Executive coach and author Peggy Klaus says, "One of the old myths is that's unladylike to be pushy and ask for things, especially in business which was traditionally a man's domain."
With that challenge in mind, here are ten tips for female entrepreneurs on how to make the transformation from founder into salesperson extraordinaire:
1. Prepare yourself: You're going to hear no a lot.
One of my favorite managers used to say, "Every sale starts with no." This is an essential truth to internalize when you're putting yourself on the line.
People say no for all kinds of reasons, and so when you hear no, transform it in your mind to "not yet"--and then start to think about how you'll convince them sooner or later.
2. Cold calling: It's a numbers game.
Understand that sales truly is a number game. You'll need to cold call--or email--100 people to get 20 meetings which may land you with 2-3 customers in the beginning.
So instead of worrying about who's saying yes and who is saying no, spend a lot of time thinking about how you can fill the top of the funnel with hundreds of prospects.
3. Map out a clear and compelling pitch.
"Often, entrepreneurs have the most trouble telling the story of their company," says Dave Imperiale, VP of SNP Communications. "They're so deep in the weeds of trying to get it off the ground, they have trouble coming up with a way to simply and concisely tell their story. They need to think about, 'How would you explain this to your grandmother?.'"
4. Take baby steps. Make sales calls the first goal.
Don't try to boil the ocean. When you're just embarking on the sales process, start by focusing on scheduling sales calls--in person (preferred) or by phone.
If you focus on getting calls, you will feel a greater sense of progress and accomplishment, and the sales will come.
5. Be prepared for your sales calls.
Do your research on your prospects before talking to them.
Check them out on LinkedIn. See if they've written articles anywhere. See where they went to school. See you if you have contacts in common.
6. On the call, do more listening than talking.
Women have been shown to speak more than men--nearly 13,000 words a day more. And yet, the most important thing you can do while you're out on a sales call is to listen. Let your prospect set the pace.
7. Email THE SAME DAY to say thank you, and reiterate your value proposition.
I'm a big fan of the same-day follow-up. It shows your prospect that you are really eager to get their business, and you're really on top of stuff.
Play back key points from your discussion. And share a recap of the key reasons the person should buy from you.
8. Follow up. Then follow up again.
Woody Allen famously said 80 percent of success is showing up. But I've actually found that in sales 80 percent of success is following up.
Persistence is critical, and can be especially tricky for women who can feel nervous about being too aggressive. Don't hold back--follow-ups can often be the difference between winning and losing the business.
9. Be OK walking away.
If you're hearing "no"--or simply hearing radio silence--it's ok to walk away. Often, giving your prospect some space is a good idea. You may never know why the lead went cold...but it may often have nothing at all to do with you.
So walk away--and put it out of your mind. Assume the time wasn't right and move on to the next name down the list. Don't take it personally - which can be so hard for women to do.
10. Follow up again.
...but don't forget to check back in 2-3 months later. Perhaps you'll catch them at a better time. And, your follow up will remind them that you care about winning their business.
More than anything, it's important to think of the sale as solving a problem for your customer. As Imperiale says, "if you can think of what you're doing as helping someone, it will feel like the halogen is shining less on you."
And that may be just the thing that can transform you into a fantastic female salesperson / entrepreneur.