Some entrepreneurs I know can sell almost anything to almost anybody, but most of us are more likely to be uncomfortable than comfortable when we have to sell. And, when the company is yours, selling is almost always part of your job.
The good news is that help is available. For example, the lightly edited conversational segment that follows is excerpted from "Competitive Selling," a new book co-authored by Stacia Skinner. She is president of Creative Training Solutions Ltd., which recently moved to Easton, Md. from Mount Prospect.
Here's the example, a synopsis of your phone conversation so far with a prospect:
The prospect: We're all set with what we're currently doing.
You: I can appreciate that. Other customers I work with have also been happy with their current provider. However, we have found ways that we can enhance what they offer. That's why I would like to speak with you further.
Still you: May I ask what (provider) you are currently working with?
Your basic response to virtually however the prospect answers: That is exactly why we should talk further, so I can tell you how we can become a secondary resource.
Skinner is a veteran sales consultant who recently teamed up with Marisa Pensa, who provides similar support as president of Atlanta-based Methods in Motion. Pensa is the other co-author of "Competitive Selling," which has its own website at www.competitiveselling.net.
Be aware that, like most business books, the eventual goal is to generate new business for the authors. That's OK. Skinner has some ideas that might help us.
For example, based on my phone conversation with Skinner a week ago:
• Have an objective for every call you make. Ultimately, the goal is to convince your prospect that whatever product or service you're selling will be helpful.
• Skinner's tools include voice mail; two to three messages left are not necessarily a problem, she says, because she wants her prospect to hear (and thus know) her voice. Other tools are email and a rather interesting use of video and signage.
• Don't get stuck in a rut. "Change something," Skinner says. There are times, Skinner continues, when "You need something different. Don't get stuck on doing what you've always been doing." If nothing else, she suggests, move your desk.
• When other sales people slack off because they think the market is slowing down, "That's when I attack," Skinner says. The holidays? Spring break? An election? Good selling times, she says.
• Make one more call every day, before you turn your computer off. "Do it every day," Skinner says. "That's an additional 200-210 calls a year."
I've paraphrased just a smidgen of what is in Skinner's and Pensa's book, but you can find more help. Visit the book's website. Turn the book's pages on Amazon. Ask Skinner when she and Pensa will be in the Chicago area; the two are planning an autumn tour.