“It feels… gross,” I told Trevor, when he asked why I hadn’t made any sales calls last week.
My business coach wasn’t about to let that comment slide.
I explained to him that I hired a consultant six years ago who still calls me every couple months “just to check in” (and squeeze a referral from me).
“To me, that’s sales,” I said. “It’s annoying.”
I was paying Trevor to stamp out limiting beliefs like this one. A fog lifted when he told me, “If I don’t get you to buy my service, I’ve done you a disservice.”
With this new idea, I learned to stop worrying and love sales. You can too—here’s how.
Sell like a human.
Do you feel bad asking for the sale? It’s a chronic disease in new entrepreneurs. We’re bombarded by ads on TV and in bathroom stalls, so when we’re asked to hock our own wares, our subconscious tells us we’re pestering.
But sales need not resemble a 1980s infomercial—“Act now and we’ll send you a second Ginsu Knife for 9.99!” Slap Chop that approach to the curb, my friend.
The human approach to sales is this: Trust = credibility + reliability + integrity, all over self-interest.
How do you build trust? First, make sure your product is outstanding. If it’s not, improve it or sell something else. With a great product, all you need to do is tell the truth about it.
If you as an entrepreneur have a sour taste in your mouth about sales, your employees and customers won’t trust you. Doubt starts to reek like old fish after a few days. And the limit of any company is the mindset of the leader. Change your attitude about sales or you’ll struggle.
You already love sales, sometimes.
Maybe you missed the memo, but you’re a fantastic salesperson in the right circumstances. Did you convince your partner to date you? You sold yourself.
Got hired after a job interview? That was a sale.
Bank gave you a mortgage? Sale.
Perhaps you published a blog post that a thousand people read, or 10 people came to your free yoga class. That’s all sales. Sales is simply the act of saying to people, “Here, I made this, and I think you’ll love it.”
6 Ways to Start Loving Sales
The most successful sellers know what Trevor hammered into my brain: sales are effortless, if done right. Here are six truths to remember when you knock on doors.
1. Sales = service
Millionaire Success Habits author Dean Graziosi knows his products improve lives, so his sales pitch feels like a natural conversation. He truly wants to serve, and that’s why he enjoys wild financial success.
I tried selling credit card machines door to door once. I didn’t care about the product, so I sold precisely zero units. Now I coach startup entrepreneurs and get to see my students make their first sales, grow, and start mentoring other entrepreneurs. This is incredibly rewarding, and I feel that I’m truly serving the world in important ways.
My other business helps aspiring writers improve their craft and get published. And seeing their names in print after they take one of our workshops? That’s the meaning that will get you out of bed in the morning, even when your day seems like one long list of unsexy tasks.
Ask how you can truly serve your client, and sales will follow.
2. Find your people
If you are a new entrepreneur and don’t know this already, here is the fundamental law of success in 2021: find a niche. If you try to serve everyone you’ll get killed by larger competitors offering a generic product for a price you can’t beat.
Stop knocking off product ideas and stop trying to adjust your prices on Amazon by cents to weasel a few more bucks out of customers who will never even know your company’s name.
How do you find your tribe? Be a great listener. In This is Marketing, author Seth Godin suggests that you find a lock, then fashion the key. Find the client in need, then create the solution. Don’t create a product then look for the customer or you are in danger of ending up with a spare bedroom full of beautiful, but ultimately unsellable dog nose hair trimmers.
Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, actively ignore everyone else. I can’t tell you how much of my time used to be spent on customers who purchased a $5 or $10 service and immediately became a squeaky wheel. Those emails no longer get a reply and those customers have disappeared to be replaced with ones I can truly help. It’s ruthless, but effective.
Join conversations in progress and speak the client’s language. Your customers are telling you about their pain points on Facebook and Twitter. Sell them a solution.
3. Talk to fewer customers… but for longer.
Back in the days when I bought into the hyperbole of The Hustle™, I went to a lot of networking meetups. I vividly remember one group description reading (I kid you not), “If it looks like you’re spending too much time talking to one person, you’ll be given the signal to move on.” What?
Sadly, this is the conventional wisdom on networking: talk about yourself with as many people as you can for just long enough to hand out your business card in the hopes that some of these seeds will sprout, even without watering. Astute single folks will notice that this sentiment reads much like a description of dating since the proliferation of apps like Tinder and Bumble.
We go wide, not deep. This is a mistake. I urge you to abandon networking in favor of relationship building, especially in your business. Dr. Tony Alessandra—entrepreneur, speaker, and author of the sales classic, Non-Manipulative Selling—suggests that you create “apostles.”
Call them apostles or VIP clients, raving fans or cheerleaders, these customers spread the good word about your business. Customers for life, they refer their friends to you, and frequently. You create them by nurturing powerful one-on-one relationships that Instagram ads and SEO can’t buy.
