What No One Tells You About Sales When You’re a Business Owner, Part 2
A few weeks ago I posted, “What No One Tells You About Selling When You’re A Business Owner, Part 1”.
It was my way of taking everything I’ve learned about selling since I started my first consulting business in 2011, and giving owners a fast track to those valuable lessons.
There’s so much I want to share, and I do much of that on my site.
But for this Part 2, I’ve invited a few friends — fellow business owners who’ve been through it — to share their lessons learned as well.
Have something to add? Email me!
Things No One Tells You About Sales When You’re A Business Owner… Part 2
Pricing low to avoid the No will kill you
When I first started my business, I would go back and forth about how to price my services. Mostly because I wasn’t totally sure, and mostly because I was so eager to get the business. Oftentimes I would basically negotiate against myself… even before I proposed the price to the client.
Pricing and profit coach Ariane Trélaün of DoYourThing sees this a lot, and offers the following advice:
“A lot of us do this when we first start our businesses, especially if you’re a first-time entrepreneurs or launching something new, we have no idea how to price it, so we guess.
Pricing is scary, so we tend to hedge when it comes to the number, hiding from people saying No by setting a price that’s so low that they’d be CRAY not to say yes. In the beginning, sure, this is great for building experience, proving your concept, but very soon you’ll see that you’ve totally painted yourself into a corner. Even worse, you’re hustling like mad to serve too many clients, you’re not making enough money, and you have no time to think or dream, or just chill.”
Takeaway: “No is your friend. Think of your price as a super-effective way of determining who is serious about what you’re offering; read: serious-enough to pay you what it’s worth to solve the particular problem they have that you are ideally positioned to solve. Your price is your velvet rope.”
Connect with Ariane at doyourthing.biz.
The best sales conversations aren’t geared around selling
When I first got started, conversations with prospects made me really uncomfortable. What if I come off too salesy? How do I steer the conversation towards asking for the business? As I got more comfortable talking to prospects, I realized that the best sales conversations aren’t designed to sell at all; they’re designed to provide immediate value.
Tony Rulli uses this approach in his work with Intentional Spark:
“Instead of thinking about having sales calls, think about hosting free consulting calls. I focus on giving some value on every sales call and ask a ton of questions about their business, goals, and biggest problems — usually that way the client is the one asking for ‘next steps’ or ‘how can we work together’. It’s much easier on me and more effective than ‘actively’ selling.
Takeaway: Don’t think of them as sales calls. Ask great questions and provide value in every conversation, and clients will want to work with you.
Connect with Tony at intentionalspark.com.
Narrowing your niche makes selling easier, not harder
When you start your business, it’s natural to want to go as broad as possible; offer the widest range of services, serve the widest array of customers. The fear is that if you narrow your focus you might cut yourself off from potential clients and revenue.
When you try to do it all, you actually make it harder for clients to say yes. And the opposite is true: when you niche down, it makes selling easier.
Rahul Varshneya and his team found this out three years ago when they narrowed the focus of their company, Arkenea.
“We were a more generic software consulting firm going after the broadest possible market. It was tough to address the challenges of any one segment in our communication/marketing. We then went inwards to find what we do best and who can we add value to the most. We identified that very segment and then it was fairly easy thereafter in all of our marketing efforts. We’ve been so focused on adding value that we haven’t really ‘sold’ since then. I’ve even had prospects fly down to MY location to get advice and discuss their projects.”
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to narrow your niche. It will make selling to your ideal customers much easier.
Connect with Rahul at arkenea.com.
You will accidentally ignore your biggest source of business
So much of the advice around growing sales revolves around getting new leads, subscribers, etc. — what I call “buying new land.” But most people are actually sitting on a gold mine without even realizing it. I’m talking about connections and referrals — the people who know you, know the great work you do, and can introduce you to others who would benefit from working with you.
Laura Mignott of DigitalFlash agrees, and thinks connections can — and should — be one of the best ways to grow your business.
“In terms of growing your client base, we get this weirdness where we don’t want to ask people for help. As if asking for help is somehow a sign of weakness. And especially if you’re in B2B, you assume that no one you know can help. But you never know! And if you don’t ask, you won’t ever get anything you want.
Make a specific ask: ‘Do you know someone who does X?’ or ‘Do you know anyone who could connect me to Y?’ And do it before you get desperate — that’s when it feels weird, and when you’re desperate, people can tell. Instead make it a casual, routine thing, and part of the relationship. You never know who might be able to help you, or who you might be able to help.”
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid of asking for connections, or asking for help. Do it early and often, and make it specific. You never know who may be able to help you.
Check out Laura’s podcast, The Reset Podcast.
If it feels like a bad client fit from the beginning, it probably is
As new business owners look to grow, nearly any client seems like a great client or a great project. But just as important as taking enough clients, is taking clients you enjoy working with.
Maria Ross from Red Slice has (unfortunately) experienced what happens when it feels like a bad client fit, and she shares this cautionary tale:
“No matter how lucrative the project might seem, it’s never worth the frustration and pain.
For me, the best clients have been the ones where the ‘selling phase’ was easy. We hit it off, we understood each other, we were on the same page. The worst client experiences have been the ones where it was difficult from the start or where we forced a ‘fit’ where there was none.
I’ve learned that a business relationship will almost always end as it begins — and if it starts with problems connecting, someone not showing up for a call, indecision, lack of respect or follow-up, etc, then this is a preview of what the work will be like. Think of the sales phase as the ‘courtship’ — both parties should be showing their best selves! Yes, there are always exceptions but really trusting my gut and not ‘chasing’ clients like this or making excuses for them just to get the work has made my business more enjoyable and enables me to give my best work to people I enjoy working with!”
Takeaway: “Trust your gut. Work with people who show respect, passion and professionalism from Day One as the relationship will end as it starts.”
Connect with Maria at red-slice.com.
Selling CAN be learned
This one is near and dear to my heart — it’s the foundation of everything I do with Growthworks Solutions.
When I first got started, I told myself, “I’m just not good at selling.” That negative self talk was almost a crutch — a way to reassure myself that selling was something you either had or you didn’t, and I didn’t. I hear this a lot from business owners, and it’s certainly a common problem among most of my clients when they come to me. But guess what: If you’re “just not good at selling,” then you’re “just not going to have a business in a few years.”
I’m living proof that it can be learned — I dug in and taught myself everything I could about sales, found a selling style that feels natural, and learned to sell. And of course, now I teach others how to do it too.
Takeaway: You’ll have some misses, but don’t lose hope! If it helps, find a coach to teach you. No matter who you are, you can learn to sell. Like a boss.
Want to learn how to sell confidently, consistently, and for continued growth? (Like a boss!!). Sign up to learn the secrets of confident selling at growthworkssolutions.com.
And check out my free guide, “10 Ways To Follow Up With Prospects… that won’t make you feel like you’re annoying them.”
A version of this post originally appeared on my website.