Being an entrepreneur usually requires wearing many hats, and the role that seems the scariest to a lot of people is sales.
As a business owner, you need to make people think you’ve got what they need, and that requires putting yourself out there and being persistent. That can be a daunting proposition, but it’s essential.
Here are some tips that will help you succeed as a salesperson:
The importance of preparation can’t be emphasized enough. You obviously need to know your products and services backwards and forwards, but you also need to know who you’re pitching to. Why do they need what you have to offer? How can you help them? Your products and services most likely won’t be able to help everyone, so focus on potential customers that you genuinely believe you can help and emphasize their needs over your product’s qualities.
Furthermore, you should know your competition and be ready to explain why you have them beat. Be able to support your claims with facts that your audience can understand. Try to anticipate as many questions and objections your audience might have as possible. Don’t assume they won’t challenge what you say.
It’s important to sound prepared without sounding like you’ve memorized a script. Act as natural as possible. That’s a lot easier said than done, but, like most things, it gets easier with practice.
Preparation will help combat the anxiety that can go along with making pitches. Often, you may feel nervous at the beginning of your pitch, but that should subside if you’ve prepared adequately. It’s also important to be personable, but don’t overdo it. If you act too chummy, your audience can feel awkward and think you’re being fake.
Contrary to popular belief, the salesperson doesn’t have to be constantly talking. It can be very helpful to ask insightful questions that will help you understand how you can best help. Ask about what products they use now and whether they’re happy with them. You should also ask prospects lots of questions about themselves. Showing that you care enough to listen can go a long way.
In fact, it’s often best to do more listening than talking. In an article on entrepreneur.com, Len Foley emphasizes keeping “your mouth shut and your ears open,” especially at the beginning of the interaction. Even after you’ve listened, don’t drone on and on.
Act Like a Consultant
It can be good to think of yourself not as a salesperson, but as a consultant. Offer your expertise and knowledge to help your audience improve their business. Make them think you’re an expert who isn’t in this for self-gain.
If there are multiple people involved in the purchasing decision, it can be helpful to meet with each of them to answer questions and address their concerns individually.
Sometimes No Really Means No
Everyone’s been solicited by a telemarketer who refused to end the call gracefully. You might say, “I’m sorry. I can’t do that right now,” but they just keep going and going. Sometimes, hanging up seems like the only way to make the spiel end.
When you assume the role of seller, remember what it feels like when someone is selling to you. Sometimes, people are having a bad day and aren’t in the mood to listen to a sales pitch. Sometimes, now just isn’t a good time, and the people you’re selling to should not have to divulge their financial situations to convince you of that. Sometimes, your products just aren’t what someone’s looking for. That might change down the road, and it might not.
You must learn to identify hints that tell you someone isn’t interested in buying your product. If you stop gracefully before becoming a nuisance, you can avoid burning the bridge with prospective customers and have a chance to do business with them later. Politely thank them for their time and move on to someone else who might be more inclined to say “yes.” People will respect you more if you’re astute enough to recognize when it’s over. They will also respect you more if you understand there’s a difference between persistence and desperation.