In my own business, some clients do find us through Google search, but a full 75% are those I’ve spoken with one-on-one. Humans crave these deeper connections, especially in COVID times.
Talk to fewer of your better customers more often and for longer, and you’ll enjoy a new lineup of referral traffic at your door. Obviously, this approach doesn’t scale if you’re a one-person operation, but you can always hire a sales team that shares this philosophy.
4. Sell benefits, not features.
Habits researchers know that emotion drives all behavior. People give complex lists of rational-sounding reasons they married their partner or drove their fist through the wall, but studies prove we make emotional decisions microseconds (an eternity, in neuroscience) before our logical brain joins the party.
To illustrate, imagine a time when you purchased a product and had buyers’ remorse. You got home with your $300 set of spatulas only to realize you were sold on the feeling of becoming a culinary wizard by your favorite celebrity chef, and that your dollar-store utensils were just fine, thank you very much.
Business people can ethically leverage this psychological truism. Sales master and self-help guru Brian Tracy suggests: sell benefits (emotion) not features (logic).
Features tell you that this computer has 64 GB of RAM and a 3 GHz processor. Benefits say you’ll be able to kill your friends more efficiently, in higher resolution, during your Saturday night Call of Duty session. As long as your product delivers actual value (you know—the whole foundation of capitalism?) then why not sell in a way that will actually… sell?
When selling, don’t aim for the wallet; aim for the heart.
5. Count your money.
Opening your PayPal account to see dollars there that weren’t there the night before is highly motivating.
Look—money is a terrible master. There are hordes of unhappy millionaires out there crying into wads of hundred-dollar bills. Happiness means doing work that is meaningful to you, impacts others, and helps you grow as a person.
But money makes an excellent servant. It lets you enjoy wild adventures and unlock your full potential as a human. Jen Sincero, in her book, You Are a Badass at Making Money, suggests you make a list of all the beautiful gifts that money has and will give you. Why not do this now?
It’s allowed me to travel to 50 countries; buy a reliable car that lets me get out of town to see friends and family; buy this laptop that I use 10 hours a day; not to mention cover my family’s basic needs, like food and shelter.
What has money done for the world? Some bad, mostly good. It’s produced beautiful music, soaring skyscrapers, rockets to the Moon and eventually Mars, education, health care systems and vaccinations, charity ventures and sports leagues.
Remind yourself daily that sales create money, and that money can generate incredible blessings; then, you’ll get over your selling hang-ups.
6. Have fun with it.
Sales puts us in conversation with throngs of interesting humans, to talk about a product that we (hopefully) love and believe in, to win their trust, then to exchange your value for their cash. Fun!
Unfortunately, we’re hard-wired to want to belong, and so hearing “no” will naturally seem like a minor threat to our survival. This need is what kept us safe and secure in the tribe back in our stone age days.
Your fear is not unique: according to one study, even 73% of professional salespeople do not feel confident with sales. But we can also circumvent our evolution with this handy tool called our rational mind. In other words, you can choose positive beliefs about sales and what “no” means.
For author and entrepreneur Bo Bennett, “an objection is not a rejection; it is simply a request for more information.” Isn’t this a better way to interpret a no?
Champion of the Hustle, Gary Vaynerchuk, suggests that you ask for the sale “with no expectations.” That way you’ll never be let down. Care, just not that much. Our fear of sales is usually fear of rejection, but if you take the non-attachment approach to the outcome, a “no” can’t possibly hurt you.
Stop taking no personally, because it’s not. Once you do, you’ll be free to enjoy the process, rejection and all.
Change your own mind.
My friend was not at a healthy weight, and so his wife needled him into a gym membership. When I asked how it was going, he said, “Mike, I’ve accepted that I just don’t like exercise, so I quit.”
At the time, I’d just discovered CrossFit (I’m obliged to tell you this, as the jibe goes), and I was having the time of my life lifting weights and scaling walls. How could anyone not enjoy moving their body and watching it get stronger; of seeing what this beautiful machine is capable of?
Then I realized my friend didn’t hate exercise, but he hated running on a treadmill.
Earlier that month, a coaching client told me, “I detest sales,” but when I asked about her approach to sales? Primarily cold-calling. No need for Sherlock to solve that mystery.
Both my unhealthy friend and my cold-calling client simply hadn’t found their thing yet. If the treadmill doesn’t work, play squash, do yoga, go rock climbing. If cold calling isn’t your jam (it’s nobody’s!) then promote yourself with free talks, appear on podcasts, or try email marketing.
Our resistance to sales comes only from our beliefs about it. Change your mindset now—sales can be fun if you apply the six tips above. Great entrepreneurship means creating value. And your customers can receive it only when you learn to love sales.
Photo by @Chawki/Twenty20