I have a secret. I really don’t like selling.
The thought of contacting someone and trying to convince them to buy something they may or may not need is something I dread. But sales and new customers are the lifeblood of any business, so it is something we have to confront if we want to grow our businesses.
My aversion to ‘selling’, in the traditional sense, led me to explore other ways of winning new business and to eventually develop a process that takes the ‘suck’ out of sales.
The key is flipping the traditional sales funnel from an outbound process of identifying targets and pursuing them through emails, direct mail, cold calls and sales teams, to an inbound process of attracting relevant, motivated customers who genuinely require the solutions you offer.
Do this well and you’ll never have to make a sales call again.
1. Become a specialist
Trying to be everything to everyone is a surefire recipe for mediocrity. It makes it almost impossible for you stand out in a crowded marketplace and generally means you have no point of difference.
Specialists focus on being exceptionally good at one particular thing and charge a premium for it. Identify where you can be one of the best in your field, focus on the benefits of this offering and then start communicating them.
2. Don’t sell, help
Most businesses invest way too much time, money and effort in trying to explain how great they are and why you should buy from them. The problem is that customers are only interested in solutions that will help them with their particular needs, especially when they most need it.
Instead, concentrate on how to help potential customers. Publish advice, tips and how-to guides. Focus on the benefits and solutions rather than the features.
Be seen as the authority your your industry, confidently helping without the expectation of an immediate transaction. This builds goodwill and trust and can make you the preferred option when the time is right.
3. Optimise your website for search
Nothing, in my experience, delivers more qualified leads or customers in a more reliable and cost-effective manner than ranking highly in search for your products, services and solutions. The fact is that when we want something, we generally start with a Google search and we rarely go past the first page. That’s where your business needs to be.
Optimise absolutely everything you can on your website and watch the traffic and sales flow.
4. Be willing to say no
Salespeople are generally quick to say yes to anything to get a sale, even if it’s not necessarily going to lead to the best outcome for either party. Smart businesses actually say no a lot. If you don’t believe you are the best fit or solution for the customer it’s better to say no rather than take the sale. It seems counter-intuitive, but it actually reinforces that you are here to help rather than sell.
It leads to greater respect and can even result in referrals from the person you turned away.
Craig Wilson is managing director of Sticky
This post originally appeared in the Newcastle Herald on 6 February 2018