A version of this post first appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post September 2015
Whether you run a business or a charity, the skills of selling are vital to secure your future, and yet this is the side of business that people struggle with most. But selling does not have to be, and should not be, the dirty side of business.
So many business owners I meet say they ‘hate the whole sales thing’. That isn’t surprising as it’s frequently portrayed as manipulative and a bit sleazy. Our dislike of sales is often based on our own experiences of being sold to. Anyone that has ever been ripped off will be understandably cautious about the sales process.
But here in the UK we have more businesses than ever springing up. In Lancashire alone there were 9,788 new companies formed in 2014, bringing the total number of Lancashire businesses to a new high of almost 70,000.
With an economy that has so many small businesses we absolutely need people to be able to sell, otherwise that is a lot of people with an expensive hobby!
Most people setting up a business do not learn sales. Sales is not often taught or when it is it is frequently made over complicated, or difficult to relate to. I was trained in sales and business education myself and I found that so much of it is like game playing. But games require a winner and a loser! That’s just outdated and not appropriate for today’s market. The rise of social media has changed so much about the way we do business and sales skills have to adapt for the 21st Century.
In my new book The Heart of Sales I explore the main reasons people don’t buy and how to address these.
Here are 3 common blocks to sales.
The first block is usually ourselves, although this is rarely discussed. People think you need be an extravert with the ‘gift of the gab’ to sell. You don’t. It’s pretty useful to like people if you’re selling face to face, but most people just want to deal with a decent human being who will answer their questions honestly and with a smile.
The second is not understanding our customers. When we are target driven we focus on our own needs, but if we learn as much as we can about our customers we can pitch our products appropriately, in a way that speaks to the right people. That way we don’t waste their time, or ours.
The third is being disorganised. The amount of companies that lose sales because they’re not organised is a crying shame. The best way to disappoint a customer is to let them down. So let’s keep it very simple and do what we say we will do, when we say we will do it. Social media has created a space for people to share their experiences of a company, be that good or bad. Now more than ever our reputation matters.
To me sales is all about how we can help people. There’s someone out there right now looking for what you offer. Our job is to make it as easy as possible for them to find us and get what they need.
The truth is, it’s totally possible to run an ethical business, treat customers well and make a good profit.
“The Heart of Sales is a recommended read for people starting in sales or wishing to brush up their sales skills – or indeed, anyone who wants an up-to-date and clear-cut analysis of sales in the present day. With her expertise and insight, Jane has transformed the traditional competitive nature of sales and provided a model that is altogether more human” –Hannah Snashall, Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce
The Heart of Sales is available from Amazon as a kindle reader for £7.50