Roughly .0000013% of people in this world were born with “sales” skills in their blood.
(Yeah, I totally made that number up)
The rest of us fall somewhere on a scale from “nah” to “ewwww” in our definition of what being a salesperson means. And since I’m randomly pulling data out of a hat here, I’ll venture to say that 100% of people living in modern society have had at least one encounter with a sleazy salesperson that helped push that slide a little further to the right.
Point being, we have a pretty strong opinion about the connotation of the word Sales.
Which is a problem for small business owners, because that very thing (sales) is the difference between owning a business or owning a hobby. Or worse, previously owning a business.
To ease your mind a bit on my random and incorrect fact spouting, I have actually had quite a bit of experience in chatting up small business owners about their fear and loathing of the “S” word. A few have said they are good at it, a couple of those people said they enjoyed it (approx .0000013%). I’ll let you imagine what the rest have said…
When I come across this issue with a client, the first thing I do is try to redefine the word. It’s silly how we put so much power into words. By simply deflating the word a bit, and pumping a better energy back into it, the process of becoming a salesperson seems more approachable and natural. A small shift with a big impact.
Here’s my story:
I was not born a .0000013%er. I was born a somewhat timid Midwesterner who was taught to worry more about other peoples’ feelings than my own. I learned to give more than I got, and that the worst thing you could do was disappoint someone.
In a way, I think these values are extremely helpful in small business, and I use them all the time. But when it came to making a living, I needed some internal rewiring to learn how to manage my instincts in a way that allowed me to build a business.
As mentioned in earlier stories, I worked as a teenager and young adult in retail. You know, the kinds of places that morphed you into a parrot who screeches “Welcome! How I can help you today?” Or “Let me know if I can help you find anything” every time the door opened.
It didn’t really matter what I said because, before I even got the sentence out, the response was “Just looki….” the end of which trailed off because the person had already turned down an aisle to escape. This always seemed so pointless and degrading to me. It immediately turned people off and ruined any chance of genuine conversation.
But the worst was the credit card quotas, the forced POS sales speech that the customer didn’t want to hear and I really really really didn’t want to say.
There is really nothing that feels sleazier.
And it almost never worked (the fact that is sometimes worked was miraculous at the time, but I now know a helluvalot more about sales and see that my spiel had zero to do with it). Anyhoo, my upbringing and intro to sales was not conducive to running a profitable business. But after years of struggling to make ends meet, I looked at the big picture and decided it was time for a new approach.
My philosophy now is that when I accept money from someone, we both win. I have identified the value and determined a price that meets the needs of myself and the business, while making sure that the outcome is still greater than the price.
Even at that, not everyone will want or be able to purchase. So as a salesperson, it’s not my job to convince someone to buy something that isn’t right for them. My job is to understand my customers and have answers to all their questions, so that they can make a decision that feels good. When the sale happens it isn’t forced, and there is nothing sleazy about it.
My experience may be relatable to you, but you undoubtedly have your own set of feelings and memories that make you hesitate whenever it comes down to closing a deal.
So I think it would be helpful to reflect on these and see where your definition of Sales comes from. And then it’s time to redefine. Some people change the word altogether, but I encourage you to stop hatin’ on the word and see it for what it is.
When you buy something you want, get a lot of value for your money, or get to check something off your list of long-time needs, you don’t feel swindled or sad. You feel excited, accomplished, and smart. So as long as what you are selling meets their criteria for a good purchase, they want you to sell it to them.