Selling is an essential skill every entrepreneur must master. Think about it: Starting from day one in your business, you're selling. Whether it’s pitching your idea to potential investors or showcasing your latest innovation to prospects, the success of your business depends on your ability to sell.
When I started my first business over a decade ago, I had no idea how to sell or even how much I needed that skill. Let’s just say if I wanted to continue working in my pajamas, I had to learn how to sell fast or start dusting off my resume, as many of my entrepreneurial peers were doing.
The following 10 skills are the ones I had to learn fast and helped me the most in selling my ideas and business to prospective clients.
1. Basic human psychology.
First and foremost, learn what motivates people. Take as an example the ambitious manager trying to work his way up the corporate ladder; he wants to appear smart and capable to his boss. Help him do that and you have a customer for life.
2. Listening skills.
People want to feel heard and understood. Even if you're marketing online, make listening part of your social media engagement strategy and tie your messaging to that understanding.
3. Prospect filtering.
Build into your sales process a step where you determine if the prospect is the right "fit." Sometimes it’s budget, sometimes it’s personality, sometimes it’s your ability to deliver what they need. Whatever it is, get that out of the way early so you don’t waste your time and theirs.
4. Strategic positioning.
Figure out where you stand relative to the market and focus your sales efforts on communicating that core value proposition. Are you a low-price, high-volume commodity or a premium luxury brand?
5. Unique selling proposition (USP).
Determine what makes your offering unique. Is it your amazingly knowledgeable frontline staff? Is it a new innovation that solves a nagging industry problem? Is it something as simple as your extended business hours?
6. Perfect your sales tease.
Get your prospects excited about the end result of signing on the dotted line. The classic consultant tease is “I have a lot of ideas for you!” because it implies you have been thinking about their problem, but doesn’t give away the solution (hat tip to Kim Duke, the Sales Diva for this one).
7. Talking dollars and cents.
Get comfortable talking money. You need to be able to ask prospects about budget and be able to ask them to pay what it's worth. Early conversations on the topic of money will save a lot of hassle later.
8. The art of the pitch.
Learn the art of the sales pitch. Yours should both demonstrate your understanding of their needs and highlight the value of what they're buying.
9. Asking for the sale.
Practice your close. It doesn’t have to be overt or pushy, but you do need to give prospects clear direction on what they need to do next to buy. Is it click a button? Sign a contract? Agree to the pricing and terms?
10. Tactful follow-up.
Create a system for following up with prospects who aren’t quite ready to commit. Whatever you do, don’t start with the lame, “Just following up.” Get creative and find unique ways to add value to the relationship.
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