Inc.com recently published an article online entitled, “Are You Sales Phobic?”. I was thinking about this article in the context of one of my recent blog postings, “Conquering F.E.A.R.” This topic of fear as it relates to business is close to me, because I have to admit that although I’m an entrepreneur, I’m not a salesperson at heart. In fact, for many years I shunned sales jobs, because I disdained the image of one of those slick, overbearing salespeople, who “force” themselves on people with gadgets or services that they probably didn’t want or need. That wasn’t who I was or who I wanted to be known as.
What I eventually learned is that I had the wrong perspective about sales… and maybe you do too. Even when I first started my consulting and training business, I was naive and didn’t fully embrace the fact that entrepreneurs are really salespeople (and if they don’t think they are, they won’t be in business for very long). I was hoping that all of the relationships that I had developed while I was working in my corporate job would come chasing after me once they found out I was a “free agent”. To my dismay and disappointment, that didn’t happen. I soon realized that I had to… ugh… sell to them.
Until recently I had not associated my aversion to sales as fear. One reason is because fear can look very subtle in sales. For example, fear could be displayed as apprehension, avoidance, procrastination, self-sabotage, lack of confidence, or indecisiveness. Personally, whenever I was in a situation where I felt the pressure to sell something, all of a sudden I become tense, robotic, anxious, and unsure of myself. This was in total contrast to my typical personality. I naturally enjoyed engaging with people and I didn’t have a problem striking up conversations with complete strangers. I realized something had to change if I was going to be successful as an entrepreneur.
Then one day I was at a leadership conference and I heard one of the speakers give his definition of sales. He said that sales is simply offering something to someone that they need. This simple yet profound statement impacted me unlike any sales seminar or book that I had experienced prior to that. My overall perspective, attitude, and approach to customers was totally changed after that. I realized that sales was not about me trying to convince my customers to buy something that I had to sell. It is about me offering something of value to them that they need – even if they don’t realize yet that they need it.
Even with this new understanding, I still had to work to get over my fear of sales. I also had to get comfortable with who I was as a salesperson and how to sell most effectively. One way to help cope with the fear of selling is to discover your sales style, because everyone doesn’t do sales the same way.
According to Ray Silverstein, there are three basic categories of salespeople, Finders, Minders, and Grinders (click here to read article). Regardless of what sales style that you have, the common denominator between each of these styles is the ability to build relationships with customers. The key differentiator between the different sales styles is the time frame of the execution of the sales process.
As I assessed at myself while reading his article, I realized that my personality and style places me mostly into the Minder category. One of my strengths is building and maintaining positive relationships. I’m not quite as strong at getting a lot of sales in short periods of time. This is critical information for me to know, because it helps me to define the type of strategy that I need to employ to build relationships with customers that will grow my business.
Business is all about relationships. If you don’t know how to build and maintain relationships, you will fail in business. There are three basic principles which are crucial to you overcoming your fear of selling and growing a successful business or career. You must get your customers to: 1) know you, 2) like you, and 3) trust you. Knowing and practicing these three key principles will enable you to build profitable relationships that will fuel your sales success. Let’s take a closer look at these principles.
1) Know you – Your reputation is your personal brand and is the most valuable asset that you have. Your customers will know you by the quality of your character and interaction with them. Developing genuine, authentic connections with your customer will enable you to be known by a positive reputation.
2) Like you – The Bible says that those who want friends must show themselves to be friendly. Are you likable (i.e. personality, character, attitude)? Are you easy to get along with and easy to talk to? You need to demonstrate a genuine concern for your customer’s needs. Helping your customer like you as a human being will get you even further as a salesperson.
3) Trust you – Trust can take a long time to establish. The number one thing that you can do to establish trust is to keep your word, because integrity is non-negotiable. Under-promise and over-deliver. Don’t give in to the pressure to meet a sales quota at the expense of compromising your relationship with your customer.
Whether you are working for yourself or for a company, when you engage customers you are really selling yourself. Stay true to who you are. Don’t try to fit into someone else’s vision of a salesperson if that doesn’t fit your character or personality. Just because a certain technique works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you too. Also, recognize that everyone is not your customer, because they may not need what you have have to offer. You need to be OK with that.
You are uniquely you. Use your own character traits to your advantage as you build long-term, profitable relationships with current and potential customers. Don’t let fear or anything else keep you from positively impacting the people that need what you have to offer!
Paul Wilson, Jr.
“Are You Sales Phobic?” by Allison Stein Wellner http://www.inc.com/magazine/20070301/salesmarketing-psychology.html
“Finder, Minder or Grinder: What’s Your Sales Style?” by Ray Silverstein