Ideas are great, but no start-up can survive without sales--and a mastery of the psychology behind selling. (Hint: manipulation skills are not required.)
Sales can be a daunting task for any young entrepreneur.
If you're working on a start-up, you're spilling your heart and soul into your idea. Now, you somehow have to convince others to buy into--and literally purchase--your idea too. The truth is, most entrepreneurs don't know the first thing about getting an effective sales process up and running, let alone how to pitch customers.
Since we created ElasticSales, which is essentially a sales team on demand, I've had the opportunity to work with several different young companies. I always start by teaching them about the psychology behind sales. Why? Because most people think a sale is about manipulating or pushing people into making a decision. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Here are the most important things I tell my clients (and my own salespeople) again and again about the psychology of sales:
1. People don't buy products or services. They buy emotions.
By "emotions," I mean: A desired feeling. Superiority. Love. Comfort. Excitement. Security. Or sometimes, the opposite--fear.
These and more are all emotions around which you can position your product or solution. However, you have to know what emotion your customers are actually looking for. If you don't, you won't understand how to sell to them.
The best way to determine this is to ask the customer what's important to them and what they need. Once you know this, you can position your solution around their needs and then sell your benefits--NOT your features.
2. Emotional states dictate buying (and all other) decisions.
Have you ever been in a "shopping rush?" A state in which you wanted to buy something desperately, though the feeling has very little to do with what you are about to buy?
This phenomenon happens in both consumer and enterprise sales. Make sure you pay attention to what emotional states your customers are in before selling them anything. Are they depressed? If so, they really shouldn't be making a big purchasing decision. Are they in that "shopping rush" where they have no idea what you're offering? Then the last thing you want is your customer to feel buyer's remorse because you pressured them into a purchase.
Above all, make sure you're in a good state for your customers as well! Customers can pick up if you're not in a good state to sell them your business.
3. Communication is all about tonality and body language--it has little to do with content.
This is a very old truth, but it's still surprising to most people. If your lips are saying "buy!" but your body and voice are communicating "don't do it," you won't win many deals. Listen to your phone calls or record yourself conducting a presentation. Make note of your tone and posture and ask yourself, "Would I buy from this person?"
If the answer is "no," then you have to adjust your pitch. Be conscious of your tone and body language to make improvements everyday. After a few weeks, you'll see improvements in your tonality, body language, and sales.
Steli Efti is a high school dropout, self-taught entrepreneur, anonymous learning addict, and owner of a one-way ticket that took him from Europe to San Francisco where he founded Supercool School, VibaTV and SwipeGood. As an alumni of Y Combinator, Steli recently launched Elastic. This post is adapted from a Q&A on Quora.com.
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