Why your approach to sales may not be working

February is all about falling back in love with your business and sometimes in order to do that, we have to change our perspective. Most of us joining the ranks of entrepreneurship have done so in pursuit of a passion and a desire to share our love of something with mankind.

February is all about falling back in love with your business and sometimes in order to do that, we have to change our perspective.  Most of us joining the ranks of entrepreneurship have done so in pursuit of a passion and a desire to share our love of something with mankind.  

In my years of working with the owners of small businesses and nonprofits I have come to find a few universal truths.  The first is that these visionaries can tell you every detail of what they have created.  They can talk for hours on its concept, development, production, organization, plans for improvement and growth, and how their product will change the world.  The second universal truth of these owners is that they abhor the idea of having to ask someone to purchase or contribute to their organization.

How do I know this? I’ll tell you… As a brand strategist, I often work with the owners of small businesses and nonprofits. My first meeting with a client is all about the business.  How did they dream up the idea? What are the details of the product, service, or programs? Why people should care? What are their plans for growth? Who’s world will they change? What makes their execution better than their competitors? In this meeting my clients are on fire.  This is by far my favorite part of the process and I love to hear just how brilliant and driven people can be when fueled by a purpose.  I usually block a couple hours for this meeting and we still almost always run over.

The second meeting is all about connecting with their ideal customer.  In this meeting we talk about who the target market is and exactly  how they will benefit from utilizing what my client has to offer.  We talk about marketing and maybe why marketing campaigns are not converting ideally. Then, at the end of the meeting I ask my client to sell me their product…… crickets! About 90% of the time, my clients are stumped.

In addition, they often seem embarrassed and hesitant.  Gone is the passion and confidence so abundant in our first meet.  When I question my clients about their hesitation, I usually get an answer that sounds something like this: “I hate asking people to buy my product. I feel so pushy and slimy, like a used car salesman.”

To be honest, I know just how they feel.  Although I’ve made my living in advertising, marketing, and sales, I wasn’t always comfortable doing it.  I used to hate making sales calls, sending sales letters, and even networking events. Strangely, what changed the game for me was thinking back on an old lesson I learned in college as a waitress.

Waiting tables was my first sales job and my experience was much like the sales experience of the entrepreneurs I work with today.  I spent weeks learning the menu backwards and forwards, mastering the POS software so I could find every modification known to man. I even dry cleaned my uniform and made sure I always had guest check notepads, plenty of snazzy pens, and enough small bills to make exact change.  Then my last day of training came and it was my turn to address the guests directly with a trainer shadowing me, in case I got stuck.

As I approached my first table, I smiled…and froze.  Yup, completely froze! I couldn’t think of a thing to say.  I knew I was supposed to offer them a margarita and suggest two appetizers.  I knew I was supposed to offer to relay our daily special, but the words just would not come. I suddenly felt like I was bothering them.  I saw myself as some uninvited participant to a get together. I felt like these people had come out to have a good time and I was crashing their party to sleazily take them for everything they had.  Luckily, my trainer took over and got the drink order.

As we waited in line to submit our drink order to the bar, my trainer asked me what happened.  I wanted to lie, but I didn’t.  He gave me an empathetic smile and said some things that completely changed the way I saw my job.  He asked me why I thought people went out to eat.  I replied that it was a nice break from a stressful week where you can have comfort food and not have to worry about planning, making, or cleaning up after a meal.  “Right!”, he said.  “Tell me, when you go out eat, do you look forward to reading the menu cover to cover?”.  Of course not.  “If you go to a restaurant with a friend and you’ve never been, do you ask them what’s good?”.  I nodded in affirmation. “Do you actually like the items you are suggesting?” Heck yes! Okay then, that’s what we are here for.  Here’s the deal:

1.       You did not trick people into coming to this restaurant.  They came to this restaurant because they want to spend their money on the food here and the experience of dining out.

2.      You are part of that experience.  If they are coming here to step away from the stress and responsibility of cooking either for themselves or for a celebration, you are part of that solution. Part of what makes a great dining experience is a happy and helpful waiter.  How many times has a dining experience been ruined for you by an unhappy or unhelpful waiter?

