This blog post is one that I feel like my whole professional journey has led me towards - and something that, I won't lie, I am jumping out of my skin excited about. You may recognise the title of this blog post as the name of one of my new e-courses - and that's no coincidence. Since I started One Small Step, I have met so many incredible small business owners and I am truly honoured to be part of such an inspiring and dynamic community. It is through these interactions that I have been inspired to introduce a new message and a new mission to the One Small Step offering. You guessed it - it's sales. But not sales as you know it! So in tonight's post I want to bust open all those myths about sales - and hopefully make you feel excited and inspired to make it the important part of your business strategy it really needs to be.
There is a big difference between sales & marketing - and you need to be incorporating both in your business strategy.
This is something I run into often, and something I want to set straight once and for all. There is a reason why the biggest, most successful businesses in the world have separate sales & marketing functions - it's because a business needs both in order to succeed. Now of course, many small businesses are solo operators and can't afford a dedicated salesperson, and the business owner has to add 'salesperson' to the many hats they wear on any given day. But here's my beef - everywhere I look, business owners are investing their time AND money on up-skilling themselves in marketing. Namely social media marketing, which is just one form of digital marketing. And of course I understand why - social media continues to be one of the most powerful means by which a business can build a brand, engage with customers, advertise their product or service, seek collaborations, and much more. But here's my first truth bomb - it is NOT a replacement for everything else. You can't expect to have a thriving business if you are only investing in one part of your marketing strategy, and totally ignoring your sales strategy.
So - what IS the difference between sales & marketing? This is my short answer - if you are dealing with real life, human beings then it's more than likely sales. If you're behind your laptop or Iphone, then it's more than likely marketing. Sales is all about human relationships - it's about connecting, listening, understanding and influencing. Sales is where the business - or the brand - comes to life. Sales, quite simply, is one-on-one. Marketing, by contrast, is one to many - that is, marketing tells the brand story to many people. Marketing looks at the 'big' data and uses that data to promote, to develop, to position the product or service. The reason why they are so often confused is because they are so closely intertwined, which again brings me back to my point - you can't have one without the other (or you shouldn't). So if you know you're spending a lot of time on marketing, but not on sales, that might be why your business isn't doing as well as you would like it to.
Sales skills are essential to your business whether you're in 'sales' or not. But you are in sales (#sorrynotsorry).
Even within a big organisation, employees that 'aren't' in sales are still in sales. You don't believe me? Every function of a business has a customer - or put differently, a stakeholder. For example, an employee within the accounts division of an organisation still has a customer - even if that customer is an internal one. There is still a human, one-on-one relationship there where one person needs to understand the other person's needs to deliver a business result. And I bet you can all think of an example - either as an employee, supplier or customer - where you've had a business encounter with someone that wasn't so great at dealing with people. And it left you feeling turned off about the entire business and the brand. You might have even complained about that experience. And now - think about a great experience you've had. An experience that has left you feeling inspired, refreshed, connected about a brand? What's the difference? Truth bomb #2 - SALES SKILLS. Still think you can do without it?
Sales has come a long way since the 80's - and women are poised to be the best at it.
Here's something that makes me sad. When most people hear the word sales, they cringe. And I get it. We've all had an experience with someone that clearly still thinks the 80's model of selling (also known as transactional selling) is the way to get ahead. Someone that is all about the dollar. Someone that will aggressively pursue you, that does all the talking, that makes you feel distrustful, disrespected and disconnected. But good salespeople - and there's actually plenty of us around (yes, I absolutely identify as a salesperson) - threw that rulebook out 100 years ago. Relational selling is where it's at, and the good news is it's actually been the model of selling for quite a while now. And the even better news if you're a woman? All the things that make a great salesperson great are things that women are proven to be better at than men (truth bomb #3). Got your attention? Call it women's intuition, call it emotional intelligence, call it non-verbal communication. Women are listeners. Women are problem solvers. Women are biologically and socially geared up to be better at understanding and addressing the needs of those around them. All of those things - listening, problem solving, understanding and addressing needs? Yep. Sales skills.
The skills great salespeople share
So in closing, I want to hit you with my list of what I think makes a great salesperson. And I would say most of us would have at least one or two of these skills - if not all of them.
1. Being a 'people person'
So perhaps this one is a little obvious. But what it really means is being really good at building relationships with people. And a genuine interest in people helps! For example, I would definitely list getting to know other people as one of the best parts of my job. I genuinely enjoy getting out there and meeting new people, learning about their businesses and what makes them tick. And yes, I am an extrovert. But if you are an introvert (or an intrapreneur!), there's no need to feel worried about this. If networking with big groups of people fills you with fear, then don't do it. Have coffee or lunch with people one-on-one - that's still networking. It's all about getting in front of other people and talking about your business, your brand, your plans with passion, authenticity and knowledge. Word of mouth is STILL the most powerful form of driving sales and the best way to make that work for you is to get out there.
2. Being a great communicator - that's verbal AND non-verbal folks.
For me, the two most important communication skills a salesperson should have are listening and asking great questions. Yep, you heard me. Not talking. LISTENING. This is probably the single most important quality for a salesperson to have. Sales is all about matching a customer need to a solution. And if you're not listening for their needs or drivers - and that includes emotional drivers as well as the more obvious business ones - then you are not going to build a long term relationship with that customer. It's that simple. To build trust, to build REAL engagement, you need to be on the lookout for your customers' pain points, their motivations, their likes and dislikes. The better you are at finding out that information, the more completely your customer will feel listened to, cared about and connected with. You can't fake that.
3. Being able to spot AND create your own opportunities.
This is perhaps the most tricky of the three; in that some people have an innate skill for it and others have to learn it. If you are one of the lucky ones that is naturally always on the lookout for the right opportunity for you and your business, it's almost a no-brainer. But if not - have no fear. This skill is made infinitely easier by having a great business strategy with clear objectives and a kick-ass action plan. If you know what your goals are, spotting or creating great opportunities is definitely easier. But a key thing to remember - you are never going to get everything handed to you. It's not called the 'hustle' for nothing - you need to CREATE your own opportunities. The sooner you accept that you are never going to land 100% - hell, even 50% - of what you throw out there, the sooner you'll stop taking it personally and start taking responsibility for generating your OWN sales (truth bomb #4).
So. There you have it. I'm sure you can tell that this is a subject I am VERY passionate about and hopefully you now understand why. Sales is so crucial to your business success, yet too many business owners are scared of it. I am making it my mission this year to get out there and help as many business owners I can with developing and honing those essential skills that I guarantee, make ALL the difference in your business success.
To find out more about my Sales is NOT a Dirty Word e-course, please click here.