If you’re a small business owner like I am, one of your responsibilities is probably sales. Doing sales is something I’ve never been formally trained to do; it’s something I’ve learned along the way through reading, listening to talks, and practice. I know if I improved my sales skills, my business would grow. That’s the reason I’m attending a sales conference in February.
Jeffrey Gitomer is one of the speakers at The Art of Sales, and a “sales expert”. I didn’t recognize his name, but I did recognize the name of his best-selling book, “The Little Red Book of Selling.” He writes about 12.5 principles of sales greatness in his book. Here are three of his principles that resonated with me:
Principle #4: It’s all about value, it’s all about relationship, it’s not all about price.
Gitomer writes that competing on price is hard and it doesn’t cultivate customer loyalty. Only value and relationship building can create that. The more value you give away freely, the higher the perceived value will be of what you are selling. “Give first. Become known as a resource, not a salesperson. Your value is lined to your knowledge and your willingness to help others.”
One of my rookie mistakes in selling was trying to compete solely on price. I was meeting with a potential customer about a new website and I asked him about his budget. He answered me by telling me about a Craigslist ad he had seen advertising a website for $500. In the excitement of the moment, I quickly responded that I could beat that price. What I didn’t think about was how the product and service I was offering compared to what the Craigslist ad offered. First of all, the quality of website and the service we offered was a higher value. Second of all, I had a relationship with this person (he was a friend). My price should have reflected those things.
While doing that project was a valuable experience, I would have done things differently. That’s part of the learning process of being a newbie salesperson and a new business owner. I’m no longer offering $500 website – in fact, the last website I sold was for $5000. While the quality of our product and service has improved greatly in our first two years of business, it has not increased 10 times. The price difference represents a better understanding of what our customers value.
Principle #7: Engage me and you can make me convince myself.
Gitomer says that failing to ask good questions is a major weakness of every salesperson. Good questions engage customers. Good questions make customers think. People don’t like to be sold, but they do like to buy. If you can guide your customers and let them make their own decisions, the rest is easy.
As a customer, I hate a hard sell. I once had attended a free webinar given by a “SEO expert”, following by a (also free) one-hour consultation with him. At the end of the conversation he gave me a hard sell on his online SEO course. The cost was $5000, but if I registered today then I could save $2000. The reason he told me for the one-day incentive was that he only wanted decisive people in his class. What I thought in my head was he was actually looking to get impulsive people into his class.
When a salesperson is trying to pressure or push me into buying something, then I feel like he or she is trying to trick me. I hate that feeling. There’s a better way to do sales. If you truly believe in the value of your product, then all you need to do is communicate it accurately to your prospective customer and let them make their own decision. It’s actually better to let your customer come to their own decision on their own, because it means that they truly believe that the value of your product is worth the cost. And that’s the type of customer that you want to build your business around.
Principle #10: Reduce their risk and you’ll convert selling to buying.
Risk is a hurdle that all buyers have to get over. “A risk of purchase is some mental or physical barrier, real or imagined that causes a person to hesitate or rethink ownership.” Figure out the risks for your customers in buying your product and find ways to reduce or eliminate them.
I guess this is why refunds and 100% money-back guarantees were created – to reduce the risk of purchasing a product. This principle makes sense, yet it is something that I have yet to thoroughly think through and implement in my sales process.