This article is for project managers, people managers, free-lancers, software developers, consultants or anybody else that sells but does not have sales listed on their business cards. The selling or people management part of your job is least likely to be automated or outsourced to lower cost labor. With this in mind, below are my 6 tips for non-sales professionals.
Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human, writes, "According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in nine Americans works in sales. Every day more than fifteen million people earn their keep by persuading someone else to make a purchase. Yes, one in nine Americans works in sales. But so do the other eight. Whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now."
I recommend reading Daniel Pink's book. He will help you see that selling is not about cajoling people to buy something they don't need or making them do something do that is bad for them. Rather, selling is an art form that is about serving someone in a way that solves a problem. Selling is about gaining agreement or commitment that the parties will take action.
1. Sell in small increments
As you're building a relationship, I recommend to close for very small agreements, such as 15 minutes of their time. As a second step, you may want to gain their agreement that the 15 minutes will be 15 minutes of their undivided attention. Finally, you might be asking their boss to join for a 1 hour meeting. Just like you would not propose marriage on a first date, please don't ask a new relationship to make a big commitment.
2. Build credibility by asking great questions
In a previous blog article I demonstrated how to build credibility by asking great questions. Since the buyer (or the one making a change) has the most power, it is up to you the seller to use questions, visual cues, and verbal cues to better understand the buyer. Asking diagnostic questions will help you demonstrate your expertise and gain credibility. In addition, asking great questions will demonstrate that you care.
3. Practice your Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch is not about giving someone the hard sell in the three minutes while you are in the elevator. Your elevator pitch should be designed to give enough information about you or your company to make the buyer curious to know more. The best elevator pitches are fun and personal. The elevator pitch is your opportunity to close for some type of small follow up such as an email, phone call or connection on social media. For tips on perfecting an elevator speech, I recommend reading a book called Pitch Perfect, by Bill McGowan.
By practicing your elevator pitch or introduction to your pitch you will be less nervous. The other party will perceive your confidence when you drop filler words or words that are not powerful such as "stuff" "things" or "probably". I recommend recording your elevator pitch as a way to practice intonation and gestures. Slowing down will help you speak well and become a better listener.
4. Be patient
Most people fear change and few people change quickly. Don't try to sell your friends on running a marathon with you, first sell them on taking a walk. Be prepared for some resistance and serve the other person by helping them through the change necessary to succeed or improve.
5. Deception is no longer possible as the internet is helping us move towards perfect information.
Don't claim you are an expert if you are not. Don't oversell your company or your product. Besides the ethical implications, verification is just a google search away. Pay attention to your social media profiles and other sources of credibility such as reviews, blogs or LinkedIn.
6. Build trust through great follow up and follow through
Your follow up should start with your close. Remember your buyer has most of the power, having the ability to say yes or no. A good sales person will not accept maybe as an answer, but will request an answer such as yes, no, a counter offer, or I will get back you on this date. After the close, the seller should summarize action items and agreed upon next steps. It is a good idea to summarize what was discussed verbally in writing and also ask them to reply again to ensure you were accurate in describing next steps. Finally, don't drop the ball. If you don't live up to your end of the bargain, it is not fair to expect you have earned the buyer's trust.
To sell is human. We all need to sell, some more than others. Learn to sell and increase your value in your job and to the world.
If you would like me to come speak to your group of project managers, people managers, free-lancers, software developers, consultants please contact me.