By Liz Gutman
There are other ways to connect with potential customers than by selling hard. Focus, engagement, and authenticity are your tickets to a more relaxed - and fruitful - sales and marketing relationship.
It's a problem many entrepreneurs face: we love talking about our companies, our products or services, our missions - but when it comes to making the sale, we balk. For me, it can feel false or pushy to focus on closing the sale, touting the promotion, or hyping the new product. As much as I love spreading the word, I don't want to overexpose my company (and we all have inboxes bursting with spam and social media feeds full of unwanted promoted posts).
Here are the three most important things to keep in mind to effectively sell and market yourself and your business, in any context, without annoying or alienating your audience.
Whether you're pitching to investors or prospecting for customers, you need to do your homework. Have a solid game plan before you start taking any actions. I like to set aside some time the day before whatever I have to do to practice and prepare: write down a few bullet points, go over my presentation, make notes to keep handy.
I'm a talker, and it's easy for me to get off-subject if I find a common interest with someone (cut to a 20-minute conversation about the most annoying differences between the Game of Thrones books and the TV show). It's critical to make sure you keep coming back around to the key points you want to make. That doesn't mean you need to repeat yourself like a robot or hammer your talking points into your audience members' heads. On the contrary! It's always fun to tie in a personal anecdote to the key points you'll be making or take a moment to acknowledge a question or comment. But the more prepared and focused you are, the less likely you are to get flustered or off-track midstream.
Anytime you're presenting, pitching, or meeting, keep checking in with your environment. Does that guy in the back look sleepy? Did the client laugh at the little joke you inserted in slide 2 or does she roll her eyes? Staying engaged with your audience is a vital part of making sure your message is getting through loud and clear. The trick is to prepare (and practice!) as much as possible so you can stay on-message and adapt to the atmosphere of the room if you feel attention is slipping or interest is waning. Make plenty of eye contact. Hold your ground. Keeping a personal connection and a rooted stance conveys confidence and engenders trust.
This is absolutely the most important aspect of selling and marketing. Whether in an email, on social media, or in person, you have to stay true to your voice and character. What does that mean? If you tend towards the serious and straightforward, avoid any pressure to pepper your communications with emojis and exclamation points!!!!! Conversely, if you're a real people person and love to keep a personal touch, don't be afraid to wish someone a fantastic weekend or ask about the kid in college.
You certainly need to tailor this approach slightly as you nurture and grow relationships. Sure, sometimes you're going to strike out. But faking it just won't cut it over time. The longer and harder you attempt to maintain a voice or perspective that doesn't ring true, the more difficult it's going to be and the more miserable it's going to make you. And, in the end, you'll alienate all those lovely people who want to hear your true point of view - and who will feel misled or left behind if they're not getting the "real you."
How do you stay focused, engaged, and authentic in your business? Did I miss anything? Sound off in the comments!