Many years ago when I started my management training and coaching business, selling was the one thing I hated doing. The face to face selling was difficult enough but the worst part for me was picking up the phone and making an appointment. I did not help myself by procrastinating about this very important task and putting off the job of making those calls.
Eventually I decided to do some sales training. Here I was taught all the tricks of the trade from mirroring body language to 'getting past the dragon' (the PA or gate keeper for the busy person I wanted to speak to). I must have been doing something right as I was bringing in some work but not a lot for all my efforts, it has to be said. The most telling thing about this situation was that I still hated selling. Not good if you are running a business!
Then one day I reflected on the fact that using all the selling techniques I could was doing one thing - preventing me from being myself. Next I thought about my first career as a nurse and midwife and how I loved talking to people, finding out about them and their needs and then fulfilling those needs to make them happier and more comfortable. BINGO! The light bulbs went on, all at once, as I realised that first and foremost selling is about being yourself and building sound and trusting relationships with people.
That got me thinking about how easy and enjoyable it would be if I were to forget about what I was selling and just develop friendships with people. Being the kind of person who is fascinated by what work and businesses others are engaged in, I found this new approach so easy and enjoyable. I started to join networking groups and was soon developing an extensive database of contacts and friends.
Now don't forget this was way, way before email and social media (that's showing my age!) so picking up the phone and following up on meetings was vital. However, you still need to use this personal contact even in today's digital age. Phoning to talk to a new contact was still a problem area for me until an experienced telesales lady told me the secret - never try and sell on the phone ONLY get the appointment. That was definitely easier if I had met them at a recent event but I still needed a really good 'sound bite' to tell them very succinctly about my business. Creating a short snappy sentence that describes your business and unique selling point (USP) is the key. Yes I know this is easier said than done when it is your own business, so ask your friends and business contacts to help you come up with one. They will surprise you with their ideas and it is such fun to choose the right one for you.
When it comes to the actual meeting remember the 20:20 rule - your prospective customer talks 80% of the time and you talk only 20%. You are still building friendships not selling a product/service. Ask delving questions to find out more about their business and future needs in the area of your service/product. Listen carefully for any problems that they flag up that you may be able to help them solve. There really is no need to give them the full on sales patter. Make notes whilst they are talking and then later on show them the services/products you have that will help them. Fill the gaps of their needs and desires.
Remember People buy from People and mostly from people they like and trust.
Chrissie Webber is the manager of the University of South Wales, Graduate Business Incubator Centre, The Business Loft in Newport, South Wales. With over 30 years experience as an entrepreneur Chrissie also runs her management development and coaching business CD Consultancy & Training Group and Chrissie Designs Jewellery a wire work and wedding jewellery business.
She is a published author - Weight Loss life Gain - and an ardent blogger. Her passion is helping people grow and develop and find the work they were born to do.