You’ve spent a lot of time dreaming big, coming up with your business idea and it’s all very fabulous. But the next step is presenting that to the world and communicating it to others so that people buy your products or services.
One of the things I hear a lot from my clients is that it’s really hard to write about yourself, talk about yourself, let alone to “sell yourself”. I can also relate to this from my own first hand experience. Most of my clients are extremely kind and helpful people, working in creative or helping fields, and may not have the confidence to pitch or present themselves or their services. But I can assure you that you can definitely be successful at selling, without selling.
I’ve lived sales for over 12 years, largely for corporations but also for luxury retail shops, in hospitality and for my own work as a photographer. I always said that I would never do any kind of work in sales, so how I fell into it is all a bit of a mystery – even now. But I was quite good at it and when I look at why that is, it’s because I NEVER tried to sell anything.
If you’re struggling to find a way to sell your services – or to communicate what you’re about, then my advice is simple.
1. Focus on informing, not selling.
This one simple difference in approach brings significant results. When you come from a position of wanting to sell something, you put yourself (and your delicate ego) in the middle of the picture and the options you effectively give yourself are to either win or lose, to succeed or to fail. We often put ourselves in this position because we might be under pressure from managers who have given us sales targets or some sort of expectation of results. Or we’ve watched one too many films about life on Wall Street and believe that’s how it’s done. When you take this approach, on some level you are taking it personally and therefore get carried away with emotions. It can strike a potential client as desperation, incompetence or arrogance, all of which are a massive turn off. This approach can lead to “hard-selling” or what many people associate with the term “used car salesman”. You might find some clients who sign up to this kind of approach, but you won’t ever have consistent results this way and you are very unlikely to get repeat business. Worst of all, if you don’t make the sale then you can feel like an utter failure. But you didn’t lose anything – you never had it in the first place! If you come from a position of being an informer or educator you are coming from a place of service. You are simply trying to be as helpful as possible by providing all the necessary information to help the potential client make a decision. You need to make sure the information is relevant, complete, and equally don’t bombard people with more information than they need. Just look at it from their position, what would they want to know? This approach feels easier, because the competitive aspect has been removed. You’ve also put them in the centre of the picture, because you’re trying to help them. They can feel this and it makes them feel valued and respected. If they don’t take your products or services, you don’t take it personally either. You know you did your best to give them all the information to make the best decision, and, for whatever reason, it wasn’t the right fit for them at this point in time. But on the flip side, by putting them at the centre of the picture, it will make your potential clients feel like you really care about them and not just their money. If the information you provide them with ticks all their boxes, they will feel very good about buying your products or services. Don’t you want them to feel good about their custom?
Don’t forget that most people don’t like being sold to, it can make them feel as uncomfortable as it makes you feel to be trying to sell them something. Which brings me to the next point…
2. Be Authentic
The next thing I would say is to always be yourself. When you are coming from a place of authenticity, you allow your own natural enthusiasm and passion to come forth and this is more contagious than you may ever realise. When you are yourself, you are more relaxed and people have an opportunity to get to know you better. This makes them more comfortable with you – or not.
You are not in the business of trying to please everyone and do business with everyone. It’s not possible, so don’t even set that expectation for yourself. What you want is to find the right clients for you and those will be the ones who feel they resonate with you and what you’re about.
3. Accept that you will not always get the sale
If, in being authentic, you don’t get a sale then this is probably for the best. It often indicates potential difficulties in your business relationship later on.
Remember that you can also say no to a client’s business if things don’t feel right to you.
On the few occasions I’ve ignored my gut feelings that were trying to tell me a certain business relationship wasn’t a good idea – I’ve learnt a valuable lesson later on. I’ve said yes to business simply for the money, but then found the clients to be extremely difficult to work with, requiring so much extra work to appease them that it has actually resulted in far less profit, more stress and I would have been in a much better position had I simply not agreed to the work in the first place. Now, if I ever get that gut feeling again, I simply tell the person that I don’t believe that I am the most suitable person to provide the services they are looking for. It’s for their own sake as much as my own. If you work in retail, the answer is much simpler: not everybody wants or needs what you have. If you think you absolutely must convince everyone to buy your product then you are also not my audience. This is the way corporations tend to think and their intentions in business are very different. Sometimes you will get a “no” from a potential client, that comes back to you as a “yes” later. You just never know when this is going to happen so there is no point getting upset about someone turning your products or services down if you did your best to inform them. So many times, I’ve had potential customers come to me 3 months later, even a year later, because they finally saved enough money, or a stressful time in their lives was over, or they finally just got themselves organised, to book my services and they remembered that they liked my honest approach. So in short, don’t turn it all into a personal thing and just be as wholehearted and helpful as you can and you will find this whole “selling” business easier than you thought!
There is a lot more I could say on this topic, and indeed I will in due course, but for now, these three important tips will hopefully change things for you and may be all you needed to know. Stay true to yourself and welcome positive outcomes.