Professionals love practicing their trade, but many find little enthusiasm in selling their own services. As more than one PhD or attorney has told me, “I didn’t go to grad school because I wanted to become a salesperson.” It’s an issue even at firms large enough for a dedicated sales and business development staff as the service deliverer often has greater knowledge of new opportunities.
Sales Training Is No Panacea
Discomfort, even fear, of selling is widespread among all types of non-salespeople, including professionals, service, support and other roles that can impact the sales process. Force-feeding sales skills can backfire by making people feel artificial or manipulative. They won’t use the skills unless they feel comfortable in the role.
What makes for a good consultant, attorney or service provider is not what makes for a good sales person. In fact, most professionals dislike selling. They dislike asking for the sale and they feel the sales process cheapens their trade. They do it because selling is a necessary evil that puts food on the table.
What People Want to Hear
The solution is to stop selling and start telling. But, what to tell?
Instead of focusing on your services and why someone needs them, focus on talking about the problems you solve and the value you create. Talk about your other clients rather than about yourself. Have conversations rather than sales meetings and pitches.
You’ve probably heard that before as it’s a big part of what any good sales trainer teaches. Moving from theory to practice, however, requires content. The typical case study doesn’t cut it.
Overcoming the Fear
The piece of content you most need is a concise description of why your firm is a better choice for your customers than other options. Not why you think you are better; why your customers think you are better and stake their business on it. This looks like a standard positioning exercise, but getting it right requires deeper insight and understanding of your customers’ businesses. The only way I’ve found is to have very frank conversations with your customers. Often this is best done by a third-party as your customers will tell me things they’ll never tell you–even though they know I’m working for your company.
When these insights drive very specific positioning, the floodgates open so even introverted engineers want to talk about how your firm solves problems for your customers. It’s no longer about selling; it’s about telling others about why we love our jobs. Sheltering behind “I don’t have anything to talk about” isn’t an issue when people know how what they do personally creates value for customers. Once on this path, stories, case studies, and industry presentations all come easier because you’re talking with your audience, not at them.
Everything starts with knowing precisely why your customers select your firm from among other firms that often look similar on paper.
This is one example of the way the Strategic Marketing 3.0 framework lifts your firm to new levels, elevating your hiring, planning, execution… and of course, your marketing.
What I hope you learned from this post:
- The fear of selling isn’t about skills, it’s about knowing what to talk about.
- Tapping into what people love about their jobs gives them plenty to talk about.
- Connecting what they love about their jobs with why customers select your firm makes them very effective at representing your company.
- You can’t do any of this if you can’t explain why your firm is better than other options.