Being good at selling is perhaps one of the greatest common denominators all successful people have.
Why? Because whether we like it or not, we are always selling.
In some shape or form, we are always trying to sell. When working in teams, we might sell our ideas or leadership. When applying to jobs, we sell our candidacy to recruiters. In our personal lives, we sell our personality to those around us. And if you’ve ever had the life-changing opportunity of falling in love, you are always selling yourself to your in-laws. But that’s another story for another time.
Improving our selling skills allows us to have a greater influence on those around us. The better we become at selling, the greater the weight of our opinions will be.
The following cardinal rules of selling will boost your capacity to sell your ideas.
1. Do Your Research
Selling is not about convincing and persuading people. It’s about finding the right people to sell to.
It’s not about cold calling or making your pitch to the greatest number of people. It’s about focusing your energy on that niche that will actually bear results.
You will have to do some research to effectively conduct the disqualification process.
Entrepreneurs: you should make your startup pitch to those investors that are actually interested in your industry or market. Salespeople: you have to know what the needs and wants of your prospective customer/markets are.
Focus on those warm leads that will find your product, service, and/or ideas beneficial and fruitful.
2. Get your prospective customers to lower their shields before making your pitch
Everywhere we go, we are bombarded with messages and advertising. All of which are targeting our pockets. Very few of them truly standout. For people to be willing to hear you out, you must first make them lower their shields.
Ask questions with the desire to help your prospective customer, not to take advantage of them. Golden rule: you should always listen more than you speak. The focus should be on discovering customers’ needs, so as to tailor your sales techniques to truly point out how your product/service benefits them.
Get to know your customers. Inquire about their family members, favorite sports team, or childhood. It’ll signal to them that you have their best interest at heart.
People will lower their shields when they feel like they aren’t trying to be convinced. Only then will they become more open to being persuaded.
3. Find out who the decision-maker is
Your time is your most valuable resource. How you decide to invest it will define your outcomes.
If you’re pitching your product or idea to people with no power over the final outcome, you’re not investing your time wisely. Invest your time with the decision-makers. Make every minute of your valuable time count.
Pitch your product, service, startup, or idea to those who can actually build something out from it.
4. Obey the 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule says that 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers.
In order to know who that 20% is, you’ll have to build a well-maintained and updated customer database. Know who your most valuable customers are. Focus on them. They’re the ones fueling your business.
And remember, it’s always cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one. Find ways to reward that 20% to make them feel like they’re valued and appreciated.
5. Persuade all the senses
Have you ever entered a retail store and felt completely captivated by its beautiful smell? Or by its compelling background music? Well, they’re there for a reason. They will either calm, relax, or seduce you into buying. Or they might make you anxious to stimulate you to buy.
When selling, find ways to attract all the senses. Showing them the product and letting them touch it, smell it, or taste it are great sales incentives. The goal should be for customers to feel like they already own the product or service.
This is why test drives are great when selling cars. Buyers can already get to know what it’d feel like to own the car before purchasing it. Play around with the senses.
Find ways to stimulate your customers into being open-minded.
6. Build your credibility
Before you sell, share an idea, or pitch your startup, you have to build your credibility. Your reputation will make a huge difference on people’s openness and willingness to support you.
Reputation is like branding – it’s about what people think and know about who you are and what you stand for. The brighter your personal brand is, the higher the probability that you can rally people towards your cause will be.
A prospect who finds you first will be way more likely to buy/support you.
Think about it this way. You are an author writing a business book. How are you going to get people to know you? How are you going to enhance your credibility to make people trust your work? Attractive options might include making a TED Talk, publishing a column on a prestigious newspaper or magazine, or forging partnerships with people in your market niche.
When looking to influence people, earn prestige and reputability. Have people come to you rather than the other way around.
7. Prepare to handle objections efficiently
Selling, backing your idea, pitching your startup, it takes conquering not only the mind, but most importantly, the heart. It’s about leading people towards your conclusion on their own terms.
Yet, getting there not always happens through smooth sailing. You might face plenty of bumps on the road. Bumps in the forms of objections, doubts, and skepticism.
Be prepared to handle them effectively. Find ways to turn those objections around and turn them into opportunities.
Find out what’s behind that no. Often, it simply means that customers don’t have all the information at hand. Or that they don’t see that value applying itself to their own personal benefit.
Effectively handling objections will empower you to win over even the most skeptic of buyers.
8. Create and nurture ambassadors
Yes, it’s great that you’re selling your product/service, idea, or startup. But why do it alone? You shouldn’t be alone on that journey!
The prospects of increasing your sales and getting more people interested in what you do will be higher if others are pitching your product, idea, or startup along with you. Rally people towards your cause by being remarkable.
Turn your customers into ambassadors of your product, service, idea, or startup. Have them join you in spreading the word about what you do. Have your customers become your partners.
How can this be achieved? Luckily, there are a couple of ways to accomplish it.
Tesla offers truly remarkable cars – their cars don’t need any advertising. Zappos offers tremendous customer service. Chobani offers great tasting yogurt while giving back to its communities. Amazon relentlessly pursues customer satisfaction – offering faster shipping and better products every day. Southwest Airlines’ unique culture empower its employees to deliver a fun and unique travel experience to its customers.
These companies flourish from the powerful word-of-mouth advertising their customers do for them.
9. Follow up
It sounds simple, yet it has a highly meaningful impact on your personal branding.
Following up can be as simple as picking the phone and calling your customers asking: “Hey, how are you finding our product/service?” Hearing them out, clarifying any questions or concerns, and thanking them for depositing their trust in your product/service sends a clear message: I care about you as a person, not only as a client.
By letting your customers know that they’re personally important for you, you’re delivering exceptional customer service. You are also reassuring them that they’ve made the right choice by choosing your product/service. This helps combat the cognitive dissonance that buyers often have after making a purchase.
Follow up. Focus on the connection with the customer, not the outcome or commission.
10. It’s all about building a relationship
This last point is, by far, the most important of them all. Selling should never be about the transaction.
Selling should be about adding value to a customer while building or strengthening a relationship. It’s about making customers’ lives simpler in some shape or form.
Finding out what the personality of a prospect is always helps. Personalities have a lot to say about a person. The better we understand it, the more effective can the pitch be delivered. Build rapport with your customer to make the relationship, not the transaction, the focus of the encounter.
This draws back to the importance of asking good questions and listening more than you speak. The stronger the relationship is, the easier it’ll be to add value to each other. Emphasizing relationship-building will allow for the mutually beneficial customer-to-business relationship to grow in the future.
Sales will always be more of an art than a science.
That doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot take advantage of proven ways to make sales simpler, better, and more effortless.