I’ve worked with thousands of entrepreneurs over the years, and one of the things that many entrepreneurs have in common is that they don’t consider themselves to be “sales people.” Entrepreneurs often are visionaries, service-oriented, creative, thinkers, doers, and all around awesome people – but they don’t always put “sales person” at the top of their job description.
This is too bad, because selling is the lifeblood of any business – no sales, no business. And sales doesn’t have to be scary. Too many people have come to think of sales as being something that gets “forced” on people – like you have to talk people into agreeing to buy from you. But the truth is, if you know your company, you know your product, you’re passionate about what you offer and you know how to meet your customers’ needs, selling doesn’t have to be intimidating or awkward or off-putting. If you are confident in what you’re selling, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for the sale.
Here are a few ideas for how you can boost your business’s sales by getting better at closing the deal with your customers:
- Understand what your customers are really buying: In a recent article in the New Yorker, there was a profile of Clayton Christensen, one of the most innovative business thinkers in America and author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” The article discussed a consulting project where Mr. Christensen was helping a fast food restaurant figure out how to sell more milkshakes. They asked the question, “What problem are people ‘hiring’ our milkshakes to solve?” In other words, why do people buy milkshakes at a fast food drive through, instead of bagels or donuts or breakfast sandwiches? By conducting customer interviews and research, they found out that many customers were buying milkshakes on their morning commutes. They wanted the milkshakes because they were easily portable, filling, and easy to drink with no mess – no jelly or peanut butter to spread on a bagel, no grease from a breakfast sandwich. Chances are, your customers are buying from you for reasons you might not fully understand. Invest some time and resources in identifying the “why” of your customer’s purchase decision – why are they buying from you instead of from a competitor, and what specific problem are you solving for your customers? You might be surprised by the answers – but knowledge is power, and knowing why your customers buy from you will help you close more sales.
- Invest time in building customer relationships: The more valuable your product, the more time you should expect to spend on building rapport with your customers and winning their trust prior to asking for a sale. If you sell souvenirs at a carnival, your customers are mostly deciding to buy from you based on a simple impulse – they want something fun to take home, and so they spend $5 on a stuffed animal. But if you sell higher level professional services, you need to be prepared to invest more time and resources in winning over your customers prior to asking for a sale. Because every sale is so valuable, it’s worth devoting more time along the way to gaining the trust of your prospective buyer.
- Ask for the sale: Too many sales people never ask for the sale. They go through the whole process of building a relationship with a customer, qualifying the sales prospects, answering questions from the customer, putting the customer at ease, identifying the customer’s needs…and then they fall short at the end by forgetting to ask for the sale. If you never say, “Are you ready to buy?” the customer might never know that you’re ready to sell. Customers aren’t mind readers. They often need you to extend the invitation to make the sale and move on to the next step. Suggestive selling is one of the most valuable ways to close the deal with your customers, because people often want to be guided along in the sales process. If you give your customers a good reason to trust you and buy from you, they’ll be ready to make the purchase when the time is right.
- Make it simple: Asking for the sale doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, at my company, CorpNet, we help people start businesses by incorporating as an LLC or other corporate structure. So when we’re on the phone with a prospective buyer, we might say something as simple as, “Are you ready to start your company?” You might also say, “Are you ready to move forward?” or “Can we help you take the next step?” Don’t make the conversation about money and what the customer is “giving up.” Instead, make the conversation about what the customer is going to get – the core benefit that your customers get from buying from you.
Asking for the sale is nothing to be afraid of. Don’t worry about making your sales or filling your quotas – instead, think about “how can I help people?” “How will people benefit from what I am offering them? And how can I help them help themselves by moving on to the next step of the process?” Keep in mind that you are offering something of value that your customers will be glad to pay for. The most important products and services often cost a lot, but they’re worth more than they cost.