News flash for all of us: making sales doesn’t make you sleazy! I know it can often feel like it because sales, in general, has developed a nasty stigma, but it’s not true. And as entrepreneurs, we have to get comfortable with selling our products or services or we won’t be able to pay the bills! It’s time that we get real about sales and talk about how to get into the right mindset for authentic sales.
We all sell something every day
I don’t care who you are, you sell something to someone every single day. One of the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definitions of sales is “to persuade or influence to a course of action or to the acceptance of something.” By that definition, you may sell your family on what’s for dinner or maybe you have to sell our pets on getting brushed or bathed!
Making sales isn’t about conning someone into buying something they don’t need or making them do something they don’t want to. That’s what a lot of people perceive as sales, but that’s not how it has to be.
You don’t have to be a used car salesman when you sell
This is probably where the bad rep of salespeople really took off. We’ve all seen or heard the HORRIBLE used car lot ads. There’s one near me who seems to think that good marketing is to just scream their dealership name literally every other sentence during an ad. It drives me nuts and has cemented my plan to avoid that dealership at all costs. So if that’s what sales is, who would want anything to do with it?!
The trick to authentic sales: focus on the other person
If a used car salesman keeps the customer in mind, they might actually be more likely to make the sale. My sister was recently in the market for a new car when hers got wrecked (thanks, black ice!). The first dealership we went to was low-key and didn’t try to pressure her. They didn’t try to push a higher priced car or get her to buy right then and there. They even offered to hold the car she was considering for a $100 REFUNDABLE deposit! Because this dealership focused on my sister’s best interest and not on making the sale on the spot, she happily paid the deposit and went to look at a couple of other cars before making her decision.
At the next dealership we went to, we were immediately pounced on. The car she was interested in was just barely out of the inspection process, so she was the first person to test drive it and the salesman kept reminding her of that. We drove it, it wasn’t great, and we told the salesman we’d be in touch if she decided to get it (knowing she wouldn’t). As soon as she said that, he started trying to get her to look at cars that were well out of the price range she had told him and didn’t want to take no for an answer. Then he started reminding her that they’d gotten numerous inquiries about the car, so it might be gone if she waited. We didn’t walk, we ran from that dealership.
THIS is the kind of situation that makes us as entrepreneurs cringe when we hear the word ‘salesman.’ This guy clearly was all about the sale and didn’t care if his customer was best served by what he had to offer. Let’s not be That Guy!
Keep your customers in mind for authentic sales
So there you go: customers come first if you’re aiming for authentic sales tactics. But how do you put that into practice?
If they don’t need it, don’t pitch it
So that first dealership I mentioned? Our salesman there saw that the car my sister was looking at served her needs and that it was the right fit for her. Sure, he probably had cars that cost a bit more that could have been an even better fit, but he respected her budget. Whatever the reason for your product or service not being the right fit, if your customer doesn’t need it, don’t pitch it to them!
If they do need it, show the benefits
Sales is about persuasion, right? I know that can sound like just as much of a dirty word as ‘sales,’ but again, you persuade people every day. If there is a true need, it’s your job to show your customer how your product or service can truly help them. After all, if it can’t, you’re not going to pitch it, right?
You don’t even have to push it. Just offer them a trial of some kind so they can think about it. That’s what the great car salesman did when he offered to hold the car for a refundable deposit. There was no risk to my sister, but by doing that, he increased the likelihood of making a sale and you can do the same thing in your business if you get a little creative.
Customers above money
If you keep your customers as the first priority in your sales process, you won’t feel pushy and they won’t feel sold to. Most people can tell when they’re being pushed into something and it immediately turns them off. If they can feel that you genuinely have their best interests at heart and only want to make authentic sales, they’ll be more open to hearing what you have to sell them on.
For authentic sales, learn how to read the No
Overall, we feel ‘sold’ when someone doesn’t take No for an answer, right? That second used car salesman lost any chance of a sale when he didn’t accept No. The more you push for something and don’t respect the customer, the less they’re going to respect and trust you. Plus…
No can mean a lot of things!
If the first car salesman hadn’t gracefully received my sister’s No, he would have lost a sale for sure. In her case, No meant ‘not yet.’ In your customer’s case, it’s going to vary, too. It could mean not now, not ever, I need to think about it, I need more info, etc. It’s your job as an entrepreneur and an authentic salesperson to figure out what that particular No means.
Figure out the No to move forward
This will take some practice, but you can find out what your customers’ No means without pushing. It could be something along the lines of, “I completely understand. I’d love to know why this isn’t a good fit for you so that I can take that feedback into consideration and make my product/service/whatever better for future customers.” This shows that you’re not trying to get THEM to buy right now but that you truly care about their input and that you put ALL of your customers first.
By approaching a No in this manner, you could turn it into a sale after all! That won’t always or probably even often be the case, but if nothing else, you can hopefully get some valuable feedback that could help you improve your offering and sales process down the road. That customer may even come back to you if their No changes because they trust you even more now!
Recommend other products or services
If you’re not their Goldilocks, it’s okay to direct them somewhere else! Maybe your offering is too expensive for them and isn’t likely to be within their budget anytime soon. You could send them to a lower-priced offering from a colleague and let them know you’d love to work with them in the future. Maybe they said No because they want a different approach. Totally fine! You can refer them to a friend who would be a better fit.
By not pushing them when your offering isn’t the right fit and by pointing them in the direction of something or someone that may work better for them, you’re breaking the sales stereotype. I was looking at buying a new Prius at one point and we went to the local Toyota dealership. We were talking with one of their salesmen and we told him the price we could get through USAA, which I’m a legacy member of. Rather than pushing us to buy from him anyway, he told us that if we could get that price, we should jump on it, We ended up getting an amazing used Prius somewhere else, but because of our experience with that salesman, we now take our Prius to that Toyota dealership for service (and they take excellent care of us!) and they probably make far more profit from that than if they had sold us a car!
All that to say: don’t be afraid to give away business that isn’t the right fit. It can come back around in ways you may not even expect.
So if you’re struggling to find the right mindset for authentic sales in your business, remember that you sell something to someone every day, even if you don’t realize it. If you keep your customer’s needs as your priority during your sales process, you can steer away from the used car salesman stereotype. Don’t forget to figure out the reason for a No and don’t be afraid to refer them to someone else if they’re not a good fit for what you offer!
Leave a comment with your thoughts on making authentic sales! Here are some ideas:
Have you ever had an amazing or appalling sales experience? What made it stand out so much?
What is an immediate turn-off for you during a sales process?
Got any tips for authentic sales for your fellow entrepreneurs? Please share them with us!