What’s one thing people like Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson have in common? They are examples of people who are superb at selling.
"Selling” isn’t just for salespeople. To define your destiny, to accomplish anything in work or life, you need to know how to sell. To sell yourself, your ideas, or your stuff.
Getting a job or promotion, getting buy-in from coworkers on a new project, inspiring people to volunteer, finding distribution for a film, getting press, raising money for a nonprofit, raising venture capital, starting a company, recruiting people … these all require “selling.”
Selling in the traditional sense can be noble, too. The skill of selling brings money into companies while inspiring customers to adopt new practices. People who sell (including entrepreneurs) are on the front lines every day; they are a company’s most important
point of contact with customers.
Here are eight tips to keep selling -- whatever type you do -- both real and really effective.
1) Adopt a New ABC.
Alec Baldwin gave the greatest sales rant of all time in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. In it, he reminded the team to “ABC," or in other words, "Always Be Closing.” (Haven't seen this classic scene? I urge you to check it out -- it’s the best investment of seven minutes you can make).
But there's a problem with this acronym: it exemplifies a “sell something to someone whether they need it or not” approach. The best kinds of sales are when both parties win. You make money, they get a problem solved, and you both feel good about it.
So, here’s an alternative ABC that all modern salespeople would be wise to embrace:
- A = Ask questions. Listen more than you talk. Insightful questions make it easy to have conversations with customers or prospects, learn about their problems, and know what solution will help them best. People won’t be ready to listen to you until after you’ve listened to them.
- B = Be honest. About why you’re doing this, and what your personal story is. In being curious about the prospect, their situation, and what they care about. What you’re passionate about. Why you think they should or should not do this. That you’re new and don’t know the answers, but that you know where to get them.
- C = Customer success. If you stay focused on what will help your customers succeed, you can’t go wrong. Become an expert in what you do, and you will guide people in helping decide what’s best for them. Through experience, you’ll learn how to challenge people to get out of their comfort zone, to make a decision, and move forward -- even when at first they’re uncertain or resistant.
2) Accept that people buy on their time.
Your primary goal should not be to close a deal, but to help your customers (or whoever you're "selling" to) solve problems and realize success.
Recognize that buyers don't buy on your timeline. Don’t be desperate or needy.
The only way it gets easier, and you get better, is by doing a lot of selling. And as you gain experience, it’ll become easy to identify when you should challenge people on their beliefs. Don't hesitate to say “you should/should not do this for these specific reasons … ” when an opportunity to challenge arises.
4) Be pleasantly persistent.
Do you often find yourself saying, “I sent them a message and they didn’t respond ... so they must not be interested”?
Following up, repeatedly, is vital. Not optional. Required. Who says they even saw or read your note?
Don’t be afraid to follow up on your follow-ups; just do it in friendly ways. The only way you’ll be annoying is by actually being annoying.
5) Always be testing and learning.
In addition to ABC, embrace "ABT" and "ABL" -- "Always Be Testing" and "Always Be Learning," respectively. The best way to learn is to try it out and see what happens. You can’t whiteboard your way to success. If you close zero out of 10 opportunities, step back and figure out what needs to change.
6) Take “no” as information.
A "no" isn't criticism -- it's information. If people aren’t buying, look at is as market research. Are you targeting the right people with the right need, right time, and right message? What needs to change to improve?
7) Ask the hard questions like the easy ones.
Oftentimes, salespeople struggle with asking “hard” questions, such as finding out if the prospect has the money to pay for the product.
My best advice about how to ask a hard question is to just ask it. Pretend you’re asking about the weather -- “Is it raining where you are?” Ask “How would you pull together the budget for this?” with the same ease you would check if the sun was shining in their city. In addition, get help in crafting better questions and role-playing to practice.
Can you imagine what a company would be like if everyone there could sell effectively and honestly -- whether to customers or internally? A lot of great ideas are stifled because employees have them … and have no idea what to do with them. A lot of customers don’t get what they need, because employees on sales, support, or success teams are afraid to “sell” the customer on something they might need. Use these eight tips to master the life skill of selling, and watch your opportunities multiply.