"I've been running a business the past couple of years. I do OK with it, but I know what my biggest problem is, and it's me. I just can't sell. I can't look somebody straight in the eye and tell him he needs something when I know he doesn't. I was taught as a kid not to be pushy, and it's hard to let go of that. Do you have any suggestions on how I can sell without lying, being unethical or feeling sleazy about it?"
Over the last three decades of my life I have worked with 15,000 to 20,000 business owners around the country. When you work with that many, you see patterns — in the ones who make it, and in the ones that crash and burn.
Let me tell you something: All of the successful business owners I've worked with — every last man and woman — are good salespeople.
Being able to market and sell your products and services is the key — and I mean the key — to success when you run your own business. If you do not know how to sell, if you do not feel comfortable selling — you will fail. It's that simple.
Here is a proven, time tested, three-step method by which you can sell just about anything to just about anyone and feel good about yourself afterward.
Step No. 1: Get Your Customer Talking. The biggest mistake salespeople make is to start talking about what they've got before the customer has told them what they're looking for. That's not selling, that's "cold calling" — it's a waste of your time, it's an insult to your customer, and yes, it is sleazy.
When beginning a salespitch, don't talk. Ask questions. Get the customer talking.
And not just about anything. Get him to talk about his "fears" and "passions": what keeps him awake at nights and what gets him excited (or "turns him on"). Why? Because — dirty little secret — these are the only two reasons anyone buys anything: to reduce anxiety or to get more out of life.
Whenever we get together with family and friends, we spend most of our time talking about our fears and passions, and so do your customers. Your customer will not be offended or think you are "getting too personal" — they will be flattered, they will think you really care about them; they will like you. And they will buy from you.
Step No. 2: Focus on a Fear or Passion You Can Do Something About. We all have fears and passions, but we don't feel them all the time. Before I can sell you anything, I have to get you to feel — in the moment, right here and now — a fear or passion I can do something about. Steer the conversation with your customer toward a fear or passion you can help them with.
Step No. 3: Offer the Solution. Once you sense the customer is feeling a fear or passion you can do something about, now start talking — about how your products or services will reduce their fears or how exciting and great your stuff is. Paint a vivid word-portrait of how great/convenient/successful/worry-free their life would be if they only had your wonderful stuff
Need an example? Here's a salespitch I use (when wearing my "lawyer" hat) to convince a client that he needs to form a corporation:
"You know I've worked with a lot of entrepreneurs — more than 15,000 the last time I counted. If you're just like every one of them, you're probably worried about making a mistake in your business, getting sued and losing not only your business assets but your house, your car and your personal stuff as well. Am I right about that?
Well, you can put up a 'wall' between your personal and business assets, so that if (heaven forbid) you are ever sued, your business assets will still be at risk — that's why you still need insurance — but your personal assets will be safe from attack because they are on the other side of the wall. One of these 'wall' things is called a corporation. Would you like to hear more?"
Would you ever in a million years say "no" to a salespitch like that?
To be an effective salesperson, you have to believe — passionately — in your products or services. If you think your stuff isn't any good, you will never be able to convince them it is. The best salespeople I know have a sense of "mission" about what they do. They are truly convinced that they are doing you the world's biggest favor by telling you about it and that you would be crazy not to listen.
If you think selling is "sleazy," it's probably because you're selling the wrong stuff. Find stuff you really believe in, and convey that passion, that enthusiasm, with everyone you meet. You will become a great salesperson, and you won't even know you're doing it . . .
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.