Let's face it, we all have to be salespeople in some aspect of life - most of us just don't like it.
There are some people - myself included - who do like selling.
A great salesperson is just about 180 degrees opposite from a used-car salesman. A great salesperson is a trusted partner in business. And if that statement sounds as strange to you as it does to most people, you'll realize how un-great most salespeople are.
First, let me tell you about my background. I was selling sodas to construction workers in my neighborhood when I was 8 years old. I sold candy bars on my school bus in high school. I paid for college by licensing the University of Virginia's "V" logo and producing Frisbees with the logo, which I sold in the school bookstores (my self-portrait, at left, with my Frisbees in the window of one of the bookstores, dated 1996).
I spent 4 summers at GE while in college, working as an intern in the telesales department, where I beat the sales numbers of some full-time salespeople, selling Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) solutions to banks in Brazil. Since then I've been an Entrepreneur full-time; I've gotten massive amounts of press, including a cover in the Marketplace section of the Wall Street Journal, CNN, CNBC, Forbes, TLC, Discovery Channel, CBS News & many, many others.
The best sales book I've ever read is called "Selling to VITO". (That book was pre-Internet; the author has since come out with two similar books, "Getting to VITO and "Secrets of VITO: Think and Sell Like a CEO" that are updated). The main point of the VITO books is that sales people have value and should approach their clients as equals. Never apologize when pitching a client. You are bringing value to the table. The client needs you as much as you need him. You just have to convince him of that. I highly recommend this series.
I get sales calls all the time from telemarketers that don't take the time to do their research. They call me and ask, "May I speak to the person who handles your internet marketing?" I just can't believe they're wasting their time. Have they even taken 30 seconds to see what I'm even doing with internet marketing? If these salespeople would just Google my name or my company name, they would be able to call me and say, "Daniel, I noticed you've raised your traffic from 40 unique visits per day to 2,400 unique visits per day. That's really impressive, but I have a way to raise that to 10,000 unique visits per day. Want me to show you how?" An obviously more powerful pitch.
So if you need to pitch clients but are afraid to, or for another other reasons don't enjoy the sales process, here are a few tips to make it less painful:
- Do your homework on each prospect you're calling by, at a minimum, Googling their name. Then, find their "pain" point and hit 'em where it hurts. You'll get their attention, and you'll actually know what you're talking about.
- Use Jigsaw or Hoovers to find the top decision makers. Don't start at the bottom - start at the top. Believe me when I tell you that when you pitch a CXO or a VP, and that person then asks one of the people on their team to follow up with you, you'll get much better results. Think of it this way - when the CEO of a company sends an email to someone on their team asking them to follow up with you, it gets read, and it gets acted on. You're "blessed" by the top and people don't usually question the top, they just say 'yes sir, I'll get right on it' and 'the boss wants this.' Don't waste your time selling into the bottom of an organization - sell to the "VITO's" (Very Important Top Officers) of an organization.
- Believe in yourself. If you follow steps 1 & 2 above, you'll be adding value. You are not being a pest by contacting these people. You are helping them. They need you. I mean it.
- Use a CRM system to keep yourself organized. I'm not a big fan of ACT or Goldmine but they are better than nothing. Don't use Outlook. Don't use a spreadsheet. Salesforce.com is pretty good. I don't use it myself (we took an open-source, PHP-based CRM system and have been modifying it for our needs) but it's probably the best thing out there for individuals or small companies, it's very inexpensive for small groups, and it integrates well with Jigsaw.
- Force yourself to pick up the phone and make outbound calls. Set aside several hours per day to make calls. Set a minimum number of calls that you'll make every day. Take notes in your CRM of every call you make and set reminders to call the person back. Sales is a numbers game, even when you're really good at it. I am always amazed by how afraid people are of the telephone. They're afraid of picking it up, and they're afraid of rejection. Get over it. You won't have any success if you can't get on the phone.
- Lastly, let me tell you about communicating your message. So many inexperienced salespeople forget that "it's all about the customer." When you call a VITO or someone you're pitching, don't use words like "me" or phrases like "I need." They don't care about what you need. You are asking them for their money. Focus on the value you're providing them, and the pain you're solving. They want to get home to their families too. If you can make their life and their job easier/faster/better, they'll buy from you. When you leave a voicemail, make it quick and to the point. Here is my take on a perfect VM:
Good: Joe, this is Daniel Odio. I understand you need to ship 1,000 widgets to Nebraska by Tuesday. I've got a solution for you. Call me at 202.250.3846 for details, again that's 202.250.3846.
Bad: Joe, my name is Daniel Odio. I wanted to talk to you about your shipping needs. Is there a time we could schedule an appointment to talk? We have some very innovative shipping solutions. You can reach me at 202.250.3846. I can also tell you about our specials.
Keep it short. Very short. Joe is a busy guy. If he doesn't see immediate value, you're gone. I can't tell you how many VM's I delete after the first 5 or 10 words. And never leave any information after you give your phone number. Most people, if they are going to call you back at all, are going to hit delete as soon as you give your number so they can dial it. Say your phone number slowly and repeat it. Just get in the habit of repeating your phone number every time you leave it on people's VM's, so it sounds natural, not forced.
The tone of your voicemail is important too. Here's some audio of me rattling off the "Good" version of the VM above in two different ways:
The same thing goes for emails. I see inexperienced salespeople all the time writing novel-length emails.
Keep your emails short. Maximum 3 sentences. Remember, the point of an email is NOT to convince the prospect to buy. He or she is not going to just call you up and place an order after receiving your email. The point of an email is to get the prospect on the phone.
Let me repeat that. The point of your email is NOT to close the deal. The point of your email is to get a phone call, or possibly a meeting. Do NOT write long emails. If you want more tips on writing emails, read my blog on getting good press; the same rules apply.
If you need to be selling as part of your job, make yourself start right now. Seriously, go and sign up for Jigsaw. Pull a list of 10 people you'll call in the morning. Go sign up for an account with Salesforce.com. Do some quick research on those 10 people and find out if what they need is what you're offering. Get organized and get started, and do it now.