From the passion with which the words are uttered, it seems to be an visceral response to putting a value on what they love and then having to ask for it.
That word ‘sales’
As a word, ‘sales’ hasn’t always been part of the small business lexicon. Sales once related only to those people who were salesmen, (one rarely met a saleswoman decades ago). And they only sold commodities, not services.
Back then, there were few positions less aspired to than that of the door to door salesman.
“Tell you a secret, boys. Don’t breathe it to a soul. Someday I’ll have my own business, and I’ll never have to leave home any more.” Willy Loman from Death of Salesman
The aspirational dream for Willy Loman, the iconic figure in Arthur Miller’s book, Death of A Salesman, was to own his business one day, like so many of us do today.
Something else has occurred since Willy dared to dream he could own his own business. The word ‘sales’ has morphed.
The sales cycle
It no longer means, ‘first give me the check, then I’ll give you the product.’ No longer a single action, sales has become a cycle that describes almost everything business owners do – the equivalent to a business marathon, every time a deal is done.
It’s come to mean identifying markets, networking, prospecting, relationship building, acquisition, proposing, follow up, negotiating, servicing, delivering, invoicing and finally, receiving the check, often months after you’ve delivered the goods. For so many, the thing they once loved doing gets caught up, seemingly unnoticed in the entire cycle.
Exchange of value
Sales actually means “an exchange of value“.
So how can those of us who have had a visceral response to the idea of selling, get back to a place where it is a simpler exchange of value? Here’s what I offer, you buy it. We’re both happy?
In my four decades of business, this process has come full circle. Once, I was a graphic designer. People rang me and requested my services. I did a good job using a set square, rotring pen and ruler. What I did in my whole working day was graphic design. They paid me. True, that actually happened in the 70’s.
People paid. True, that actually happened in the 70’s!
Somewhere during the next three decades, the word sales entered our lives. That rather pleasing process was replaced by infinitely more complex offers, technology and the sales process. People paid, but it was open to negotiation. The word scope or feature creep appeared in our lexicon. We created processes to eliminate the process. My work became sales, process development and a little marketing and graphic design. Then I became a manager, managing others to do the same.
In this new decade, I’ve been working on a different model. One in which people want to work with me, they pay me upfront and I deliver great value that powerfully impacts on their lives. We understand the outcomes upfront and we don’t negotiate the price. Now I’m back to doing and loving the work.
Here’s what I’ve learned that has replaced the word sales in my life.
Seriously, if you’re not crystal clear on why you do what you do, you will always be caught in the vortex of sales. You’re an expert. You’ve got talent and experience. You love what you do. Why? Find that why. Even in a nascent form, it will clearly define who you’re talking to. Everything you do will filter through the lens of your passion and belief in why you do what you do. It will give you the power to say no to the work you know you should not be doing.
Your purpose needs to be tattooed on your brain, front and centre, always there acting as guide and mentor.
The Tao of Seo. It’s not about spinning around the net like a newborn summer fly smearing fear wherever it lands, but about embracing this incredible resource we have at our finger tips to get inside the heads of the people we know we can serve. Different purpose altogether. Not about bringing ‘them’ in, in their thousands as a numbers game, but in hand picking those we can meaningfully connect with.
Get to grips with keyword research. These words and phrases are little gems if you embrace where they take you. Not only will they guide you to your people, but they’ll introduce you to the problems they so need your help with. They’ll show you who else is helping them, right now in this last hour, and how well they’re doing it. They’ll acquaint you with people with whom you can connect and collaborate.
When you’re on purpose, you can articulate what you offer. You’re clear about what you’re positioning, you the expert, your business or your industry niche. What ever sits right with your purpose. Then blogging is a game changer. What you write always intersects with your purpose. Here’s an example, “I teach businesses how to create a loyal clan that lifts lives“. But I’m writing about sales. Really?
Blogging develops trust when it’s authentic, transparent and inclusive. Trust is key to meaningful connection.
My people’s problems
What do you know about your people, those you can best serve with why you do what you do?
It was once explained to me that if you think you know a person’s problem at the beginning of a conversation, you are really push selling. People resile from having you solve their problems as soon as you have met them. That’s because it’s disrespectful.
In the past, someone might say as they handed me a business card, I’m not happy about my logo, prompting me to launch into a long dissertation on the merits of great branding, expecting what? That they’d immediately say, I must engage you now to resolve my branding problem. They rarely did. Surprise! Possibly, because their real problem was that they were breaking up with their business partner, or they no longer wanted to run a retail shop, or they just didn’t know which of their multiple offers they wished to pursue.
How could I know? Only if I had taken the time first to question and then listen. And only if they trusted me enough to tell me.
Your people and their needs
Spend the time to work through every known problem the person you can best serve might have. What’s the impact for them if that problem is not solved. What are the implications for their lives over a long period if the problem is not solved. What do they need? So what then are the features, advantages and benefits of why you do what you do. Is it a fit?
Your offer on a page
Recently, I was reflecting on ‘the proposal’. Working hard on not engaging with regret, none the less I couldn’t help but think of the wasted years my husband and I spent on proposals and worse, spec work.
We were annual report specialists at one point in the not for profit sector. Often asked to submit a spec design of an annual report competitively, we couldn’t do anything but our best work. It was an invidious system, even when we won the tender (about one out of three). What about the other two design companies who didn’t? It made the celebration stick in our throats. So we learned to say no. It was a great decision.
Here’s the point. Our folio and testimonials spoke for themselves. We just needed to believe in that. Your’s do the same. I challenge you to put your offer and it’s outcomes on one page.
Today, I present the same one page to a person who I may have met through presenting at a seminar, or blogging or the various communities I belong to on and offline. They are people who have a need that is addressed by ‘why’ I do what I do. We meet or talk and I tell them the price. That’s it. Either we go ahead, or we walk away with dignity.
Is all of this sales? I suppose it is in the sense of sales being an exchange of value. Does it illicit the same visceral response as described earlier? Happily, no.
If you are unhappy about sales, share it with us here and let’s see if we can unpack it, rewrite it and change the game for you too.
Perhaps you have another business nemesis in your life. This is one of many you can conquer by following our awesome carnie’s advise in this month’s Word Carnival: Vanquish Your Business Nemesis. A Guide To Conquering Small Biz Evils