I’d been very lucky. After all, over the last (successful) 15 years I’d rarely done any selling or marketing activities, in fact, I paid someone else to cold call and that seemed to work. “Oh good”, I thought, “I hate selling!”
And then it stopped working.
As a result of the downturn, two of my longest standing client organisations (both huge international corporations) put a stop on all coaching around the world.
It was time to learn how to sell.
I knew I wasn’t alone as lots of people hate selling. They loathe business development and barely do any account management. Why? Good question. I guess it’s different for different people. For me it was my empathy in overdrive (“oh, I can’t bother them, they’re so busy”) and a mistaken belief that if I did a great job I could (re) build a great business. Wrong on both counts.
And now I’m a convert to business development and account management. It’s become part of what I do every day and my discomfort has eased.
I’ve learnt that I’m helping my ideal potential clients by making it easy for them to “find” me; and easier for them to “buy” from me.
Yes, I still need to keep stretching myself (cold calling still falls into the category of “I never do it!”) but I’ve learnt a lot over the last few years and it’s worked. The business is thriving (thank you clients and referrers out there!). Phew…So much so that I love teaching others through sharing what I’ve learnt. Just in case you’re thinking you can’t sell, find out here how you can. [Seriously, if I can you most definitely can!]
Apply your strengths
Whatever your strengths are, you can use them to sell. Know what they are and ask yourself: how can I use these to develop my business?
My Top 3 strengths are Relationship Building, Collaboration & Developing Others. The first two are obviously useful. I know that now & I mindfully use them to develop my business. I didn’t before.
You can too. What are your strengths? And how can you use them to your selling advantage?
Have a Process & use it!
My process is more of a daily / weekly / monthly list. But I have one & I’m not afraid to use it. Here are some highlights…
- I post at least 1 item of interest on LinkedIn and Twitter every day (however long the day has been).They’re mainly articles, comments and “likes” focussed on topics I think my clients are interested in and about which I have an informed opinion: leadership and strengths, positive psychology etc. [I save the cute babies videos for my private – and largely unused – Facebook account and no I don’t invite clients to be my “friends…”. Ever.]
- I send an invite to connect on LinkedIn to everyone I meet professionally.
- I contact potential clients 3 out of 4 weeks by phone, text or email often just to say. “Hi!”
- I give talks and presentations to organisations where my potential clients hang out (I spoke on Positive Leadership to the CIPD a couple of weeks ago)
As I said, I have a process (list!) and I use it. Consistently.
- No “I’m too busy!” excuses.
- No, “Oh, I can’t bother them again” get-out clauses.
This did not used to be the case…
Remember: sales is SO much more than (scary) cold calling
I haven’t cold called anyone. Yet. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t but the thing is that there are so many other activities that sit better with me and therefore I do them.
I used to think sales = cold calling. So, I didn’t do any….
Now I know that business development =
- Asking for referrals & recommendations from happy customers
- Writing articles for professional magazines
- Following up prospects by sharing insights and information
These I do. In spades. Maybe you’ve noticed?…
I know it’s MY job to keep in touch with potential and ex-clients (not theirs)
Do you worry that people will think you’re pestering them if you “keep in touch”? I used to worry too until one day a (then “prospective”, now “current”) client said in an email, “Thank you so much for keeping in touch. You have no idea how much it means to me.” She’d got me on the “thank you so much”. My old approach of, “they know where I am if they need me” wasn’t good enough. It never was. I was just lucky. Now I know it’s my job to keep in touch. So I do.
Picture your ideal client & “talk” to them
It’s often intimidating to put yourself out there and write. Trust me, I get it. You’re potentially leaving yourself open to abuse, conflict and judgement (“who does she think she is!”). Yup. You are.
But you’re more likely to receive lots of appreciation, connection and learning. And new business opportunities.
So, picture your ideal client and talk to him. Just him. The fact that other people will also be reading, listening etc is incidental. Just talk to him about things he’s interested in. And demonstrate how you can help.
Hang out where your ideal clients hang out
Once you know who your ideal client is, you can guess where they might hang out. Or you can ask them. Either way, go where your clients go. And then listen and share. Listen and collaborate. But mostly listen.
Add value by sharing relevant stuff
What do you say when you contact your ideal customer? Well, you might choose to say nothing beyond, “I was just ringing to say hello. How was your holiday?”. Yes, it feels a bit odd but the truth is that people buy from people. Your ideal customer is a human being and you’re a human being. Create the relationship, maintain the relationship and share interesting stuff with them. Share:
- your case study about the client you helped & who happens to share the same challenges as your potential client; or
- that brief article that you had published in a professional magazine; or
- that statistic about their industry that you saw on Twitter.
Share stuff. Relevant stuff.
Be original: pick up the phone!
It’s important to use all the suitable professional media available: social media (Twitter), social networks (LinkedIn), networking, emails, texts and phone calls. Most people prefer to do the former before making calls. It’s quicker, it’s easier, it’s more familiar. It’s also very, very easy for busy people to ignore. So be different and pick up the phone. Just not to cold call.
Unless you want to…
Always finish that project with some business development
You don’t need me to tell you that your greatest sales force are your satisfied customers. You know that. But what are you doing about it?
I’ve learnt to have a separate “we’ve finished, let’s have a wrap up chat” at the end of every assignment. It’s an opportunity to learn and hear some feedback but it’s also a chance to ask for a:
- Recommendation on LinkedIn
- Referral to other people that your client knows and would be willing to recommend you to
I’ve found that people are extremely happy to help. And…they’re unbelievably…. busy so it can take a bit of follow up (see above).
So, if you – or your organisation – needs to engage with selling, business development and account management more effectively than it is currently, try a few of these activities and let us know how you get on; and contact us to explore how we can enable you and your team to make it easy for your potential customers to find and buy from you.
Seriously. If I can do it you most definitely can.