If you’re a small business owner, you know that you’re always in sales. You’re the face of your company. You’re the person that customers want to meet. You’re usually one of the main reasons why they want to do business with you.
The hardest part is bringing in the work.
The most successful business owners I know are not only hardworking, smart, technical and have a positive attitude. They are also good at closing deals.
Like every other skill, being a good salesperson is something that can be learned over time. Sure, it comes easier to some people than others, but selling, like every profession, has its process. There are steps to take and rules to follow. You prospect using lists, references, current customers and marketing. You reach out by phone or email. You speak. You send out more information. You speak again. You meet. You speak again. You give a quote. You speak again. You meet again. You inch things forward to a close. There are people who are able to do this naturally and these are the ones that shine the brightest. But, once the process is learned, anyone can become a decent salesman.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Always know your product.
Always know your prospect.
Educate, don’t sell. Be patient.
Be on time.
Don’t demean the competition.
Have a full pipeline.
Grow a thick skin.
Don’t take things personally.
Don’t always believe what people say.
Do your best to meet face to face.
And for goodness sake…always, always, talk about the price as soon as possible.
That last bit of advice is something I had to learn on my own—the hard way. That’s because for years, many sales pundits told me the opposite. These were nationally known experts who allegedly made gazillions and who lectured me through their audio recordings and in-person events to “never reveal your price until the last moment” and to “build up value first, before discussing price.”
The longer you wait before discussing pricing, the more at risk you put your sale—and the more time you potentially waste. If people tell you to withhold pricing information, then they’re giving you dumb advice.
Maybe playing these games was the thing to do a decade ago. But today’s customer can get all the information they need about your product from a quick online search. They’re younger, busier, and impatient. that, in my opinion, has yet to be discovered but is related to the fact that we can’t watch videos lasting more than 30 seconds or read anything more than 500 words. Today’s customer doesn’t want to muck around. They want to know how much something costs upfront. And you must tell them immediately—not just because it benefits them, but because it benefits you.
I’ve learned that price is the great qualifier. Within a few minutes of meeting a potential prospect, I like to give price estimates for the product or service they may want. Immediately I can tell if the person is for real or not. If I hear screams of agony, heavy breathing or glass crashing in the background, then I know that what I’m proposing to them is likely way out of their budget. If I hear a measured silence or some form of affirmation then I know it’s OK to keep going. I’m not saying things aren’t negotiable. But I want to know as soon as possible whether the person I’m speaking to has a $100 budget or a $10,000 budget. Maybe I try to persuade him to pay more. More often than not, I disqualify and move on to a prospect who’s a better use of my time. Heck, I’d rather go to the gym and improve my body then spend the same hour talking to someone who’ll never buy from me because our price is well beyond what they’ll ever pay.
The lesson here, after two decades of selling, is to talk pricing as soon as possible. Don’t play games, “build value” or listen to people who advise you to keep pricing as secret as possible until the last moment. Instead, use pricing to qualify your prospect. Even if you disqualify that person, hopefully you can point them to something more in their range and they’ll be so grateful that they’ll recommend you to their rich cousin a few months later. You never know.
Join writer and small business owner Gene Marks each Wednesday on the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can also submit a question for Gene to answer on the podcast.