05 Jun How to Sell if you’re Not a Sales(wo)man
Times are extremely tough. The recent announcement of the 3.2% decline in our first quarter GDP may have surprised economists, but those of us running small businesses would have felt those hard times affecting our businesses already. The rising cost of living combined with the faltering economy means that making a living running your own business is extremely challenging – and finding new clients is even more so. Still, it’s adapt or die, so if you haven’t been proactively marketing your business and your offering, now is a crucial time to do just that.
But most of us are not natural salespeople. We picture sales as cold calling. Telemarketers. Those people in malls who try sell you cosmetics as you walk by and they tell you that you look tired (just me?!). But selling should be adapted to your unique work and life circumstances, as well as to your personality. We’re not saying you should cop out of sales altogether (it may still feel challenging to sell what you do), but there are a few different ways to approach sales that you may not have thought about. Here are some:
- Existing clients
Life is so rushed that the little piece of work you did for a once-off client in 2012 has probably gone completely out of your head. Now’s the time to go through your files or emails. Find clients that have already seen the quality of your work and who you had a good relationship with in the past, and make contact with them again. They know who you are, they know you offer a good service or product and they’ve probably forgotten all about what you do. Send them an email reminding them of the work you did, plus some recent (relevant) examples, call them up and arrange a quick coffee (on you!), or send them a list of your services/products and prices. They might be in the middle of a project that needs exactly what you do – sales is often all about timing.
2. Display your work
People can’t tell what you do without you showing them. Maybe it’s a monthly newsletter to all your clients featuring a few tips, trends or latest products? Or maybe it’s a portfolio of your work up on a mini website? You have to put yourself out there in order for people to be reminded of what you do, because if you don’t tell them, how can they know? If your budgets don’t extend to building a pricy website, there are many free or cheap WordPress options you can go for. You could also ask a friend who’s a designer or more tech savvy to help you get started.
3. Use your networks
It can be hard when you’re just starting a career, but if you’ve been in the game a few years, you’ll know people. First, go through your family and friends in real life and think where they work, or who they know. Get the right contact details and ask for a meeting or send an email pitching yourself. Then it’s time to use social media.
Review your connections on Linkedin and target any people at companies who could use your services. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram contacts should all be reviewed, often just as a reminder of your friends list and where each one works. Be wary of being too pushy on networks that are not that suited to business transactions. Instagram may be a good way to get some contact details, for example, but then a more formal email may be the best option via which to pitch a new business idea.
4. Get out there
While social media is a nifty trick that makes us feel sociable even though we are sitting solo behind a desk, the truth is that nothing can replace face-to-face interaction. If the thought of “networking events” sends a shiver down your back, you are not alone! These days, industry events are a lot more relaxed, and many offer fascinating speakers that will teach you so much. If you’re a woman, consider SheSays events, a global initiative that offers free mentorship and networking opportunities to women in the creative industry. Or, you could attend free talks and lectures at business schools like Red & Yellow – you’ll learn something new and probably meet interesting people afterwards too.
5. Become more comfortable with rejection
We all want to be needed. But as Daniel Pink writes in ‘To Sell is Human’, “Anyone who sells… must contend with wave after wave of rebuffs, refusals, and repudiations.” What you do isn’t for everyone. Some companies may do the service in house already, or not be willing to change suppliers because they’re happy with who they use now. If the company gives a legitimate reason why they don’t need what you do, accept this graciously, thank them and mark down the details somewhere so you can refer to them next time you approach them (a leads pipeline document is a handy idea). Get more comfortable with being rejected, and sales (and life in general!) will become a whole lot easier.
We’re not all natural salespeople, but all of us have to sell in some way, throughout our lives – so we may as well start flexing those sales muscles now.