I value your advice a great deal and I really need it. I’ve launched a new financial coaching and consulting practice, and things were going well at first, but now I’m struggling to “fill the client pipeline” as they say. My worst nightmare is sales and selling – I just hate it and it feels so hard. And now I’m having a hard time making ends meet. I wish I could hire someone else to do it for me, but I don’t have the budget. Any tips and strategies you can offer that would help sales not feel so “sleazy?”
Thank you for your help,
I’m very happy to address this question because I hear this so frequently, and I too, in previous years, struggled with filling the client pipeline and learning how to embrace the sales process as something positive and enriching rather than “sleazy” and uncomfortable.
First, let me say that it’s not a good idea to hire someone to do this for you. Why? Because if you’re a consultant and a coach, you’re an entrepreneur, and entrepreneurs have to learn this skill – of speaking about your work in a powerfully engaging and compelling way, telling a highly engaging story, and enticing folks to work with you and buy your programs. And I’ve learned that if you can’t do this in person, you can’t do it online either, and you’ll struggle to earn.
For my Forbes blog, I interviewed Dave Mattson, the CEO and President of Sandler Training and author of The Sandler Rules: 49 Timeless Selling Principles and How to Apply Them. I like the Sandler Rules, and find they resonate with how I see people engage successfully and joyfully in business. Sandler Training has helped thousands of companies become more profitable by training sales professionals with a unique selling system of guiding principles and techniques that focus on asking questions, talking less, educating more, and knowing when to walk away.
Below are four helpful sales tips from Sandler Training.
Help your prospect discover what s/he needs.
People don’t buy simply on your say-so. A prospect has to go through a period of self-discovery before making the decision that your product or service is the right solution. Resistance is pre-programmed and people don’t like to be told what to do (or buy). A better approach than “selling by telling” is to ask key questions or relate third-party stories that allow the prospect to discover the benefits and advantages of your product or services. When you ask questions that lead to a discovery, the prospect then “owns” the discovery and the resistance disappears. After all, people don’t tend to argue with their own data. (Sandler Rule #27)
Getting to the root of your client’s problem.
It’s normal and natural to assume that what your prospect shares with you is in fact his/her real problem that needs to be addressed; however, it’s important to look deeper into each scenario. Like a physician, we have to ask ourselves “is this the prospect’s real problem or is it just a symptom?” Before diagnosing and offering how we can address their challenges, we have to ask more questions to make sure we’ll be getting at the root of their problem, and bringing value to the prospect by supporting their true goals. (Sandler Rule #38)
One of the oldest Sandler philosophies is the 70/30 rule. So often and especially in the beginning of a relationship, salespeople think they need to be doing all the talking, when they should be listening and asking questions. Keep in mind, if a prospect wanted a rundown of your products or services, he or she could just visit your website. The sales process is a conversation, and an honest and open one at that. (Sandler Rule #14)
Remember that you’re a decision maker here too.
Every step of the way through the sales cycle, you as the salesperson must make critical decision as to whether to continue investing time in the relationship with the prospect. If you are a poor decision-maker or are unclear as to the ideal client/customer you want to serve, your lack of clarity and decisive action will be mirrored in your prospect’s behavior. Remember, the shorter your selling cycle, the more business you’ll close over time. (Sandler Rule #36)
The sales process transforms into a much more positive experience if you can remember that selling is a two-way conversation in which your prospective customer shares his/her needs and desired outcomes, and you openly and authentically communicate your skills, talents and services, and you both endeavor to discover if there’s a good match. The more you come from a place of service rather than desperately “needing to fill a pipeline,” the more you’ll attract ideal, rewarding business.
And remember – sharing isn’t bragging.
I’d also add this – I’ve seen that many women in particular hate and resist selling and sales and that seriously limits their earning potential. Why is this so? First, because women are culturally and societally trained NOT to talk about themselves powerfully. Research studies have shown that our society doesn’t yet fully accept forceful or assertive women, and they can be perceived negatively for these traits. Further, they feel that selling smacks of bragging and arrogance, and that makes them afraid (here’s exactly why that is).
But to sell, you need to learn to speak powerfully about what you offer, why it’s unique and important, and who you love serving. If you can’t answer these questions, or speak about your talents and gifts and how they help others, you won’t succeed.
One strategy I’ve found to be very helpful is to identify the “20 facts” of you. Sit this weekend by yourself, distraction free, with a white pad of paper in front of you, and identify the most powerful 20 accomplishments, contributions and achievements you’ve made and had over the arch of your career, and why these matter to you and make you proud. What values did they support? What outcomes did they make possible and why does that matter deeply to you. Make sure to add metrics and measures that help dimensionalize the scope of your contribution. For instance, “This year, I helped over 200 female leaders earn more money in both their businesses and careers, ” or “I’ve helped over 100 couples build significantly more wealth and financial stability for their families.” Get used to what it feels like to talking proudly about “facts of you” and what you’ve done and contributed, and what needles those accomplishments have moved. And always remember, sharing powerfully is not bragging.
This article originally appeared at Forbes.com.