There were a few things I said I would never be when I grew up, and salesperson was near the top of the list. For some reason that word has always conjured up images of a not-so-trustworthy person trying to sell me something that I don’t need or have any interest in.
So you can imagine how horrified I was when I got off the phone with a potential client a few months ago and Jake remarked that I was “quite the saleswoman.” Saleswoman? Really?
But the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized how much of my job has to do with selling. And there’s no way around it; in order to create an income and keep my business afloat, I have to sell my products and services.
But I’ve also realized that selling is all about your approach, and salesy and sleazy don’t have to be synonymous.
I have a feeling that many of you cringe at the word “sales” when it comes to your business, too, but my goal today is to not only show you that sales are fundamental to business, but to teach you how to approach them genuinely and effectively. Here are seven ways to sell anything to anyone, anywhere.
1. Demonstrate kindness
We’ve all grown up hearing the golden rule, that “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” It applies in all facets of life, business included.
What’s fascinating is that the golden rule is psychologically proven to work. Psychologists call it “the norm of reciprocity.” In 1974, a sociologist named Philip Kunz decided to conduct a social experiment in which he wrote 600 thoughtful Christmas cards and sent them to complete strangers. He ended up receiving 200 Christmas cards from that same group of strangers in return. It goes to show that there’s a social pressure for individuals to respond to acts of kindness with another act of kindness (source).
In business, this looks like responding to every email and comment, making yourself available and accessible, offering a discount to someone in need, going above and beyond on a project, sending a thank you note - the opportunities are endless! When you make your business about people and focus on building a relationship with your audience, they’re much more likely to faithfully follow your business and purchase something from you in the long-term.
It’s important to note that I’m not encouraging acts of kindness in order to get a response, but I’ve seen time and time again that demonstrating kindness never returns void.
2. Go above and beyond for customers and non-customers alike
Not everyone is going to purchase your products or book your services. There will always be those who refuse your offerings, and a wise business owner knows not to take it personally. Especially since we’ve all said “no” plenty of times to products and services from other businesses.
But who’s to say those same people who initially said “no” won’t say “yes” later?
By trying to help someone regardless of their interest in your current offerings, you’re building trust as well as the integrity of your brand.
For example, I’m contacted a handful of times each week by business owners and bloggers who ask for design services that are either outside of the scope of what I currently offer or are looking for an earlier timeframe. Instead of responding with a polite “sorry this won’t work out” email, I try to go above and beyond by pointing them to other talented designers who offer the services they’re looking for or who might be able to get them into their schedule quicker.
Even though we might not be able to work together, I’ve discovered that people appreciate the time and effort. No one likes to feel like a number or feel like they’re being blown off, and you never know what could come from that new relationship down the road.
Here’s another cool story about a man who took a similar approach:
When IBM approached Bill Gates in the summer of 1980, he was uninterested in their goal of creating an operating system for the personal computer. Instead, he referred them to a man named Gary Kildall. But when Kildall and IBM couldn’t reach a deal, IBM went back to Gates and asked him one more time. The rest is history (source).
If Gates hadn’t been willing to help, regardless of how the project turned out, he may not have become the richest man in the world.
The best part? When you take this approach within your blog and business, those who may not have been interested in purchasing your products or booking your services end up looking for ways to support you. I’ve had a handful of blog readers remark on how they feel that they should be paying me for openly sharing information, and that they’re seeking ways to support me in my ventures. I’ve been stunned - it’s the best thing I could have hoped for, and to be honest, it happened unintentionally!
3. Study your audience
When you know your audience well and pay attention to their needs, you’ll be able to create products and services that are well-suited for them.
We talked about the idea of building your audience before creating products and services a couple months ago in this post, and it’s worth mentioning again. Creating a product/service before finding an interested audience is incredibly more difficult than tailoring products/services to the needs of your followers. It’s how you’ll be able to generate demand and sell out/book out time and time again.
For example, I had no intention of starting an e-course on Adobe Illustrator when I first started Elle & Company. But as I started to get to know my audience of creative entrepreneurs and bloggers, I saw noticed a need. Jake threw out the idea on a whim, and we went with it. A month later we launched the class and sold out of all 40 seats within the first 15 minutes. We were floored!
When you understand the needs of your followers, it’s much easier to sell to them. It’s hard to refuse something that’s tailored to help you meet your needs.
4. Educate your customers
Selling and educating go hand-in-hand. People don’t want to know why you love your product, they want to know how it will benefit them. So instead, educate them by highlighting the beneficial features of your product/service. Focus on how it solves a problem or helps your audience reach a desired result.
I say this often on the blog, but readers are selfish; they approach every post wondering what’s in it for them. The same is true for consumers. Every customer wants to know one simple question: If I buy this, what will it do for me?
Answering that question is educating the consumer. The more you focus on teaching your audience about the qualities of your product/service that benefit them, the greater chance you’ll have of selling without seeming salesy or overzealous. You’re simply informing.
5. Provide real value
I mentioned Jake calling me a good saleswoman in the intro to this post. And after he said that, I realized that it’s easy to sell something when you know that what you’re offering will provide value to your customer. When I was telling that potential client about my design services over the phone, I was excited to highlight all of the features because I knew that my offering would be valuable to them.
Does your product or service provide value? Does it actually do all that you say it will? When you see the value in it, it will show through in how you pitch your service to potential clients or market your product to potential buyers.
People can spot authenticity from a mile away (which is why many salespeople get a bad reputation). If you don’t see the value in it, potential consumers won’t either.
6. Get consistent feedback and focus on improvement
I’m might sound a little pessimistic in saying this, but I believe there’s no such thing as a finished product. There will always be something that can be improved upon or done differently, which is why it’s important to welcome consistent feedback and look for areas to improve.
Learning from your customers is one of the most helpful ways you can improve your product/service. In fact, when you act on the advice of your previous customers and clients, it almost always results in a more desirable outcome.
Collect feedback by sending each client or customer a follow-up questionnaire about their experience. Allow an area for reviews within your shop. Make sure your email address is in a prominent place on your website so that people can easily contact you with questions and feedback. And again, don’t take it personally when people don’t tell you exactly what you want to hear; constructive, honest feedback can be a game changer for your business.
7. Exercise honesty
Like I said earlier, your products and services won’t be a perfect fit for everyone, so don’t try to please everyone. Explain the limitations of what you offer, set boundaries, and don’t embellish.
Just because someone asks you for a product or service you don’t currently offer doesn’t mean you need to appease them by saying yes (although you can let them down nicely and go out of your way to refer them to someone else). Oftentimes those extra offerings result in stress and never turn out to be my best work, and I’ve discovered that people often have more respect for you if you’re willing to say no. People appreciate honesty, even if you think it might cost you a sale in the long-run.
There’s a common theme between all 7 of these points: all of these actions build trust.
People are willing to buy from you if you seem trustworthy. While everyone loves a good “hack,” we haven’t found a way around this one yet; it’s impossible to earn trust overnight. You have to consistently prove the integrity and authenticity of your business in order for people to buy something from you.
Zig Ziglar said it best: “If people like you they will listen to you, but if they trust you they will buy from you.”
In all that you do and in every interaction that you have with your audience, seek to build trust.
How do you seek to build trust with your audience? How do you approach sales authentically?