Welcome to the first installment in my Ask a Business Coach series. This is an answer to the MOST common question I've gotten over the decades. It all boils down to "How to I sell without seeming salesy?" If you've got a question for me, visit the Ask a Business Coach link above and submit it! I may answer it in a future blog post!
You aren't alone if you feel nervous and awkward about "selling". Tons of people have that creepy, pushy, used-car-salesman association and I SO get it!
I was SO afraid of selling when I started my knitwear business in the early 90s. In fact, I worked at the store my sweaters were sold at, and when customers were browsing at them I found an excuse to go hide in the back and hope my boss would make the sale. I just didn't want to have to deal with it!
I did learn to be great at sales though- like SO great that clients in Discovery Calls now will say "I know you are selling to me right now and I love it!"
In this article, I'll shed some light on just what it takes to sell naturally and from a place of true service. People will LOVE to buy from you and you will feel so comfortable and confident that you won't believe it's you closing all those sales!
The first thing to realize is that "selling" doesn't exist in a vacuum. In fact no part of your business does. When you understand how to think like a CEO and build an aligned business, you'll find clients and customers falling into your lap, ready to do business with you.
Every area of your business is connected like links in a chain, and we'll talk about those in a second, but let's start with YOU.
The first thing to work on is your energy around selling. My little 90's knitwear business turned into a 3 boutique mini-fashion empire here in Toronto; a 7 figure business that was more like a cultural movement than just a business.
When I trained the many new staff over the years, I wanted to have them understand that selling is good. The happiest clients we ever had were the ones who walked out the door with 3 bags in each hand full of clothes they felt amazing in. Truly. They were smiling ear to ear; grateful for all our patience, guidance and style advice.
They were grateful for us listening- truly listening- to their needs and issues. We were so connected to and friendly with our customers, they often hugged us at the end of a shopping spree!
We had fun with them, always shopping with them like they were our best friends. We never had the energy of "I need this sale" or pushing products on them, but always the energy of "even if it takes 3 hours and you try on everything in the store, I want you to feel like a million bucks."
When we saw them come out of the changeroom spinning and twirling in a dress and exclaiming with a huge smile "I never thought I could get away with this! Me wearing hot pink?! I love it" - that's when we knew we were doing a great job at selling through listening, connection and service.
Another area in which to develop more self-awareness is your expertise. We often don't realize how much of an expert we are because it comes naturally. It's a passion for us and we may have been doing it for years or decades.
As an expert, you can - after listening carefully and asking the right questions- confidently guide them toward a solution. It may not even be the solution they expected or asked for, but since you have the expertise, you can guide, educate and suggest - never being pushy, off course!
We called our sales staff Style Coaches, and we hired people who really wanted to help women feel great about themselves! We also looked for folks with fashion sense and style, so they could recommend a belt, cuffing the pants, outfits and colours that suited the customers.
Then we trained them (ongoingly) to be even better and more confident in offering style advice, and even being able to change directions with the customer.
We might say things like "I know you're looking for a blue dress, (that shows we listened and understand) however I have this green one that I think would look amazing with your eyes. The style would also be perfect for your figure as it highlights the waist and then drifts over the tummy and hips" (more listening, more expertise).
Often we could introduce them to new ideas they never imagined. I remember a time a woman came in looking for "black pants". I asked if they were for casual wear or work and she replied kind of nervously, "Well I've started dating after divorce and thought I should get some new clothes."
I looked at her and said "Can I get you into a dress?" I asked permission but also used my expertise to guide.
She shared that she doesn't think dresses look good on her because of her shape and she hasn't worn them in years.
"Well", I assured her, "We have some that will be gorgeous on you, suit your figure and be perfect for dates."
"Are you willing to give it a try?" I said as I picked out a few and explained why I thought they would be perfect for her.
Well, guess what she went home with?
She was SO happy, and I felt I set her up for finding the love of her life.
Now I wish there was a simple magic pill I could give you to make selling easy but we've got a long way to go in this article!
