Are you in sales?
If you run a business, the answer is “yes”.
Entrepreneurs do everything. We’re in sales, operations, finance, janitorial services… you name it. In my particular business, I am also the entire “Animal Management” department and the person responsible for keeping cats off the computers.
Entrepreneurs do everything, but we need to pay particular attention to sales, simply because with no customers we have no business.
There’s only one problem. We hate it.
Why We Fear Sales
I say “we” hate it, but actually I like it. After much research and experimentation, I have determined that being in sales is nothing more than strategically socializing and meeting for coffee. I like coffee and I like socializing, so there is no problem.
This is not a universal perspective. Many people I talk to say, “I’m just not a salesman” or “I like the idea of being in business, but maybe I can hire someone to do the sales part.”
I think they equate “sales” with a set of values and activities they wouldn’t like. In past articles, I’ve compared that image of sales with the main character of The Music Man, a fast-talking con artist.
It’s as if being a salesperson automatically means putting the desire to make the sale above the needs of the customer or even the obligation to be honest. As if the only way to be successful was to be selfish.
Luckily, that’s not how it works at all.
The Art of Making People Happy
In my soft-spoken, relationship-driven world, sales works like this:
- Someone asks me about what I do or about a product I sell
- I briefly explain it and then start asking questions to determine if this product could help this person
- The person answers the questions
- If the product could be helpful, I ask more questions. If it is not helpful, I change the subject
All I’m really doing is helping the other person determine whether she wants the product. Maybe I’ll provide samples or pictures, or maybe I’ll follow up several times if she wants me to, but I’m not going to sell anything to someone who doesn’t want the product or won’t be helped by it.
If the product will help the person, I will ask for the sale simply because most people need to be asked. They won’t act otherwise. But throughout the process, my goal is to help, not to take advantage.
And thus I am not acting at all like a fast-talking con man.
You Can Be An Ethical, Pleasant Salesperson
While I do like to make sales, my main goal is to help that person figure out what she wants. Sometimes I can help in other ways, for example, by referring her to someone who has what she really needs.
You can do this too. It takes some practice, but it’s a great skill to develop. If you can sell a product or a service, you can always make a living.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to learn, contact me about starting a “practice business”. I can help you.
And if it’s not right for you, I promise to tell you so.