The topic of my talk at the Big Grow Inspire meeting was about selling when you don’t want to. So when I read the guidelines for the group I had to laugh at the specification that there was to be no selling at the meeting. I knew what Diane meant. There was to be no pushy, overt selling that screams buy my product or service, but there was an irony here in having a conversation about selling and being asked not to. It’s also not surprising. Selling gets a bad rap.
No one wants to feel like they’re being sold to. Few of us, short of those who hold the job title of salesperson wants to sell. It feels pushy and intrusive. Marketing feels like the better word even though the cold hard truth is that the purpose of marketing is to be the pre-sell to getting stuff sold. Not to mention that regardless of what your business model is, revenue is the driving factor. You don’t accumulate revenue without selling something and now we have the challenges of how to do this in a world in which online meets offline which means owning up to some truths about what selling really is.
Truth #1: We all sell – all the time
The reason I was invited to speak was the recommendation of Laura Kass. She had heard me speak at a Six Figures event over a year and a half ago. At that meeting I sold her on my expertise. I didn’t go on and on about what I know that makes me an expert in personal branding, digital first marketing or building your business. I showed her through my words and actions and since that first meeting continue to do so through my online and offline presence whether it is sharing useful and relevant content or through a real life encounter. In today’s world we are selling not just our products and services, but ourselves – who we are, why we do what we do and how we do it – all the time.
Truth #2: Selling is about showing – not telling
Great writing is not in how we tell the story – but in how we use words to show that story. The same thing is true for selling.
Social networks can be used as a pre-sell or a retention builder when you show what you do through the sharing of content that is useful, relevant and timely for your potential customer.
What’s really critical online is what we’ve always known offline – that showing has to reflect our humanity. If we appear robotic we lose. Even the most advanced AI is being taught to fool us into thinking they are humans.
Truth #3: Selling does not have to mean pushy and in your face
It can. We’ve all just lived through Black Friday, Small Biz Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and Now I’m Broke Wednesday.
That’s traditional, in your face pushy selling that none of us want to be associated with. It can work. But only if you did your job beforehand building a relationship and establishing your value and how you solve the problem your potential customer has.
Truth #4: Good selling is building relationships
This happens online and offline. Sometimes there is a place for a good old-fashioned cold call, but most of the time building relationships is what works.
I have a client right now who lives in Singapore, something that could not happen without technology and social networks.
It all started a few years ago when I got a LinkedIn message from a woman who runs a business in Singapore because she had been following my blogs and really liked what I wrote about. We established a relationship based on an occasional Zoom session and our LinkedIn interactions so when she was in conversation with someone who was in search of personal brand advisement it didn’t matter that I lived in New York and he in Singapore. She immediately suggested that he talk to me. We were introduced online and he has been my client ever since.
Truth #5: There is no direct line to a sale anymore
It would be great if there was but the sales path has gone from a funnel to a more circular route to a zig zag maze of different touch points, both online and offline which is why like many things in our 24/7 world – we are always selling – our product, our service, ourselves.
Truth #6: Listening is more important than talking
This where many people screw up. When I first started selling my boss told me if I asked the right questions I would get all the answers I needed to show the potential client how what I was selling would solve their problems and ultimately close the deal.
Selling – like social media is intended to be a conversation – although many forget and think it’s all about talking.
Truth #7: You gotta own what you do and who you are
If you don’t believe in yourself and your product or service no one is going to. Selling is a mind game. It’s about showing enthusiasm for what you offer, seeing the value in it and what makes you unique from your competition.
Lots of people do what I do. They help others build personal brands and develop their business with a digital first approach. How I do it is what makes me different. If I don’t own that, if I think everyone else has the edge, I lose and I sell nothing.
Owning it is a practice, not a destination. We all have our moments when we forget the value we bring. The trick is to catch ourselves and figure out what we need to do to course correct.