Selling is the most misunderstood of all business skills. Not many creative entrepreneurs or solo professionals enjoy spending their time selling. For many, selling is distasteful and conjures up a lot of stressful anxiety.
(Part One of Two)
Every business needs a steady stream of new customers. If selling is a distasteful, anxiety-ridden activity for you, then you’ll have to change your thinking and belief about the difference between selling and business development. It's far better to attract new clients rather than chase them. If your business is to continue to grow, it will require a pipeline full of clients to be.
Many early stage entrepreneurs loathe the idea of selling their goods and services to new customers (strangers).
True enough, it’s much easier and more fun to answer the call of a prospect referred to you by a trusted source. And make no mistake, a referral is the gold standard of business development, but referrals are not predictable. You will never know when one will show up. Growing your business will require you to develop a pipeline full of eager prospects that may do business with you in the future.
Building a pipeline of qualified prospects is hard work!
You probably don’t think much about selling to new clients when you are busy working with current clients and customers. Most entrepreneurs only get serious about selling when their business slows down. This can be a fatal mistake. It takes a very long time to create a new customer from a “suspect”. Sometimes the sales cycle can be a year or more. When I was running my marketing communications agency, it could easily take 18 months of solid, consistent business development work to win a new client. If you need a new customer this month, you’re already in trouble.
Let me help you get your thinking straight on what selling really is and how you can turn your sales procrastination into sales power taking your business to the next level.
Selling is being of service to people.
There’s a common expression that “people hate to be sold, but they love to buy”. The deeper truth in that statement is people only love to buy from the people/brands they trust and admire. Through your sales and business development activities, your job is to be of service to your prospective client.
At the early stage in the sales process your not selling, you’re adding value to people. You are helping them to solve a problem and fulfill a need. Sometimes the customer’s need is blatant, needing a solution right away or they will experience pain of some sort. More often the need is latent. In other words, the customer does not “have to buy” at all. That means your biggest competitor is the customer’s decision not to buy.
In either case, the prospective client will not buy from you until you earn their trust and respect. The best way to do earn and deserve new business is to serve people by demonstrating your interest in their success rather than yours.
The difference between selling and business development.
Stop thinking about selling something and start to learn how to nurture and develop new business. In every industry there’s a well defined “sales cycle”. As I mentioned earlier, the sales cycle takes time–usually a long time.
You have to understand the nature of this cycle in your industry, so that you can strategically and tactically align your actions to match the prospects need state where ever they happen to be in the sales cycle. At the early stage of this cycle, your mission is not to sell anything, your mission is to begin the process of developng a business relationship. The big idea is for the prospective client to desire to take you along with them as they move deeper into their buying process.
Buying is a process not an event.
In any product or service category, the prospect goes through a process of buying. It usually goes something like this:
The buyer becomes aware of their need to buy and they begin to investigate sources of supply.
The Early Stage Buyer
At this level, the prospect begins to research, interview, budget and plan, then send requests for information from potential vendors and resources in the marketplace. Their needs are still undefined and they are simply shopping.
The Late Stage Buyer
Going deeper into the buying process, the prospect has defined their need, established a budget and a timeline for completion of the process. They actively interview a small group of candidate resources to buy from. This usually comes in the form of a request for proposal.
The Purchase Decision
At this final stage, the prospect has made their decision to buy and from whom. This is where the deal is closed.
Your business development activities must align perfectly to the buyer’s process–leading both of you the final act of closing the sale.
But your business development process is still incomplete. Because every buyer will experience remorse in their purchase decision, the buyer will seek reassurance from you they have made the proper decision to do business with you. This is where you must be of greatest value to your new client.
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