SALES. It’s treated like a curse, and yet anyone who is in business for themselves must to be familiar with salesmanship. So, we’ve come up with a more acceptable word – “conversion”.
Conversion means to take a prospect and to convert them into a client. Again – convert. There’s something that still seems forceful about this word.
I suggest a different sales concept: conversation.
First of all, I don’t believe that “sales” is a bad word. We must sell in order to move ANY business forward – even a non-profit organization. But the meaning that we tend to assign to the word generates the mental image of a used-car salesman in a plaid suit, desperate to sell you a lemon.
My version of sales is about conversation, being genuinely interested in people and finding out IF they can use your services. The worst thing to do whether you’re at a grocery store or a professional networking event is to start selling to someone BEFORE you find out if they have a need for your product. At best, it’s irritating and at worst it’s insulting.
For example, what if I interrupted someone who is talking to me about their business and said, “Well, I work with entrepreneurs like you, and I can help you fix your business”? Best case: they are secure in their business and are only mildly annoyed at being interrupted. Worst case: they hear what is implied – your business is broken – and make an excuse to leave the conversation to complain about me to someone else.
Here are a few tips on sales through conversation:
- Ask questions. What interests them? What do they do? What kind of client are they looking for?
- If they never get to asking about you, don’t worry about it. If they aren’t going to be interested in asking about you, it’s unlikely that they’ll want to buy from you. It’s better to wait and sell another day than to sell too soon.
- Go for the referral. This should actually be number 1. Whenever you’re talking to people about your business, would you rather be talking to one person or 250? When you ask, “Would you like to buy?” – you’re talking to one person. When you ask, “Would you be willing to refer to me?” – you’re getting that person to open up their mental address book to consider the 250 people they know.
So don’t be afraid of sales, just pace yourself! Make connections through conversation, establish rapport, create referral partners, and find sales opportunities when the time is right.