It's always a little hard getting Independent Professionals to
listen to ideas about selling. Selling is generally viewed as a
despicable act worthy only of the lowest of the low. Am I
exaggerating? I don't think so.
Over the years, when giving talks, I've asked this question to
thousands of people: "If you think of the stereotypical sales-
person, what product do they sell?" The first answer is always
"cars or used cars." Not sometimes, but always. No exceptions.
In other words, selling equates to selling used cars. And you
know how you feel about used car salespeople! So when the
topic of selling comes up, most of us think, "He's going to teach
me how to sell like a used car salesperson!!" Not a pleasant
thought. And so you turn off.
Let's be very clear; selling your professional services has
nothing to do with selling used cars. There is virtually no
similarity. Selling your services is all about solving problems
and finding solutions. (Now, if used car salespeople took this
approach they'd probably sell a lot more cars and offend a
whole lot less people, but that's another story.)
Do You Know It All?
The next thing that prevents people from learning more about
selling is that they think they know it all already. They know
that if they sit down in front qualified prospects, they will
succeed in selling those prospects. Unfortunately what they have
left out is they will succeed only if the prospects are presold.
They wouldn't even meet with you if they weren't.
But most Independent Professionals will agree with me on this:
If they targeted a potential client who could benefit from their
services, they would have absolutely no idea how to get in front
of them and sell them their services. It's as if the prospect is
hidden behind a closed door with five locks.
The bulk of what I teach has to do with getting visibility and
communicating value, so that you are able to presell prospects
who will want to explore doing business with you. But if you
leave out the selling equation, you will only sell to prospects
who were ready to buy anyway. You'll miss some of the
biggest and most profitable projects.
Smart Independent Professionals learn to integrate marketing
activities with selling activities. When they gain attention and
interest for their services, they don't just wait, they devise
ways to turn that interest into new business. That's the aim of
true selling. It's not forcing people to buy (you can't do that
anyway), it's entering into a conversation where you seriously
explore how you can work together.
In my experience of working with thousands of Independent
Professionals, perhaps only 5% have any real idea how to do
that consistently and successfully. Most just wait for the call to
come in. Others who make the calls (not necessarily cold calls
but follow-up calls from marketing activities), are inept at
initiating that conversation so that it leads anywhere but "call
me back in six months."
Asking the Tough Questions
Last week while coaching a client on this very topic, we covered
many of the things to do and the things to avoid in the selling
conversation. Like him, I'm sure you've heard of the importance
of asking questions and listening. But what he was missing was
asking the really tough questions -- the questions that might
be termed "socially unacceptable."
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