A large percentage of self-employed professionals don’t like selling. But what about it don’t they like?
– They don’t like to be seen as a manipulator.
– They don’t like to try so hard to convince someone of something.
– They don’t like the idea of pressuring someone to buy.
– They don’t like to stretch the truth.
Can you relate to any (or all) of these?
When I’ve asked self-employed professionals to tell me what the stereotypical salesperson sells, I get one answer 90% of the time:
So, for many of us, selling means selling used cars! (Yuck)
It’s no wonder we hate the thought of selling and having to do those distasteful things that we think we need to do to land new clients.
So, as a result, we avoid selling like the plague.
And we revert to the “prayer method” of marketing and selling:
“Dear God, I will do the best job I possibly can, if you will only get my happy clients to refer new clients to me. Amen.”
But, sooner or later we realize that this is not enough. We need to talk to more people and turn some of them into paying clients. But we keep slamming into the selling wall and avoiding both marketing and selling activities.
So, here’s a very different way to think about selling. This approach uses no manipulation, convincing, pressure, or stretching of the truth.
Asking great questions and listening.
That is really the essence of selling. And the process of selling can be broken down into these 5 simple, but powerful, stages:
Introduction, Situation, Challenges, Goals, and Information
A friend lets you know that one of their associates may be a good client for you. Or you’ve met a number of people in your business association or networking group who you think might be good clients.
But do you approach them and see if they might be interested in what you offer? Heaven forbid!
No, you do nothing and go back to praying someone will call you with a need. (By the way, great if that happens, of course, but if usually doesn’t happen enough.)
So what do you do that doesn’t feel like all that icky stuff about selling?
You contact that person by email and you introduce yourself. Something like this:
“Hi, I’m Robert Middleton. I just wanted to introduce myself. We’re both in the ABC networking group and I’m connecting with all the members that I thought I might have something in common with. I see that you’re a management consultant and I work with B2B professionals to help them attract new clients. Would you like to get together for a quick chat via Zoom?”
First, you have a connection through your networking group. That kind of affiliation makes a real difference. Next, you’re not trying to sell anything. You’re just introducing yourself. That is pretty non-threatening. The objective here is to get a meeting and begin to build a business relationship.
The first thing you want to talk about in your initial meeting is each other’s situation. So you ask, “Tell me a little about your business and the clients you work with.” And after they tell you, you say, “Let me tell you a little about what I do.”
This is not a pitch, it’s informational: “I work with all kinds of self-employed professionals – consultants, coaches, and trainers and help them get better at attracting new clients.”
Next ask, “What is challenging you in your business right now?” Everyone has challenges, so just listen carefully, not with the intention to solve anything, just to hear them. Ultimately, you may have an idea or resource to share.
And then you share one of your current challenges. It’s a give and take. You’re getting to know each other.
And now that you know their situation and challenges, ask about their most important current goals. “So, what are you going for right now; what do you want to accomplish most in your business?”
And then, in turn, share your most important goal with them. In just a few minutes you’ll know quite a bit about them and their business, and vice versa.
You haven’t been selling in the traditional sense. You’ve been building a relationship. You now each have a better idea about your respective businesses.
And remember, until people know something about your business and how you help your clients, they won’t see you as a possible solution for themselves or for those in their network.
Now you should provide some information. A good way to end the call is to say, “Great, I now have a better sense of what you do and I think you understand what I do. Can I send you a link to a page on my website that gives you more information about how I work?” (They’ll usually say yes.)
“And can you send me some more information about your work?” (Which they will readily agree to.)
None of this really looks like or feels selling, does it?
But if someone reached out to you like this and engaged you in this type of Introduction, Situation, Challenges, Goals, Information conversation, wouldn’t you feel pretty good about it?
So, about the worst thing that will happen is that you’ll get to know each other a little better and it won’t lead to anything.
However, the best thing that can happen is they might say, “You know, can you tell me a little more about what you do, how you help your clients?”
And what you should do is set up another time to talk about that in a separate meeting.
And what do you do in that meeting? Same thing: Situation, Challenge, Goals, Information. The difference? Much more in-depth to see if you can really help them or not.
So, I suggest you stop thinking of selling as manipulation, convincing, pressuring, and stretching of the truth. That’s really not selling.
And instead, think of selling as getting to know someone and discovering what possibilities might open up for you (and for them).