Wednesday, February 15, 2012

One business owner's hat that might be uncomfortable

Wearing Many Hats by Pyogenes Gruffer
Wearing Many Hats, a photo by Pyogenes Gruffer on Flickr.
Social media, networking functions, advertising, even a website and a rockin' logo - they're all designed to help prospective customers find a business and choose to buy products and services from it.  Are you a business owner who is hoping that these things will help you escape the neccessity for - gasp! - selling?

The majority of business owners in an informal poll said they would love their work if they didn't have to sell.  They founded their business on the technical skills they possess, or on their desire to lead people.  Of the many hats they wear, the salesperson hat is the one that feels a bit tight on their head.  They would prefer for people to come on down and find them and they would be happy to respond.  But the thought of picking up the phone and calling somebody up and ask to meet gives many business owners the willies.

What's behind this reluctance?  For many people there are two factors: habits of thought and
lack of process. These two little reasons hold a lot of weight.

Habits of thought
Habits of thought (attitudes) are the way in which you have been conditioned to think about things over time.  They are not facts, but because they are so ingrained in your brain you don't notice them.  Instead you behave in alignment with them unless something comes up with enough misalignment that they pop into the foreground.  Given that nothing happens in a business until somebody sells something, you'd think that selling would be right in there with the big considerations like location and product quality. 

Here are some common habits of thought about sales - and about you - that create fear and lack of activity to generate new customer relationships:
  • "Don't go where you're not wanted."
  • "Don't speak until spoken to."
  • "Don't talk to strangers."
  • "Children are meant to be seen and not heard."
  • "Salespersons will say anything to make a sale."
  • "Salesmen manipulate people into buying what they don't want or need."
This list could go on and on, but the point is this - they are habits, and like other habits were formed by a process of repetition.  You heard them over and over until they became part of your belief system.  If your habits of thought are in conflict with the behavioral requirements of your work role it will be hard to sustain the behaviors you need to do.

The good news about old habits of thought is that they can be diluted with new ones that are better aligned with the behavior in which you need to engage.  You can start an intentional process of self-talk that includes things like:
  • "People need and want what I have to offer, and I help them by making sure that they don't miss out on an opportunity to have it."
  • "I ask questions and then listen carefully to determine customer wants and needs, then I work to fulfill them."
  • "I enjoy meeting new people on the phone."
Lack of Process
How do you go about reaching out to prospective customers?  And once you're in front of them, what do you say and do?  If the answers to these two questions don't come immediately and automatically to mind, you don't have a process.  Certainly you might have several different methods of reaching out, through introductions at networking meetings or direct contact.  But what is consistent, and what is working for you?

Here's an example of an effective process for in-person sales.  It is effective because it is customer-focused, not salesperson or product focused.  You have to add your own process to the front of this to get yourself the opportunity for this sit-down process.

When you want to break down your sales efforts to find opportunities for improvement you can isolate issues within the steps of the process, enabling you to limit your frustration and focus your improvement efforts.  And if you are having a problem with one step it's helpful to see whether you have successfully executed the prior step.  This sales process is designed around "earning the right" to present solutions.  Presenting solutions before fully discovering wants and needs is old-school product pushing, not customer-focused helping.

If you truly believe in your product or service, the sales hat is one that helps you help other people.  It need not be ill-fitting.  It can be just right.

Summit provides coaching for business owners and executives who aren't getting the results they want in sales, but who are motivated to increase their effectiveness.

1 comment:

Julie Poland, certified business coach said...

There's no question that you take a risk when you consider purchasing a business for investment purposes and don't understand the workings of the business. In addition, a reputable broker who has experience in the business's industry category can be instrumental in the success of a new owner.

The idea of working in the business is what tends to attract people. However, it's the working ON the business that helps it to prosper in a sustainable fashion.