I hate selling.
I'm not a natural sales person (if there is such a thing). Everything about sales makes me uncomfortable. I don't like being on either side of a sale, even when I'm getting a good deal.
But you know what I like?
Do you see my dilemma?
I've owned a karate school for over 20 years. The industry has grown tremendously in that time, and the amount of professional training available is non-stop. And most of it turns my stomach...
Tom Callos, from the The 100 Method, describes the martial arts industry the following way:
"What's most 'wrong' with the industry at the moment is very similar to what wrong with a lot of industries born before the 1990's and similar to what's wrong with the education system in the United States, it's stuck in an old model of business, methods, and intent. The biggest companies in the industry are stuck with methods of distribution and systems for teaching what school owners should know - that used to make money for them, but that are now so rapidly becoming obsolete that it must be quite unsettling. Some of them are clinging so tightly to what they know that they're unwilling to even listen to alternative methods."
I once had a so-called sales guru tell me that if a parent doesn't have the money to pay for her child's classes, I should "Ask her if she gets her hair done or if she belongs to a gym. Remind her that her child's needs are more important."
I would rather be a homeless bag lady than EVER ask a mother to give up her gym membership so I can make more money. This is a huge reason why I simply hate sales and the sales gurus who teach these offensive sales techniques. But as a business owner, I can't deny that I need to make sales every single month to survive.
Instead of feeling like I've sold my soul to the devil, I've adopted the following practices that allow me to happily look myself in the mirror every day.
The ways we communicate have grown a lot over the past few decades. In the past, we would get actual phone calls. Now most potential students send us a message on our website or Facebook page.
Older sales methods are being replaced by technology and practices like cold calling obsolete. Kosti Lepojarvi shares that cold calling only has a 2.5% success rate. And sales coach Pasi Rautio says, "Doing cold calls is like taking your suitcase and going door to door trying to sell something. There's always someone crazy enough to buy, but most of the doors are not opened."
Your time and energy is much better spent on sales processes that have higher conversion rates. This includes building relationships and your brand's image on your social media channels. In 3 Networking Apps for the Reluctant and Unenthused, I shared three different apps you can use every day to increase sales through networking. Email marketing is still the best online option for many businesses. And there are amazing things that can be done using just your website's analytics.
The idea is to see what types of technology might allow you to still attract customers and attract sales in a way that's most comfortable for you.
Focus on Permission Selling
One of my friends sells health supplements. She's actually very good at it, because she only shares information with people who ask for it. She tells stories and shares testimonials. She never sells in a traditional sense but allows her potential customers to make up their own minds.
Author Seth Godin wrote Permission Marketing in 1999 and revolutionized the marketing industry. The premise is you only market (or sell) to those who give you permission. As Godin puts it, "Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them."
The entire industry of email marketing is built on gaining permission and then selling to willing customers. People who are willing and eager to hear your message. They can simply unsubscribe when they no longer want to receive messages from you. This allows you to focus only on people that have the highest probability of buying your product.
I never feel like I'm giving a sales pitch because I'm answering questions from potential clients or providing valuable information.
Be a Different Type of Salesperson
There is a huge difference between marketing and selling. I'll market my business until the cows come home. It's fun to come up with new ways to brand my business or create interesting content that will hopefully be shared on social media.
Interruptive, coercive selling involves persuading people to buy things they don't want or need. That's the part of sales that I find so distasteful. I don't want to talk someone into buying anything from me that they don't want to buy. I want people to walk away happy - not feel that they've been conned.
Therefore, I am a different type of salesperson by choice.
- Be a pushy sales person
- Go for the hard sell
- Lie to get a sale
- Attempt to "convince" someone to buy
- Make someone feel guilty for not buying
- Give value
- Develop relationships
- Ask for referrals from existing customers
- Refer to competitors if someone is not the right fit for my product or service (think Miracle on 34th Street!)
At the end of the day, I still need to make a profit. I still need new sales to keep my business going. But I'm never going to be happy doing something that makes me feel uncomfortable.