"Nothing happens until someone sells something."
This business axiom is one of my favorites and it is especially important for freelancers and small business owners.
With that in mind, I've created this insanely practical guide on how to sell — even if you are an introvert (or an extrovert).
Let's get into it.
If you open up most sales books from the last 20 years, you're bound to find a huge emphasis being placed on the importance of building long-lasting relationships and growing your network.
While the strategy of "relationship selling" is great for extroverts, it can often leave introverts feeling left out of the party... until recently.
Game-changing research released in 2011 by the Corporate Executive Board has encouraged many of the world's companies to change their focus from "relationship selling" to a new type of sales process.
The research showed that "the right way" to sell is actually counter-intuitive, showing that people who focused on "relationship selling" were 550 percent less likely to become a top performer than those who fell into the "challenger" classification.
Challengers didn't focus just on relationships. Instead, they focused on helping potential clients think about their business differently and actively identified opportunities for them to improve.
While this new type of selling sounds complex, it really isn't.
There is actually a simple three-step formula that the best sales people use to not only increase sales but also build satisfied life-long customers.
This formula works especially well for introverts (and extroverts).
Top sellers know that business isn't just about building relationships. Instead, it is about challenging potential customers to think differently about their businesses.
Here is the simple formula that this research has found to be the most effective way to do just that:
Below you'll find a breakdown of practical steps on how you can use each of these in your business.
Before meeting with a potential customer, look over their business and find at least one or two opportunities for them to noticeably improve their business that you see from your unique perspective.
Typically, these insights will be gleaned from your expertise in working with related companies. Your goal should be to educate them about their own business so that you can not only win their trust but also establish yourself as someone who can get results.
Once you meet with the client, take time to teach them about their business. You'll know you're on to something if you hear "I never thought about my business that way."
Note: As you are identifying opportunities, make sure that they are things you are qualified and capable of helping your clients improve on. You don't want to be the person that says "Hey, you've got a problem over there that you should probably fix. Good luck!"
Remember: Most people aren't willing to acknowledge they have a problem unless a solution is pointed out to them or unless an expert is around to help them with their problem.
Once you've shown the potential customer an opportunity to grow their business, it is crucial to show them how your company can tailor its services to meet their specific needs.
Don't forget that you are the expert. You probably know what they need more than they do.
You should adjust your services accordingly.
For example, if you offer web design, explain to them how the specific parts of the package you are offering them will address each of their unique concerns. This is especially effective when you've nailed the teaching phase.
Spend more time offering a unique perspective to help them grow their business.
Once you've taught them something new and you've tailored your offerings to meet their specific needs, you're going to have a pretty good idea on whether or not your business actually meets their specific needs.
If it is a good fit, it is your responsibility to advance the conversation about how you can work together.
A good way to do this is to paint a picture of what happens if they stay with the status quo then compare how focusing on the opportunities that you have presented will help them reach their business goals.
Note: Don't shy away from talking about money.
Any easy way to bring up the "sales" conversation is to memorize this phrase:
"I'm excited about this project, how can we get started?"
This is actually my favorite low pressure question to get the conversation rolling.
If you're still hesitant to ask for the sale, remember that, if the value that you bring to their business outweighs the cost of working with you, it is a no-brainer to hire you and/or your company.
As you are closing the conversation, make sure to focus on the results and benefits you bring to their business, the cost of working together, and how to move forward in working together.
Most freelancers and small business owners often stumble when it comes to price and negotiating.
My best advice is that, if you feel any internal resistance, just remember that you should get paid directly in proportion to the value you bring into the world. There is nothing wrong with making money. :)
As a company, any time you are selling something, you are essentially asking your customers to change their behavior from one action to another. In order to do that, you've got to start by changing their mindset about their current situation.
This internal shift is why you should put the majority of your effort into teaching potential customers something new about how they can reach their desired goal.
If you can offer unique and genuinely valuable insights, you are in a perfect position to assist them along the way to achieving those goals.
Remember: Don't ever underestimate the power of challenging your customers' existing beliefs if you can help them get superior results.
After working with hundreds of entrepreneurs — a mix of both introverts and extroverts — I've found that there are very few people who don't enjoy sharing their knowledge to help other people reach their goals. Let's call it human nature.
With that in mind, remember that, as a sales person, you are really just a consultant helping your potential customer reach their goals.
Hopefully, this insight along with the 3 Ts formula will help you shift your focus from "getting the sale" to "educating the customer."
Now You're the Expert
With all of this new sales research in mind, do you think it is better to be liked or to be useful?
In the comments below, answer:
I think this question should spark some interesting debate so I'm excited to hear what approach you choose to take in your business.
Remember that thousands of people see each article so you never know who your share will help.