Often we spend so much time thinking about our business, that we overlook the simple, almost painfully obvious things that can help our business grow. Sales, for example, are the lifeblood of any business. To increase the growth of your business, you need to be able to sell your products or services. For fast-growth companies, the challenge with sales comes along when trying to build a sales team. The focus often shifts from what got you started in the business to thinking about scale. When it comes to driving sales, it's important to remember a couple of things:
Buying on Emotion In most industries, too much emphasis is given to "speeds and feeds", which is shorthand for quickly telling people how something works and/or the information they need to make an intelligent business decision. But that's the first place where most companies get it wrong. Think about the car buying experience. Before you ever check out the window sticker for the details, you first need that "wow" moment; those few seconds you actually imagine yourself driving around inside that car. That emotional "desire" is the moment that draws you into the sales process. You have to want something before you can buy it.
Buying vs. Being Sold
Buying can be fun. The best companies in the world know this and give you the space to enjoy the buying experience. But no one wants to be sold, and there is a difference. In keeping with the car buying analogy, we've all been pounced by an aggressive salesperson looking to make a quick close. Being sold feels terrible because, you are not confident that you're making the right buying decision when you can spot every sales tactic being thrown at you.
Know, Like & Trust
This is why the best salespeople go through a simple, but powerful, process of getting to know their prospects, increasing their "likability" factor and building trust. Getting to know potential buyers may feel a bit daunting at first as it requires putting yourself out there. The simplest way to get to know people is to find ways to add value first before you ever try to sell them something. Using this model, you immediately remove the "sales" barrier and instead focus on where you can add value while getting to know the person you'd like to do business with.
As you're getting to know your prospective buyer and finding ways to add value, you're increasing your likability factor. (For more on this topic, see Tim Sanders, The Likability Factor). The more someone likes you, the more they begin to trust you. This transforms the relationship from one of "buyer and seller" to the preferred position of "subject matter expert and interested party".
The more someone trusts you, the more they share their pain points and needs with you. It is at this point that you can make a realistic judgment call to determine if the product or service you're selling is, in fact, a good fit. When you're honest enough to turn down a potential sale, you're actually building a customer for life.
Allow me to explain. My wife is a die-hard LL Bean shopper, but she could never find a pair of shoes from LL Bean that fit quite right, so she asked her customer service rep to help her. Without hesitating, the LL Bean rep recommended Zappos. My wife was both surprised by the recommendation and delighted by the discovery. The savvy rep, realizing that she couldn't satisfy the foot apparel needs of my wife, was presented with a unique opportunity to be a subject matter expert. By altruistically helping my wife discover Zappos, the sales rep has received more business to LL Bean through the many referrals my wife has given since then, by recounting this story to her friends whenever there is an opportunity to do so.
There are many stories like this--many of them from Zappos reps who have been trained that "delivering happiness" is more important than closing a single sale. Of course, none of this is possible unless your customer first knows, likes and trusts you. Otherwise, you'll never be presented with the opportunity to be a trusted subject matter expert in the first place.