You may not have a professional history in sales, but as a small business owner, you’re inherently the best person for the job.
There’s no one who better understands what your business stands for, why it offers customers value, or what sets it apart than you, its creator.
Whether you’re extroverted, introverted, charismatic or soft-spoken, you can sell anything to anyone.
1. Know Your Business Benefits Like the Back of Your Hand
Sales pitches often get a bad reputation as attempts to convince people to buy things they don’t need or want. But you’re a business owner; you believe in what you have to offer. If you can verbalize those benefits to others in a way that’s succinct, you’re ready to sell.
Shift your mindset away from selling and toward helping people better their lives. List the benefits and value-added features you genuinely believe could benefit customers. Hang the list in a place where you’ll notice it daily, such as your bathroom mirror or your car dashboard. The more top-of-mind these points are, the more comfortable you will feel speaking to them, and incorporating them into sales conversations.
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2. Listen More
Selling isn’t about talking, and you don’t have to be the type of person who wants to command a room in order to sell. Sales is about listening to a potential customer to understand who they are, what challenges they face, and what problems you may help them solve.
In fact, the experts at SalesHQ recommend you apply the 80/20 rule to sales: Just 20 percent of the interaction should be you talking, and listen for the rest.
3. Practice Asking Questions
To learn more about customers’ needs, you have to be comfortable asking open-ended questions without feeling pushy. Practice first with people with whom you are comfortable. Explain your business to friends and family. Encourage them to ask honest questions about any aspect of your business they do not understand, or see as beneficial. The more practice you have with “curveballs,” the better prepared you are to change the course of the conversation, or your approach, as needed on sales calls.
4. Invest Your Energy in Qualified Customers
Investing your energy into prospects that closely fit your “ideal customer” profile will yield bigger sales results, with less wasted effort. Compile lists of qualified prospects, and track your sales activity. Record information about whom you spoke to, the nature of the conversation, the findings that result from it, and when you will contact them again. Patterns will emerge in terms of industries and decision-makers who are the “lowest-hanging fruit” in terms of your ability to close the sale.
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Though qualified lead lists may be much shorter than a list that isn’t targeted, your prospect list should be made up mostly of those people you have reasons to believe are likely to buy within a time horizon appropriate to your business sales cycle so you can focus your attention productively. Move leads that have no indication of progress into a more passive sales tactic, such as emails that are sent every few months.
5. Be a Sponge
The broader your interests, the better your ability to “speak the language” of any prospect. Commit to learning one thing that’s outside of your comfort zone each week. If you typically read the sports section in the newspaper, skip to the lifestyle articles one day. If your instinct is to listen to rock on the drive to the office, tune into NPR for a few mornings instead. The more you learn, the more you can connect with a range of people, and keep the conversation interesting and flowing thanks to your breadth of knowledge.
6. Be Specific About Your Goal for Each Sales Call
As David Epstein, author of “The Sports Gene,” learned in his research about the factors that determine superior athletes, success is closely linked to how specific a goal a person sets. Setting sales goals and detailing exactly how each call should be approached leads to intentional conversation whether your mission is to learn more about a client, understand what their current provider offers that you do not, or to arrange a face-to-face interaction. Your specific action steps will change repeatedly, but taking the time to include this extra bit of detail could be the difference between sales time spent wisely and time wasted.
7. Be Armed With the Tools to Pull the Trigger
Purchase hesitancy is a reality of the sales and buying cycle. Support your sales efforts with tools that allow you to pull the trigger as soon as the customer is ready to buy. Mobile payments, for example, allow you to securely process customer payments on your mobile device using a credit or debit card from anywhere, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar location, their place of business, a networking event or industry conference, or an outdoor festival.
As a business owner, you already have the grit, determination, and passion needed to be a sales superstar. Use these steps to practice speaking to customers and asking questions about their needs, and arm yourself with the tools to turn their “yes” into a bona fide sale.