3.      By not sharing your excitement and knowledge of the menu, you are actually doing them a disservice.  If you know what’s good, why wouldn’t you tell them?

This advice completely changed the way I saw my job.  I now felt like I was the much needed link between the restaurant and the customer.  How I did my job ultimately determined the experience and perception my guests had of the restaurant.  And do you know the best part? As my price per head and tips shot up, so did my guest compliment cards.  I even once got a $100 tip from a guest in a neighboring section because I helped out a co-worker and brought the man tortillas…$100 for tortillas!

I don’t know about you, but when I dread doing something, I typically avoid it for as long as possible.  This inevitably blows up in my face. After having procrastinated so long, I still have to deal with whatever the task is, but with less time and resources, which makes it even more stressful. This is where I find a lot of my clients when it comes to sales.  They’ve avoided the direct sales tasks in favor of the more familiar and creative parts of the business.  Some even spends weeks developing beautiful marketing and sales plans, but they put off executing the sales work until they MUST.  By that time, the sales goals are ridiculous and resources are significantly more limited due to the lack of sales, making the entire sales experience even more stressful. But what if you could change your mindset, so that rather than dreading a sales call, you were excited about it? Impossible? Maybe not…

As business owners starting out, we are often in a situation where the need for sales is driving all of our efforts.  We look at sales as something we need to keep our business going.  Admittedly, it takes revenue to keep your doors open, and as business owners we don’t have the luxury of ignoring that fact. However, it shouldn’t be our state of mind when we approach our sales.

It’s easy to feel slimy and uncomfortable asking for a sale, when you approach it from a “what’s in it for me” mindset.  Does your sales mindset resemble this?

1.       I need $5,000 more to hit my sales goal.

2.      Where can I find $5,000 in two weeks to pay my bills?

3.       What could I peddle the fastest for $5,000?

If the point of making a sale is to meet your needs, with no thought to the benefits or value you are providing to the buyer, there is a good reason you feel uncomfortable asking someone for a sale.  Don’t get me wrong, there is no judgment  here.  We’ve all been in this place, especially when your dream is on the line, but I challenge you to try shifting your mindset.

Instead, try approaching your sales goals from a “what’s in it for them” mindset. When you are making sales goals, try this approach.

1.      I need $5,000 to hit my sales goal.

2.      That means I need to find 25 people to help this month.

3.      Where can I find the 25 people who are in need of my solution and ready to take action?

4.      Is there a valuable up-sell I could suggest that would enhance their experience?

5.      How would hitting my sales goal allow me to continue to help the people I work for?

You see, as small business owners and nonprofits, you are the creators of solutions.  And here are a few truths about selling your product.

1.      No one has tricked or threatened a potential client into clicking your link, reading your content, attending a networking mixer, answering their phone, etc.

2.      You are part of the buyer’s experience.  If someone shows interest or need for your product or service it’s your responsibility to help them  understand the value you provide so THEY can decide if it’s truly a good fit.  Your job is to make the experience easier so they don’t have to jump through hoops and scour your website looking for a buy button.

3.      You are approaching these people because you are proud of what you do and believe in your gut, your offer could solve a problem they have.  If you had something you know would help someone, why wouldn’t you offer it to them?

4.      Don’t ever be ashamed to put a price on it! It is fair and necessary to ask for compensation in business.  After all, a business is defined by the transaction of money for goods and services.  Reasonable people would not expect you to pay for their solution, so don’t expect that of yourself.  You can always gift and add free value when possible, but in order to maintain the ability to continue to provide a solution, you have to be generating revenue.

When trying to change any mindset, be it personal or professional, it takes consistent and deliberate practice, but the effort is worth the rewards.  We often hear some of the most successful people speak on abundance and generosity mindsets and this is where it starts within your business.  When you can focus on the people you designed your product, service, or non profit to serve, suddenly all the other mental obstacles seem to fall away.  You are no longer intimidated by your competition, obsessing over a bad review, or hyper focused on marketing gimmicks.  When you allow yourself to think “big picture”, you allow yourself to impact “big picture”.

Lots of Love!