Necessary sK1Lz: Sales and Marketing

No, no, don’t run and panic.  I’m not asking you to turn into Leisure Suit Larry here, nor am I saying that you have to learn to schmooze and be manipulative. You don’t. I’m a cranky misanthrope who hates too much contact with people and I manage it, so you who are probably a nice person who finds human company pleasant can do okay.

The point a lot of people miss, and it’s an easy one to do, is that sales is not about convincing people to do what they don’t want to do.  That’s nasty and manipulative.  You don’t have to be nasty and manipulative to sell well – rather the opposite.

The point of selling is to find out what the potential clients wants and provide that.  When you learn to sell, you’re going to be able to show the potential client why you are the best person to help them out with what they want and need!  Real sales is actually about being helpful.  You can feel okay with being helpful, right?

It also means you have to believe in your product or service.  Make sure you’re utterly convinced of the value of what you do.  Don’t ever say, “Oh I just clean houses,” or  “Well, the writing I do is trivial.”  A clean house is valuable, and not everyone in the world can write clearly.  These are needed skills!  If you have a skill or a talent, you can be sure that there are millions of people in the world who don’t have it, but do need the fruits of it.  Value that; show your potential client that it’s valuable.  Many people will agree, and be willing to buy it.

It’s not Personal, It’s Just Business

While you’re learning to sell, another thing you’ll need to get your head wrapped around is that “No” is almost never personal.   I’m not gonna say rejection is fun, but being told “No” in a business situation is not a personal rejection of you as a human being.  Be willing to blow that off.

It’s partially a numbers game.  Depending on your field, you may get “no” between ten and one hundred times before you get “yes”.   For individual marketing, such as responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs in contractor parlance), a ten to one ratio of nos to yeses isn’t too shabby.  For a series of cold calls or a direct mailer, you’re looking at more like a ratio of one hundred to one.

Exercise: Practice Asking

Okay, here’s another exercise for you.   If you want to be self-employed, you’re definitely going to have to learn to be assertive.  You may find it difficult to believe, but just the habit of asking for what you want may make the difference between success and failure in being self-employed.  I know it sounds goofy, but it’s true.

For the next week, practice asking for stuff.  It doesn’t matter what, just ask.  I do want to caution you that there’s a difference between asking and demanding.  Just ask. “Please” is always good and smiles accessorize great with most requests.  Ask if you can get a discount on something in a store.  Ask someone in your household to take out the trash.  Ask if you can do someone a favor.  Ask someone out on a date.  Write your Congressman and ask her to vote a specific way on a bill that’s coming up that’s important to you.  Think of things to ask for – big things, small things, it doesn’t matter.

What will matter is how you feel when you ask, and how you feel when you get a response.  Are you scared to ask?  Does it feel worse if the person says no?  Do you feel a sense of relief if the person says yes?  Keep a record of how you feel, what was going on around the situation, and the outcome.

The goal here is not necessarily to try to get as many people to say yes as possible.  You don’t need to worry about that in the early stages.  Let it be a numbers game at first, and a scattershot.  You want to be in the habit of simply… asking for what you want.  It’s not about demanding and it’s not about being upset at being told no.  It’s about being willing to step up to the plate and ask and take that risk.

Don’t get mad at a negative response, ‘kay?  Part of this is to practice not taking no personally.  If you’ve been fighting with your kids for years to make sure they take out the trash on the night before the garbage collectors are supposed to pick it up, that’s too emotive a situation to be using for this practice.  If you find you feel upset at any no, examine that.   To be successful in the self-employment game, you’ll need to figure out how to stop doing that!

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