By Solomon Thimothy, founder of OneIMS, a growth agency, as well as Clickx, a digital marketing analytics platform for agencies and businesses.
We're often told that in order to build a company, we need to know how to sell. The thinking is that if you can't sell your idea, you're not going to get anywhere.
But there is something about this concept that I've never fully gotten onboard with. Sure, in order to build your brand, you need to know how to explain your vision in a clear and concise manner, and you need to know how to solve your audience's problems.
However, often entrepreneurs are so ready to sell their vision that they get tunnel vision. All they can see is the battle of persuading everyone they meet to become a customer. And that's not the way to go about things.
Why Selling Isn't Always the Best Strategy.
The best salespeople have a reputation for being able to convince anyone to buy anything--particularly things they don't need. And while strong persuasion skills might be able to make you a quick buck, this kind of sell-at-any-cost attitude can also rub people the wrong way.
Most of the time, when a customer is in a high-pressure sales environment, they'll give in to the purchase to relieve some of that pressure. They don't necessarily want the product or service; they just want the salesperson to stop hounding them. After they walk away from the deal, they're left with a bad taste in their mouth, and they're probably not going to use whatever they purchased.
The biggest takeaway they'll have from that deal is that the salesperson made them uncomfortable, and they want to avoid them at all costs.
This leaves the salesperson constantly searching for new leads to pressure into buying. Not only are the original buyers not coming back, but they're also telling their friends and family to avoid that business at all costs. Eventually, the salesperson and their business have a bad reputation. That initial cash flow is all dried up, and they're out of options.
For an entrepreneur, this kind of strategy can be deadly for the business. That's why I don't like to approach growth as a "sales" effort.
What Entrepreneurs Should Do Instead of Selling.
Rather than approaching every conversation as one you need to win at all costs, approach meetings with leads and prospects as a one-on-one opportunity to get to know each other. Instead of having the attitude that you can't walk away without a deal, try to figure out what the lead or prospect actually needs and if you can provide that to them.
This approach isn't always going to end in a sale, and that's OK. It will be better for both parties in the long run. You'll have better client partnerships. When you convince a customer who really doesn't need the products or services you're offering, you're just creating a headache for both of you. If you can't please the customer, you'll need to deal with negative word of mouth and unrealistic expectations. Focusing on the right partnerships can keep both sides of the table happy.
You'll also provide stronger solutions. When you're just trying to sell a product, you don't really care how well the solution fits their needs. Spending time to get to know your customer and what problems they're actually facing means you can put in the appropriate amount of energy to find the right solution for them.
Plus, you'll become a trusted resource. Sometimes you're just not going to be the right fit for someone you talk to. You'll need to pass by customers who might have been a big paycheck, and that's OK. If you recognize when a product or service isn't right for them and help them find a solution that does fit their needs, they'll trust you and your business. If they ever need your services or know someone who might, they know to head in your direction.
At the end of the day, when you choose the customers and clients you work with, you're also choosing the work you want to deal with in the future. By putting in the effort to make the right deals from the beginning, you can build your business on a solid foundation that aligns with your goals.
Instead of selling, focus on getting to know your target audience and potential clients. Solve the problems they actually have, and build trust with a community you can grow with.