Selling with Heart: A Reluctant Salesperson’s Guide
Close your eyes and whisper the word “Sales” to yourself.
Do you picture agitated account executives in a boardroom fretting over charts and graphs? Maybe you fixate on the cheap suit and sweaty hands of a used car salesman. Perhaps you already smell the perfume samples wafting from the cosmetics counter at the department store–the odiferous cloud that precedes an equally noxious sales pitch.
Open your eyes. Take a breath. You’re not alone. Many people want to run screaming from the idea of selling, hawking, pushing, or promoting. But the reality is, without sales you don’t have a business. So if you have something to sell, you’re going to have to face your fears sooner or later.
In this post, we’ll show some great ways to sell with heart—even if your heart isn’t always in it.
Clear Up Those Misconceptions
First, ditch the myths and preconceived notions of what selling means and focus on what it can mean for you. Here are three major blocks many people face when starting out in sales:
- “Selling means lying” – Human beings are suggestable but they’re not idiots. Yes, there are some slimy salespeople out there, but the best ones know that it’s not about tricking customers into buying something they don’t need, but about guiding the customer to get what they really want.
- “I don’t want to be a pest” – Then don’t be. After all, you didn’t get into this business to annoy people but to provide something you value yourself. Reframing your approach as a conversation rather than a pitch allows you to meet your customer on a human level. Consider listening to their needs, hearing their concerns, and finding a way to guide them on their journey. A more personal approach actually gets you farther with a customer than carpet-bombing them with generic emails or calls.
- “It’s such a chore” – Again, you choose what kind of work is valuable in your business. If you decide that a sales strategy is core to your business model, that decision will naturally lead you into a learning mindset. You may still be nervous about it but you’ll be more open to getting better. Conversely, if you decide that sales is boring and tedious, or treat it as an afterthought, your mind will continue to resist the opportunities to grow and change your outlook.
Your customers can detect whether you truly believe in what you’re selling or whether you wish they’d just decide, buy, and get out. So adjusting your own mindset—before you ever draft that email or pick up that phone—can make a huge difference in your approach.
Know Your Value, Inside and Out
Before you can sell to customers, you need to be able to sell yourself. This may feel like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many business people don’t know how to talk about their own value position. It may be all clear in their head, but they can’t effectively put it into words.
Look at your products and services from a customer’s perspective. What’s the first message they encounter on your website? What questions might come up when they read your product description? What are your competitors doing that your customers may ask of you?
Thoroughly assessing your value will give you the confidence to address the needs and concerns of your customers right away, without being caught short. The more you know about what you’re selling (the strengths as well as the shortcomings), the more confident you’ll be with customers and the more willing they’ll be to trust and work with you.
Put People Over Product
You’ve got something great and you can’t wait to sell it. The challenge comes when you realize your customers will wait to buy it, at least until they’ve browsed and researched sufficiently. If they aren’t ready to make a purchase, blasting them with the features and capabilities of your product (even with the best, most enthusiastic intentions), can backfire.
Instead, focus on the person who’s interested in your product. What are their pain points and what will your product do to ease (or hopefully eliminate) them? Once you dig down a little to discover your customers’ needs, you’ll be better positioned to move on to the benefits of what you’re selling.
And you don’t even have to dig too deep. Did you know that 70% of online buyers consult product reviews before making a purchase? That means by the time you get to the “sales” stage with your customers, most of them have already done the legwork. So why not let the customer take the lead? It makes your life easier (thanks again, Internet!) and allows the customer the satisfaction of investing in their own purchasing process.
People love to buy, as they say, but they hate to be sold. So sometimes the best thing you can do for a customer is to help them identify what they want and then get out of their way.
Don’t Skimp on Storytelling
Metaphors, anecdotes, and fables aren’t just fancy literary devices reserved for academia. These tools help us make sense of the world around us. They help us better define the story of our own lives. They promote shared experience and the desire to succeed and thrive which connects us all. By linking your sales strategy to storytelling, you tap into the basic human desire to belong. Some believe storytelling is the only way to effectively sell.
When abused, this technique can be seen as manipulative. Fabricating false experiences or playing on stories that are rooted in fear and ignorance is harmful. However, the successful salesperson knows that we all have stories and we all share certain basic desires. The customer wants to succeed in getting what they want; the salesperson wants to succeed in satisfying their customer. Connecting with a story on a human level is a great way to reach that win-win, and it’s a lot easier than assembling a complicated sales script or impersonal call to action.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Be patient. Sales may not come naturally to you, but like any valuable skill, practice and time will help you get it to work for you. “Closing the deal” is much less important than developing a trusting and loyal relationship with your customers. You’ll also find that slowing down the sales process, connecting with your customers, and really investing in their needs reduces the anxiety and stress you might associate with what you may perceive as the vicious, cutthroat world of sales.
At the end of the day, we’re all “selling” something whether we know it or not. Whether it’s reassuring a friend in need or convincing a child to eat their vegetables, we genuinely want to persuade others to our way of thinking. That’s not always a bad or nefarious thing, it’s simply how we take care of each other.
We hope we’ve given you the clarity and confidence you need to make selling more personal and less painful moving forward.