Whether you’re a vendor, a consultant, or a business owner, you’re probably adept at what you do — and yet you’re an awful salesperson. You’re not alone. Few people aspire to work in sales, perhaps because many of us hate to be sold, says Jim Dunn, a sales training expert for Whetstone Group and co-author of Common Sense Selling.
“[Our society] sees salespeople in general as pushy, overly talkative, and unwilling to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Dunn explains. “These negative traits may be exactly what’s stopping you from making the sales you need to grow your business.”
Here are four tips for overcoming your fear of selling:
- Adjust your attitude. Dunn advises business owners to think of themselves (or their salespeople) as problem-solvers, not product pushers. “Nobody sits around wishing a salesperson would call on them today,” he says, “but there are plenty of customers who have a problem or a business challenge that they need help with. You just have to find them.”
- Learn to ask the right questions. Selling is all about asking really good questions, not about being a savvy “pitchman” for your product or service. “You bring great value to customers by asking them questions that get them to realize that there may be unintended consequences they haven’t considered or other ways of dealing with business challenges they wouldn’t have figured out on their own,” Dunn says.
- Solve problems. Your approach should move beyond the traditional feature-and-benefit sales pitch. “You need to be good at diagnosing problems long before your customer or prospect,” he says. “Selling today is more about supplying the right solution at the right time, controlling the sales cycle, and knowing the difference between a prospect and a dead end.”
- Disengage when necessary. Visit your customers or prospects. “If you discover by the end of the meeting that you’re not a good fit, you should absolutely disengage and feel good about it. Chasing people to whom you’d like to sell but who don’t want to be sold to is a waste of everyone’s time and wears you out emotionally,” Dunn says. It creates an atmosphere of tension that may prevent future opportunities to work together.