Fiona suggests having 3 niche markets and clear messaging to all of them.

3) Selling features, not benefits: I also see this one over and over. Don’t tell me about all the widgets and technology and “things.” Tell me how your product or service makes my life better, my family better, my business more successful. Then, once I’m hooked, you can start delving into the “how” you do all of this. A feature is an attribute; a benefit is a value.

4) Lack of qualifying: Not all leads are good ones, so you need to answer 3 simple questions to determine if someone is worth your time: Do they have a budget? Do they have a reasonable timeframe? Do they have the ability to make the buying decision? I’ve seen software sales reps on million dollar deals not answer these questions effectively, so you are not alone. If the answer to any of the above is “no” you need to get to the right people within the organization, or spend your time on more qualified leads elsewhere until those “no’s” turn to “yes.”

5) Failure to close: At the end of a killer presentation, you need to ask for the business. Many business owners do not do this and just assume if they pitch was good enough, the client will come to them. Set an action plan, a next step. Ask when they want to get started. “When is a good time to come in for our initial session?” “To get this work done by Christmas, we need to start on Monday.” etc.

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