Regardless of whether you want to work for yourself or climb the ladder of corporate life, to be successful, there’s one thing you have to fundamentally understand: Sales.
Yes, I know.
If you’re like most people, you’re quietly cringing and squirming. 99.9% of us don’t like to sell, and for good reason. In sales, you are perpetually outside your comfort zone. The good news, however, is that sales is a skill, and all skills can be learned.
First Things First: Be an original!
The nucleus – the core – the very essence of sales (and personal branding for that matter) lies in differentiating your product or service in the mind of your prospect. “As long as customers perceive that they have equal choices among similar competitors, then selection is unimportant,” says Corporate Sales Trainer Larry Lauffer. “Your goal as the seller is to reduce equality and increase differentiation. The buyer’s goal is to maintain that equality. They don’t want to think you’re unique and different because then they have to pay more.”
In short, if Consumer A thinks you’re selling the same thing as Joe-down-the-street, they’ll buy from whoever is cheaper at the moment – always. This is why selling on price alone is counterproductive. You and Joe will keep undercutting each other until finally one (or both) of you actually start losing money on the sale. But if you STAND FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT – and back it up – you can succeed in any market on your own terms.
Think Target vs. Wal-Mart. Rather than go toe-to-toe on price and be David to Wal-Mart’s Goliath, Target ingeniously built their own juggernaut by focusing on branding and design – and got their customers to pay more for it.
So…stand for chic, stand for service, stand for craftsmanship, but stand for something in you customer’s eyes. To get started, take a few sheets of paper – one for you and one for each of your main competitors – draw a line down the center and make a list of pros and cons as your customers will view them. What do you have to offer that competitors don’t? Ask for additional input from prospects, clients, and colleagues and keep adding to each list as your knowledge grows. This competitive analysis will serve as the basis for your ‘differentiation strategy’ and the foundation for all future sales efforts.
Next week, I’m going to discuss the six action steps of sales success. In the meantime – regardless of what you’re selling – here’s a time-tested list what prospects will always buy.
They will always buy
Believers: Passion persuades! If you do not have an unshakable belief in your product – if you do not genuinely want to help your clients achieve their goals – you’re going to have a tough road in business, much less sales. As Vince Lombardi said, “If you’re not fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.”
Consultants: Let everyone else sell on hustle while you sell on intellect! Consultative selling is becoming WAY more than a vendor – it’s becoming a strategic partner in your customer’s business. This means reading their trade magazines, attending their events, understanding their problems, and knowing their markets. No doubt this type of selling generates a lot of homework, but it more than pays off with loyalty and long-term relationships.
Confidence: After 15 months and only $10K in sales (less than 1/4 of total expenses), children’s publisher Michael Hetzer sold a whopping 22K worth of books in five days. The secret? A relentless belief in his product and the determination to push it through the noise. Extraordinary success does happen, but it always starts with you.
Emily Bennington is the author of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job. She hosts a popular blog for career newbies at www.professionalstudio365.com and can be found on Twitter @EmilyBennington or via email at ebennington[at]msn[dot]com.