One last tip in the area of you. Just come from nothing. Don't evaluate whether the customer will buy or not when you first see her. Don't prepare for a sales call with a plan for this customer. Just come from nothing and listen. Ask questions so you are sure you understand and repeat back everything at the end.
And then - only if you have a solution for them - offer it.
If they are not really the right client for you, let them know and maybe refer to a colleague who you know may be better suited to help them.
It's not going to help anyone to try to take on the wrong clients because you just want the business! Stay true to your vision, work on an aligned business and the next one who comes along will be a better fit.
Now - let's move into the areas of your business - outside of you - that when aligned, create the perfect, attractive path for your ideal clients.
Your brand communicates what your business is about - your core values, your commitment to your customers and what you do - all the way through the customer journey. It's not just your logo, font and brand colours - it's the clothes you wear at a networking event, how your carry yourself, the words and images you use in marketing. It's everywhere in your business and if it's not in alignment, it can create a hodge podge mess leaving your prospective customer bewildered.
You might meet someone who thinks you sound amazing and trustworthy at a networking meeting, but if they go to your website and get a different impression, you've lost them.
They should not have to do work to figure out what you do and how to work with you. You want to make it easy for them and you do that by having an aligned brand.
Your marketing is another chance to share your expertise and trustworthiness. Notice how my stories let you know that I understand, I was once like you, I have a long history in business and I learned along the way how to get better at selling - and better at building a business that makes it EASY and natural to sell!
You see how I explain things; what my goals and commitments are to my clients and what my personality is like to see if we'll vibe. You're probably also being presented with a solution that you didn't expect. I work holistically with business owners and selling isn't just about selling.
Ideally, your prospect or potential client is being converted by your marketing.
I'm sure that a certain percentage of women entrepreneurs who have read this article to this point are already thinking "I want to work with HER!" They aren't going to shop around for a business coach. They want me and only me.
I want my marketing and my networking to line up my ideal clients and repel my non-ideal ones. Folks who stopped reading after 10 seconds aren't willing to put the work in. They were hoping for a magic pill to sell more and I'm not about that.
I'm about helping you think like a CEO and build the business of your dreams to really help people and transform their lives.
And I want OUR working relationship to transform YOUR life - to make your business fun, and joyful and authentically YOU - and to have you making great money (probably more than you're even setting your sights on).
There's a lot more I could go into but in the sake of finishing this article, let's wrap up with this:
When you really understand your audience or the community you want to serve, when you really listen and come up with the solutions they want - as well as some they need but they didn't even think of- you can offer a solution they pretty much can't say no to.
It worked with my stores as we stocked dresses with pockets and clothes that fit great, were comfortable, lasted for years, were machine washable, and were bike-ridable (is that a word?).
We knew our customers inside and out and stocked the store accordingly.
I often find myself now on discovery calls saying I made this program exactly for women like you - because I did!
The client is left feeling like it's exactly what they were hoping for. Which it is, because I've spent thousands of hours over decades networking with, connecting with, having conversations with and working with women entrepreneurs.
And I am one. One who started out unsure of herself- scared of selling, scared of most things to tell the truth- but with such a passion for having a cool creative business that allowed me an awesome lifestyle that the passion pushed me to learn and get over myself.
For someone who started out so afraid of selling, you can imagine how much I loved getting this text from my client who has been working with me on her brand new business. We're getting it aligned from the very start.
This is a brand new business, she has never been an entrepreneur before and she's been with me about a month. That's results!
She came from corporate and this business is a dream for her. She wants a lifestyle where she can help change her clients' lives while spending time with her kids and having the freedom that the 9 to 5 life (or 9-9 in her industry) could never offer.
I feel like a very proud mama! It's an absolute joy for me to help women entrepreneurs' dreams come true!
All of this is a process, and it takes time to really get those sales rolling in.
It's exactly what I help women do when I work with them. Together we will take all the steps to build you an aligned business that feels and operates like magic. You won't even believe the transformation you and your business will experience.
Ready to chat about your business goals? Book your discovery call now!