Starting a business takes a good idea and a passion to see it through, but it also takes the ability to sell. Whether you’re selling your product to a customer, your service to a corporation or your idea to an investor, an entrepreneur needs to be a sales superstar … except that many feel they are not.
“Most of us have been exposed to ‘selling’ at its worst and shy away from what we believe is this hard type of activity,” says John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer – Sell Like a Superstar (Portfolio, 2014). “But selling has changed pretty dramatically over the last few years.”
Today, selling doesn’t mean closing; it means educating and guiding a journey. The key is to stop thinking of yourself as a salesman and start thinking of yourself as a teacher.
“In my father’s day, the buyer relied on the salesperson for basic information about products and services,” says Jantsch. “Today, the Internet, other buyers and even competitors participate in providing a great deal of information. Today’s sales professional has to help customers discover ideas and challenges they aren’t even addressing yet rather than simply showing up when they express a need.”
Jantsch says marketing is what builds an audience around a brand or product and selling is how you move audience members to try your products or services by personalizing the marketing message for that one prospect. Both are equally important.
“In large organizations they need to work hand in hand and in small organization there needs to be a recognition that both functions exist and must be addressed,” he says.
The marketer’s main tool is content. Today’s prospects expect to find answers to their needs by entering keywords into a search engine. They expect the selling company to also provide this content. Jantsch says a prospect’s first exposure to a company is often through a blog post or series of articles on its website. It’s an important step in selling because it builds trust.
“Trust is pretty much everything,” he says. “Obviously the endgame is that customers ultimately trust that the product, service, organization or solution they seek will address their needs, but the first line of trust is content.”
In addition to a blog, an entrepreneur should take advantage of tools such as email newsletters, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on a website, and social media page where customers can share thoughts. All of these build awareness while sharing content.
A marketing mindset also gets salespeople thinking about things like who makes the ideal client for them and how they can differentiate their sales process, says Jantsch. In fact, a marketing mindset turns the traditional sales funnel into a sales hourglass.
“The primary problem with the funnel is that the entire focus is on getting a customer,” says Jantsch. “With the hourglass the focus starts with creating a better customer experience and working back towards creating a customer.”
While the funnel put the attention on the beginning of the sales process, an hourglass mindset encourages a salesperson to take a long-term view and become an advocate for the client. “You must take the view that a sale isn’t a sale until the client gets a result,” he says. “This is how you build a reputation for delivering value and this is how you become a welcome guest for additional business and referrals.”
The steps of an hourglass include Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat and Refer, with Try at the center. The Repeat and Refer steps involve measuring your client’s success by following up after the sale, and engaging with customers after they experience value in your offerings by asking for repeat and referral business.
“In the end, most small businesses are very sales focused, even if they don’t acknowledge this fact,” says Jantsch. “If entrepreneurs learn how to blend marketing and sales in the right way, results are sure to follow.”