The idea of actively selling one’s products and services can be an intimidating proposition to many entrepreneurs. We’ve all experienced so many negative encounters with poorly trained, overly aggressive sales people that even the thought of picking up the phone to call a prospect can conjure up images of used car salesmen, fast talkers, and pesky sales clerks. Not exactly how any of us want to be perceived by our prospects.
At the end of the day, however, someone in your organization that has a complete command of your mission, your value proposition, knowledge of your targeted prospects, and the ability (and authority) to engage and secure commitment, is going to have to pursue some form of sales.
I’ve been known to say, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that in all my years of business-to-business sales I’ve never had a customer come to my office to buy something. Wouldn’t that have been nice? It seems like I always had to take the first steps for things to move forward. But it doesn’t have to be as painful as we project it might be in our minds. By looking at the process from a slightly different perspective it can be educational, enriching, and actually quite a bit of fun!
We covered a lot of ground in the previous blogs, but it can all be summarized in what I call the three R’s of Conscious Selling; Resource, Relationship, and Relax.
Be a Resource
The first step in differentiating yourself and your company from the noise of the marketplace is to become a resource for your prospects and customers. Help them achieve their objectives, solve problems, and capture opportunities. Be of service. It is amazing how far a little selflessness can go! Be willing to go the extra mile and know that you don’t need to make money on everything you do. Becoming a resource is an investment that will pay off over time.
Becoming a resource can begin as simply as asking a few questions. Starting a conversation (after introductions and pleasantries, of course) with a prospect, even on a cold call, with something as simple as, “I appreciate the value of your time, so I was wondering if I might ask a few questions so I might better understand how we might help you?” changes the whole tenor of the encounter. You just went from selling something to inquiring about their needs and desires.
Asking well researched questions will differentiate you and build credibility. The insights you gain into your prospect’s world will also help you position your value proposition. In other words, it helps you maximize the value of your fit to their need. And what you learn from one prospect will inevitably apply with another one down the road. This beneficial learning curve contributes to your skills and abilities over time and should be a key point of market research for your company.
Being a resource validates you with your customers. It also sets the foundation for the next R…
The insights you gain through your thoughtful questions delivers another benefit as well. These insights enable empathy to emerge. I cannot overstate the importance of being able to express authentic empathy in establishing trusting relationships. Please don’t confuse this with cloying sympathy, it is about one’s ability to correlate their own experiences with the experiences of another. There’s something very powerful about the shared human experience, no matter what it is. It connects us and enables us to relate not only to what other people think, but what they feel as well.
Remember the research we discussed earlier? That companies that engage both their associates and customers on an emotional level enjoy a 240% improvement in financial performance? Being able to quickly gain insights into your prospects needs, understand their constraints, opportunities, risks (both personal and professional), and authentically relate to how they feel about doing business with you sets this in motion. That’s the power of empathy.
People are funny. They don’t always come right out and tell you what they want or need. Please think about whether or not this has happened in your life? Even when a relationship is in place, sometimes people are hard to read. This is where your emotional intelligence can help you discern what may or may not be happening with your prospects. Elevating your self-awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management skills helps you get off the dance floor and into the balcony, providing even greater insights to emerge from your conscious, highly aware perspective. Most importantly, these skills help you feel your thinking, delivering a presence with your prospects that is highly engaging.
Relax, the world is not beating down any doors to discover another high-pressure, unconscious sales person. In a day when each of us are bombarded with anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 marketing messages and sales pitches per day, assuming a traditional, hard-sell approach just adds to the noise.
Before speaking with prospects, take a breath, ground yourself, and smile. Enjoy the opportunity you have to share the passion you have for your endeavor! Be a resource and invest in your relationships and amazing things are sure to follow. Best of all, you’ll have mastered Conscious Selling!