In this blog, I’m going to look at some myths around “who” can sell and then explore how you can stop pitching and start listening in order to be more effective with clients.
One of the most popular questions I get asked is whether or not I think only “certain” people succeed at selling. Sometimes this is followed up by statements such as “I’m no good at sales” and accompanied by a list of non-skills such as “I don’t have the gift of the gab”, “I find it hard to deal with objections”, “I don’t like to appear pushy”, “I’m not an extrovert” etc.
I’ve adapted this Shakespeare quotation to show that everyone who starts up in business brings a different experience (or none at all) when it comes to selling.
Some are born to sales
Well, not quite! But the point is that some people do appear to have more of a natural aptitude for the competencies and behaviours required. Often, they will be driven to proactively seek out a career in sales or will feel very comfortable with the requirements of selling and negotiating if self-employed.
Some achieve sales
Many people find themselves performing a selling or business development-type role as a result of changes to their job function. This is often as a result of necessity or a new focus on customer service or stakeholder relationship outputs. Increasingly, it can be due to organisational change or a new culture of “intrapreneurship” and will usually be supported by sales coaching and training. Transferable skills learned in this way will be invaluable when you start up in business.
Some have sales thrust upon them
If you have no background in sales, it can be quite overwhelming to realise that in addition to being the creator/artisan/expert (plus all the other hats you wear) you now have to become accomplished at sales in order to generate revenue in order to survive. In this case, the need to sell is well and truly thrust upon you!
To get back to the original question about “who” can sell, the answer is that really, it’s all relative. You have set up a small business – no one is asking you to become the global head of sales for a multi-million dollar corporation. No one is asking you to oversee the performance of several hundred field sales reps. Those roles are probably better suited to the people who are highly driven to sell and have been willing to undergo years of training and experience within organisations to get to the top of their game.
Irrespective of how you are coming to self-employment, it’s my belief that most people can become competent enough to succeed in selling their own product/service within their chosen markets. However, it is dependent on a willingness to learn new skillsets, embrace new behaviours, have an ambition to succeed – and realising that without sales and revenue, there is no business anyway. There is no such thing as building it and waiting for people to come, especially when buyers have the ability to research and compare on social media before you even show up.
Listening v Talking
Many people who think they won’t be good at sales tend to focus on personal verbal communication skills such as pitching, talking, presenting and generally worrying about having enough clever things to say in order to “persuade” someone to buy! Sometimes your business just doesn’t get the results it deserves after speaking to prospective clients who would seem to be a good fit. This can be down to nerves, over-enthusiasm, placing too much emphasis on features/benefits/technical aspects and generally not discovering needs and wants through questioning and listening.
The problem here is that most of these are “tell” modes, and telling is not selling. Becoming successful in sales means less pitching and more listening and behind this is an empowering lightbulb moment when you realise that your client should be doing more talking than you! When this happens you allow the other person to explore their issues more authentically and take ownership for finding solutions. More specifically, doing business with YOU.
Judy Brownnell, Professor at Cornell University developed a model for listening with the acronym “HURIER”. To get you started, I’ve adapted this for a selling situation.
Think about how you can incorporate this into meetings to remind yourself to stop pitching and start listening.
|HEARING|| What’s actually being said?
Are there any non-verbal cues e.g. body language
|UNDERSTANDING||Feeding back, paraphrasing, summarising for accuracy|
|REMEMBERING||Are you recording important notes and ensuring you can rely on what you’ve heard to base any recommendations etc.?|
|INTERPRETING||How can you use the information your client is giving you to tailor your own products and services as a solution and ensure a good fit?|
|EVALUATING||Ensuring you are not interrupting and have gathered all of the relevant information and given your client enough time to explore the issues that matter|
|RESPONDING||Responding precisely in a way that follows on from what you’ve heard to make your product/service relevant e.g. you focus on the benefits to the client and not all the features|
© CJH Training 2018