A lot of your startup’s success hinges on your ability to sell. It’s a truth that many entrepreneurs take a while to acknowledge because mastering the skill is a daunting task. Human nature makes us dislike selling at first, because we’re taught to hate salespeople and disregard everything they’re selling.
But selling, in actual fact, is about solving a problem. And if you’re solving a problem for someone, it doesn’t feel like selling to neither you nor them.
This article is about where a lot of salespeople go wrong from the start, and how you can begin your meetings for the best chance at new business success.
The first step is to cut the canned pitch. Here’s what I mean:
Jason is a salesperson for a medium sized digital marketing company call Acme Media based in Chicago. He sits down at a meeting with his sales prospect, and as soon as the meeting starts, Jason kicks off the dialogue by providing a background of the business he represents:
Jason: Let me tell you all about what we do! At Acme Media, we learn about our clients’ digital marketing challenges and use our performance specialist’s expertise to create strategies to alleviate that problem. Big or small, we’ve never had a problem we couldn’t solve. We’ve done this for companies such as ABC Bank, XYZ Insurance, and a tech startup called Domo. Now…what are the problems you’re presently facing?
You’d be amazed at how often this happens. But, can you fault it?
How To Sell: Starting A Sales Meeting Right
It’s not about you and your company to begin with. It’s about the prospect and their problems, and whether or not you can solve them.
In the example above, Jason was stating that he could help the client regardless of what their problems were. What if the issue wasn’t actually with the digital marketing, but that was just the prospect’s misconstrued understanding of the problem? What if the prospect was in an industry that Acme Media had never worked within? What if they weren’t the right size for Acme Media to service? What if their performance specialist was already at capacity and didn’t have time to help?
All these are potential problems that Jason needs to solve if the client wants to work with them. However, the approach is actually a deterrent from working together.
We might not like to admit it, but the first thing we think or feel when meeting with a salesperson is: “They’re just trying to sell me something, make some commission, and leave.”
So that’s why we have to DISARM these thought patterns with the following start to a sales meeting:
“Our clients usually come to us when they’re facing one of these three main problems [insert three problems]. We solve that problem by [insert why you’re unique]. I’m not sure if this aligns with what you’re experiencing, and I’m conscious the way we do things isn’t right for everyone. But, I’d rather not offer you something we can’t provide and waste your time.”
Then you might say: “Does it sound like we’re a good fit for what you’re looking to achieve?”
Here’s why this is so powerful:
- What a salesperson assumes is happening: The prospect is thinking of their problems, and if there’s not alignment on all problems, they won’t want to work with you.
- What is actually happening: The honesty creates a trust that disarms the typical approach to salespeople. The prospect is consciously trying to find an alignment between what you can do and the problems they have.
This slight change in tone will change the whole conversation. It makes it collaborative, and not a typical sales conversation (which nobody likes).
And that’s when a new business relationship has the chance to begin.
The simple brilliance of this dialogue: “I’m not sure if this aligns with what you’re experiencing, and I’m conscious the way we do things isn’t right for everyone“ says to a prospect, “hey, I’m not a slimy salesman looking for commission, I’m genuinely here to solve your problems”.
All of this and more was discussed on my recent podcast with Ian Altman (check it out here). Ian has been a CEO for two decades, founding and growing his own business services and technology companies from zero to over $1 billion in value.
“We need to disarm the notion that we’re just there to sell something by acknowledging that not everyone is a good fit for us”, Ian said.
And that’s how you shift your perception in the eyes of a prospect from a salesperson to collaborator.