by Tom Koulopoulos
You’ve put your heart and soul into your business–but that’s not enough.
You need to be able to sell.
If that makes you shudder, get over it–fast! In order to succeed you have to be a salesperson. The brutal truth is that nobody else will ever have the sort of passion, authenticity, and just plain old heart that you have when it comes to your product or service. If you want to put your best face forward just look in the mirror.
However, I can’t count the number of times I’ve talked to an entrepreneur who sees sales as the dark side, someone else’s job, or something that they worry about because, after all, the marketplace will come running to devour their innovative new product.
Nothing is more likely to kill a good idea than simply believing that if it’s a good idea it will naturally go viral. If that’s your attitude you might as well buy a lottery ticket and save yourself countless hours of work.
According to Shari Levtin, author of a new book, Heart and Sell: 10 Universal Truths Every Salesperson Needs to Know
“The best salespeople lead with their hearts when connecting with others. They also connect deeply to themselves and their own goals and dreams. In other words, they know who they are and what they want out of life”.
That’s exactly how I’d characterize great entrepreneurs.
So why the aversion to selling? Because while most entrepreneurs are actually very authentic and believable, they’ve bought into an old and outmoded view of salespeople as being anything but.
Wherever that stereotype comes from, it’s just not true. The most effective sales people I know are great listeners, empathetic, knowledgeable, and authentic, most of all they are trusted.
I quickly realized that I had to shift my focus from being in love with our product to being in love with our customers.
I’ll admit that when I started my first business selling was the one skill which I had least expected to be the catalyst for getting us off the ground. After nearly a full year of coding, testing, and packaging our software app I was convinced that customers would be breaking down the doors to buy it. Surprise, they didn’t! Even though I had already done my time in sales in a prior job, I discounted its importance. I quickly realized that I had to shift my focus from being in love with our product to being in love with our customers.
So, how do you tap your inner sales person? By understanding what Shari calls The 10 Universal Truths, which are all about connecting with others deeply, authentically, and in a way that builds bonds of trust.
The 10 Universal Truths
1. Success starts with the growth equation.
Top salespeople share a willingness to take responsibility for their weaknesses, a deep curiosity about their customers and the world, and a desire for mastery. They commit to using what they’ve learned about their processes to continue improving. When you master this “growth equation” you will not only improve your ability to sell, you will transform your life.
2. Emotions drive decision-making.
The desire to be loved, to create closeness, look good, feel good, be remembered–even to belong–drives all of our decision-making. Which is why your ability to uncover customer’s emotional dominant motivators will dictate your success. Selling anything is a matter of understanding intimately what drives the desire to buy. Until you know someone you don’t know what drives them.
3. Freedom lives in structure.
Pilots run through preflight checklists. Free-throw shooters develop rituals to help them hit the same shot time and again. Bakers adhere to time-tested recipes. So why should it be different in sales? Highly successful salespeople have a process they follow and they follow that process every time. It may sound counterintuitive, but structure creates the freedom to act authentically and to create meaningful connections.
4. In sales, no never means no.
Are you paralyzed by fear? Good. Top salespeople know that the more fear they feel, the more important it is to tackle the fear. What you’re afraid to do, you must do. The question you’re afraid to ask, you must ask. Failure is inevitable. Learn to bounce back. Resilience is a life skill, one that will fill your soul and your pockets.
5. Trust begins with empathy.
Trust is born of empathy, integrity, reliability, and competency. You need all four traits, but without connecting on an empathetic level, you won’t have a chance to demonstrate the other three. Empathy is the first building block of trust. We can’t pretend to have empathy. Empathy is not about shifting the conversation to what you want to say or judging your customer. It’s about being fully engaged and present to understand someone else’s emotions. Once you establish trust everything else just falls into place. But, like a mirror, once you break trust it can never be pieced back together in quite the same way.
6. Integrity matters.
Once we cultivate true empathy, it’s impossible to lie to or cheat our customers–or anyone, for that matter, including ourselves. The word “sales” comes from the old English word for “give.” When we sell, we must give. We can only maintain trust and enjoy enduring success when we cultivate honorable traits like reliability, competency, and integrity. Eventually, they become part of your character, and when i buy from you it’s your character, more than anything else, that I’m buying into.
7. Anything that can be told can be asked.
When you ask the right questions, you uncover what matters most. “Discovery questions” uncover customers’ needs, direct their thinking down a path you choose, generate curiosity, and ultimately move them to action. These questions build rapport, gain commitment, and help your prospects sell themselves. Well-crafted questions help you make a point loudly, without having to raise your voice. Good questions create change. Great questions change the world.
8. Emotional commitment precedes economic commitment.
Most salespeople incorrectly assume that they can create a sense of urgency by threatening scarcity or appealing to greed. If people don’t want what you’re selling, they won’t care if there are only two left or whether you’re throwing something else in. Focus on Truths 5 and six and economic commitment will follow.
9. Removing resistance takes persistence.
As soon as a prospect displays resistance, most salespeople drop the price, modify the terms, or otherwise change the offer. But the truth is: only when someone is in a receptive emotional state can you close. Everything else you do will create an illusion of progress when it only lengthens the sales cycle and suck more time and energy into an unlikely sale.
10. Looking for wrongs never makes you right.
Every day, in every encounter, you have a choice. You can look for what’s right about that person or experience–what’s valuable or productive–or you can look for what’s wrong. When you’re interacting with prospects and customers, don’t look for reasons why they won’t buy. Look instead for reasons why they will buy. Keep the conversation and the interactions on a positive track. Reinforce benefits and opportunities. Selling fear is tantalizing but its not the basis for enduring relationships and it will most often lead to distrust.
These 10 Universal Truths may sound ridiculously simple but practicing them takes discipline. Especially if, like most entrepreneurs, you’re splitting your time between selling and the dozen other hats you wear.
The good news is that selling, whether you want to call it that or not, is how you’ve gotten this far. If you couldn’t sell your idea to partners, colleagues, investors, and customers you would never have launched your business, or you never will.
As Shari says in her book,
“Sales can be a tough game. It’s full of rejection, stress, and self-doubt. But once your dreams are more potent than your fears, you will find that your rewards are far greater than your struggles. And that’s why you’ve put your heart and soul into this to begin with!”
This article was originally published on Inc.
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Tom Koulopoulos is the author of 10 books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc. 500 company that focuses on innovation and the future of business. He tweets from @tkspeaks.