Sales and marketing are two of the hottest topics whenever small business owners gather to talk shop. But when I ask small business owners if they have had any formal sales training, the answer is often “No”.
How does this happen? It’s simple. People get trained to sell when they are working for someone else – as a salesperson.
Most small businesses are created out of inspiration. Small business owners are passionate about what they do; they are courageous people who have taken the plunge to bring a product or service to the marketplace. They believe in what they do so strongly they have traded the predictability and relative stability of full time employment for the less predictable journey of the entrepreneur.
Without an understanding of the steps involved in sales, it can become very frustrating once the initial burst of motivation and inspiration wears off.
What’s a small business owner to do to create an authentic sales strategy?
Let’s start by getting practical and identify the seven stages of every authentic sales conversation
It may seem obvious, but it’s not always simple – the purpose of this first phase of sales is to be seen. Face-to-face networking, community involvement, speaking engagements, social media, blogging…the list of activities an business can engage in to create visibility can be long, and become overwhelming. Don’t try to do everything or be everywhere. Choose what is authentic and right for you and do it consistently. Regardless of the elements of your visibility strategy, you know you are winning the visibility game when people want to connect with you.
Once someone has connected with you, it’s time to let them know why you do what you do. In his best-selling book Start With Why, Simon Sinek does a definitive job explaining the importance of knowing your why and the impact it has on leadership and its impact on attracting customers. I’ll use myself and my coaching as an example. I have an unshakeable belief that there is a sweet spot where our personal growth journey and our business growth strategy meet. When I’m looking to create connection, I come right out and say it! “I coach entrepreneurs to grow their business by growing themselves first.” I know I’ve connected when the person I speak to nods, leans towards me, says “What?!??!”, or asks “How do you do that?”
Selling is not telling. Unless you want someone to wish they had not connected with you, never ever launch into telling telling telling other people what you do, Engagement is a 2-way conversation. At this stage of the conversation, you are revealing what you do and how it might help them. The goal is to have a conversation that opens the door to the possibility that your product or service is exactly what they need.
4. Exploration (aka Discovery)
Now, you’re getting somewhere! The first three phases of selling might happen on separate occasions, or in the space of five minutes. It depends on the setting, circumstances and the size of the transaction. Typically, the larger the investment or more complex the product or service, the more likely you will arrange at least one separate conversation to discover how you might help them. Ask questions and LISTEN to the answers. Go deep and uncover how you can help. When it’s time to move on to the next phase, both parties should see the value of investing in a solution.
5. Offer Your Solution
All right, you have arrived and it’s your time to shine! You are going to demonstrate that you have been LISTENING by offering a solution that meets the needs that have been shared with you. There is nothing worse for a buyer to have invested the time, energy and trust by being open and sharing their challenges, only to be met with a cookie-cutter solution. Address each need during your offer. Before you move on to the next phase, be sure to ask if you have addressed their needs. Once they have agreed, present your fees and ask for….
You’ve arrived. The relationship has been created and nurtured. The challenges have been examined and addressed in your solution. It’s time to ask for a commitment in the form of money. You won’t always receive a “yes”, but one of the most common reasons for a “no” is that your value isn’t understood. Check to see if you have skipped any steps, particularly during your Exploration (step 4) and presentation of your Solution (step 5).
It’s important to understand that if you have any of your own issues around money, it is likely you will bring them to this stage of the sales process. It’s worth doing the work to uncover any limiting beliefs you have in this area. It’s also important that you are willing to invest in the type of product or service you are selling. If you don’t see the value, why should they?
Unfortunately, many people think they are finished once the money is in the bank. Salespeople working with large organizations turn their clients over to implementation teams to fulfill the order. Small business owners are either the one fulfilling the expectations they set, or much closer to the action. In both scenarios, the degree to which solutions are fulfilled and expectations are met, is the degree to which you will retain customers and gain the best form of visibility there is – referrals.