I feel like sales can be a bit of a dirty word.
For many of us, we hear “sales” and we think of the used car salesperson with all the tricks to manipulate us and convince us to buy something dodgy, unnecessary and overpriced.
We beat ourselves up for not being pushier and jumping on the phone to start cold calling or messaging everyone in our network about our product.
Many of us can end up thinking we’re bad at sales when actually we’re bad at being an annoying and ineffective con artist.
The fact of the matter is, that a pushy sales strategy is ineffective and based on short-term thinking.
The sale is a crucial part of your business and it can also be one of the most exhilarating and rewarding parts of growing your business so that you can have a greater sphere of influence and positive impact on the world around you.
A good sales strategy isn’t about annoying people or interrupting their day to push products and trick prospects into becoming paying customers.
No sales are about one thing, and one thing only: helping people gain access to valuable solutions that they need, want or desire.
The “trick” with sales is simple: LISTEN.
I use a customer-first approach to sales so that I can ensure that every customer we work with really does need our help. The added benefit of this is that these customers are also much more likely to recommend our services to other customers who also need our help as a result.
Do the Research
Before you begin reaching out to your prospective customers, gather information about the kind of people who need your product or service.
Get curious about who your prospect could be – what they’re going through, what they might need, the problems they’re facing that you could help solve.
To do this I put together buyer personas based on core human drivers and motivations.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to putting a buyer persona together, really what you want to do is look at things that drive all of us.
There are 5 core human drivers you need to keep in mind:
- The drive to acquire – the tangible or intangible things we gain from purchasing a product or service eg. the physical watch we buy and also the status we acquire because it’s a Rolex.
- The drive to learn – how we will grow in knowledge and develop as a person
- The drive to belong – the need to connect with others and feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves
- The drive to protect – what harms, risks and insecurities we can avoid and the safety we can gain
- The drive to feel – what positive emotions we will experience
Think about how these drivers relate to your product or service – how can you articulate this to your prospect? How might this help you start a conversation that is about your prospect and what they’re experiencing right now?
Map these drivers out in relation to the buyer personas you create along with their pain points or barriers to purchase. Think about this in relation to their position, their problem, and their perspective.
Create a list of people in your network who “fit the bill” – a list of desired prospects that you can list as a lead worth taking the time to pursue.
Sales Navigator on LinkedIn is a great way for SMEs particularly in the professional services industry to identify potential leads.
Give something for nothing
You have the list of leads but how can you demonstrate the value you can offer to your prospect? What’s something that they can try without having to take on the risk of purchasing or signing up? Is there a sample they can try? A conversation they can have with you? A video they can learn from?
The barrier for your prospects is generally going to be around fear, hassle, and expense. They need to trust you before they can agree to purchase your product or service.
The more you can take the risk on for them, the more likely they are to feel comfortable in moving down the sales funnel towards purchase.
The more available you are and easier you can make it for them to purchase, the more likely they will want to do business with you.
The more you can demonstrate that the value you’re offering is greater than the cost you’re asking for your product or service, the more likely they will be to hand that cash over.
By demonstrating your value you gain greater trust – the more trust you gain, the more likely you are to have a paying customer at the end of your sales process.
Remember, it’s not about you
A big problem I often spot when I begin to work with my clients is that their messaging across marketing and sales is all about them.
Everything MUST, and I cannot stress this enough, start with your customer’s situation and problem. Talk about the customer before you start talking about yourself.
I use the 5 elements of the story to construct every piece of messaging I create for myself and for my clients’ businesses – these are:
- The situation – what is the situation the customer is in right now. Use your buyer personas to flesh out this part of the story
- The conflict – what is the problem you’re solving. Articulate your problem by using a paradox, something that can draw your audience in and invite them to solve.
- The action – this is your solution. Now you can start talking about what you do – once you’ve identified the problem your prospect as you can start sharing how you can help meet these needs.
- The result – what your prospect will gain from purchasing your solution. So think back to the core human drivers – what will the prospect acquire, learn, connect with, protect themselves from? Most importantly – how will they feel as a result?
- The take-home message – does your prospect agree with what you’re proposing? Ask them questions that they can answer “yes” to. Give them something simple to act on: if they agree with you, then what do they need to do next?
So putting it all together, what does this look like?
Here’s an example of my approach throughout my sales process:
I want to sell my marketing services to Jodi who I identified as a lead using the buyer personas I’ve created and then searching for leads that could be a match via LinkedIn.
Jodi is an osteopath in North Sydney who, when I do some digging, looks like she is running a small successful health clinic.
Despite her success, I can also see that her business is making some poor decisions with their messaging and from my research, I formulate a hypothesis that she has the potential to grow her reputation and scale her business exponentially.
I ask Jodi if I could add her to my network and I provide her value by sending her a few articles that I think could be relevant to her current situation. I also have a contact in my network that I think could be mutually beneficial so I connect them. Maybe I also offer her a free ticket to an event that I’m part of that I think she would learn from.
After a few messages, I ask her if she would be available for a chat over coffee to see how we might be able to work together or otherwise collaborate.
When we get to the point of having a conversation, I ask questions that help me flesh out the rough sketch I have of her business in my head (from the research I did earlier).
I ask her questions about her situation, like: “Jodi, you’ve been running your clinic for a long time, 15 years! Do you still enjoy it?”
And then we move through a conversation that allows me to understand whether or not my services are appropriate and timely. I might prompt her with questions like:
“Have you done much public speaking or PR activity?”
“How do you stay in touch with clients you saw a few years ago?”
“What do you enjoy most about your job?”
“Do you have as many clients as you’d like to?”
“Where would you like to take your business in the future?”
And then, if it’s appropriate for me to offer my services as I originally hypothesized, I say “Jodi, I think I might be able to help you grow your business, would it be ok if I tell you a bit about what we do at Pacific Content?”
I don’t talk about my services UNTIL I develop an understanding of whether she needs my business in the first place. Then I talk through the “action” and “results” of the story – how my work relates to hers, how I can help her achieve some of the objectives she spoke about, how my clients feel after working with me.
Whilst I’m developing this “proof” Jodi is also able to see for herself whether or not she needs my help because of the questions I’m asking – I’m framing the conversation up in a way that makes her relevant problems top of mind as I’m talking about the way I could help solve them.
I never sell something to someone if they don’t need it. If you sell someone something they don’t need it can build resentment, frustration and damage your business reputation. You always need to be prepared to walk away from a client who doesn’t need your help – maybe the timings wrong, maybe they don’t have the budget. Sometimes, even if they do need your help, maybe they won’t be able to see the value.
I truly believe that the best business developers are curious about others and fantastic listeners who can demonstrate a deep understanding of the problem their customer is trying to solve and are prepared to offer an appropriate solution if and when it is needed.
Are you an awesome salesperson or have you got a sales tip that has made a big difference to your business? What’s your approach? Share it below so we can learn more from each other.