Selling in a New Age

Many small business people have great ideas for products or services, but don't want to sell or don't know how. They've defined their target market and how to reach it, and have mastered the financial aspects of running a company. However, often missing is a clear understanding of the sales process - or the willingness and ability to initiate successful sales conversations, and not get stopped by people saying "no."

What is it about selling that makes so many entrepreneurs shudder, especially those who are the sole salesperson for their firm? Very often they are affected by preconceived notions as to what selling is (adversarial, difficult, manipulative). Or they have a strong fear of rejection - when a prospect says "no," they take it personally.

Letting these negative ideas get in the way of selling is one way to ensure your venture will fail. After all, if you don't make sales, you don't have a business, no matter how good a product you have, or how well you've done your marketing.

There is a way to sell that is positive, rewarding and enjoyable. And it helps handle that fear of rejection as well. It's called relationship selling, and is the way effective, professional salespeople have always operated. In fact, Dale Carnegie started delivering this message 78 years ago.

Relationship selling applies to any kind of business, whether retail or business-to-business, product or service. While the steps to the sales process may vary slightly for each type, the overall theme of building relationships is consistent throughout.

Traditional vs. Relationship Selling

Most of the existing negative opinions and fears about the sales process are based on a traditional, formula method: memorize 10 different ways to get an appointment, 40 kinds of closes, 20 ways to handle objections, etc. While these techniques can be very useful, they may also get in your way if used without first building a relationship with sales prospects.

When many small business people think about selling, they have a stereotypical image of the used-car salesman or the aluminum siding huckster as played by Danny DeVito in "The Tin Man." Characters such as these operate in a win/lose mode - an exchange where the seller tries to trick, persuade or coerce the customer to buy. In contrast, relationship selling is a win/win game. If the product or service being sold truly meets the needs of the buyer, both parties benefit as a result of the sale.

Today's customers have become more sophisticated and demanding of higher levels of customer service than ever before. They want someone they can trust who understands their needs and wants. This is particularly important during slow economic times, when most people make buying decisions, even small ones, very carefully.

Also keep in mind that the best sources of new business are existing customers and referrals from these customers. To help ensure the success of your venture, take the time to build relationships with your customers, rather than just focusing on making the immediate sale. Although relationship selling may take longer to produce results, it is definitely worth it in the long run. You will be well rewarded with high levels of repeat business and referrals from happy customers.


MJD Business Advice LLC is owned by Mike Daley, an award winning, small business expert, who has over 37 years of helping entrepreneurs start, grow, buy and sell businesses. We focus on small business consulting with companies who have 100 employees or less. Mike has been consulting, counseling, and providing business advice to hundreds of potential start-ups, and existing businesses in a variety of industries. Through Mike's advice, clients have grown profits, obtained financing, increased...

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