An introverted entrepreneur? Yes, they exist. Not all people love selling all the time. But as a startup founder, that's usually part of the job description, at least at first.
We asked 11 successful entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) for practical advice on how to make peace with their new, unofficial role as chief salesperson. Their best advice is below:
1. Understand Sales
Understanding sales is important and will let you explore ways to offset your inability or dislike of sales. It may not be that you hate to sell as much as you hate the traditional method of sales in your industry. Here are some tips that helped me (an extreme introvert):
- Choose to network and do lunches and coffees. One-on-one or one-on-two is always better for me then trying to "work a room."
- Hire a business development guy. This is our "relationship starter." Once a conversation gets into a specific project, we'll bring other people into the conversation.
- Create, track, reward and update fans. Are there non-competitive allies in your same space selling to the same group? See if they are open to an affiliate relationship.
- Get over it. Sometimes you have to make the cold call.
2. Don't Expect an Immediate 'Yes'
The biggest strategic shift I took in my current approach to sales was not actually expecting I would get anything. It sounds silly, but I've found if you are flexible and open with your leads instead of over the top and persistent, you will have better results.This is especially good advice for an entrepreneur who hates to sell. The moment you can shift your perspective on sales away from selling, you can realize you are just having a nice conversation about your work and the whole experience will become a lot more comfortable. Don't expect an immediate "yes," and you will be pleasantly surprised by how many you will get.
3. Fall in Love with Your Product
The reason you hate to sell is because deep down you think you don't bring value. If what you're selling saves your clients money, makes their lives easier and changes the world for the better, then you will be screaming from the mountain tops. Fall in love with your product or service and see how it makes the world better. If you can't fall in love or see how it makes the world better, then you need to reassess.
—Michael Parker, DSFederal
4. Contact the People You Know First
If you're just warming up to sales, start with your immediate network to cut your teeth. You'll feel more comfortable, and they will be more forgiving of you as you learn how to best present your product/service. More importantly, listen more than you talk, and ask good questions (no matter how well you know your audience).
5. Ask a Lot of Questions
The biggest part of the sales process is getting to know your customers' needs. The better you know your prospective customer, the simpler it is to close the sale because you know if your offering is a fit, and if so, how best to structure the deal. Ask a lot of questions so you can intimately understand each customer's needs and tailor your pitch accordingly.
Many entrepreneurs skip the question step in favor of just sharing all the details about their offering. This is a rookie error that wastes time and effort. Instead, ask a lot of questions about the customers up front so you know exactly how to reach their pain points and customize your pitch and proposal just for them. This sales best practice works well for the beauty brands Poshly works with and across all industries.
6. Spend Time Educating
I wouldn't spend much time selling. I would focus my time on educating the potential customer. If you know your product or service inside and out, it should make it easier for you to tell someone about it. I recommend you create some educational materials and use them as teaching lessons. You'll see your product/service selling itself and feel as if you've educated them.
7. Don't Ignore Small Talk
Getting to find out the interests of the person you are about to meet and engaging them in casual talk establishes rapport and helps close deals.
8. Be a Consultant, Not a Salesman
A lot of people try to "pitch" prospects and get around objections to sell a product and leave. However, a salesperson's job is really to provide the service or product because it will benefit both people. The salesperson makes the sale, but more importantly, the prospect will receive a product/service that will improve his or her life.
It is essential to understand that selling is about creating value for both parties rather than providing a product. By focusing on the needs of the client and selling the solution your product or service provides, you will see much more success. Also, expect people to say no a lot, and don't let it affect your next sales call.
9. Find a Partner Who Loves to Sell
You can have the best product or service in the world, but if you can't sell it, it's worthless. Some people are just uncomfortable in a sales role. You can work to improve that through programs such as Dale Carnegie training, but in the end, it will never feel natural.
If you hate to sell, I would suggest finding a business partner who loves it. If you pick the right person, the price you pay or equity you give up will be worth it in the long run.
10. Be Relatable
Sales doesn't come easy to everyone; it’s something that requires a lot of practice and exploring different approaches to see what works best for you. Thoroughly understanding your product or service and being able to explain it to the prospect not only on a technical or detailed level, but also in simple and effective terms, is extremely helpful. The objective for that person is to understand what you’re saying about the service or product without spewing out excess information they can’t comprehend.
11. Highlight the Features that Help a Particular Client
Many companies like presenting a laundry list of features to potential clients. Instead, zero in on the needs of that particular client and spend your time discussing how those features help solve your client's problems. A customized approach is always more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to convincing people to try out your company.