Why does sales feel so hard when you run your own business?

When I started my business, I expected sales to be easy. In the course of my career I had sold (and trained other people to sell) things as weirdly mixed as mortgages and sex toys. I was the operational lead on a project team that developed and trained out a new sales process in one business that added £1m of sales in the following 12 months. Sales was my happy place.

Except in my own business, I suddenly experienced it all very differently. Selling stuff for other people was easy. Selling me? My coaching? Not so easy. Until I took stock, understood what was going on under the surface and went back to the principles I learnt in my career. 

So believe me when I say I get that the mindset piece around sales is huge – and it doesn’t go away just because you’ve sold stuff in other people’s businesses before. 

The thing is, if you’re running your own business and you don’t have a sales team, you’re head of sales. There is no getting away from the fact that if you want to grow your business it’s a skill you need to build. I’ll be sharing my advice in two parts – this blog will tackle why it happens, and next time out, I’ll share a simple but practical structure for sales calls that can make life whole lot easier.

So why is it so bloody hard?

Sales has all kinds of subconscious associations

When I ask people who are struggling with the idea of selling what words they associate with sales or salespeople they inevitably come back with a description of honest John the second hand car salesman. Sleazy, pushy, manipulative, selfish. No wonder people back off – who wants to run the risk of being ‘that person’? 

But when I ask them about the last time they bought something big in a shop and the person who helped them, different words come up. Great service. Helpful. Knowledgeable. Listened to me. That kind of thing. 

Both honest John and the assistant who helped you navigate that big purchase are sales people. The issue isn’t that sales people are horrible. It’s that some people do sales badly. So let go of your preconceptions and just decide to be someone who does it well.

When you run your own business, sales feels personal

When your business is your baby, someone saying no feels like it’s personal. A rejection. 

It isn’t, of course. Not unless you’re an almighty arse. Which I’m assuming you’re not. 

There are loads of reasons people don’t buy – they haven’t got the cash to stump up, they decide to buy something else, or they just don’t quite buy into the solution you’re offering. None of those are actually a rejection of you even if the ‘no’ stings

As hard as it is, if you want to get better at selling, you have to be willing to lose the attachment for the outcome. Your job isn’t to sell, it is to make sure the potential customer makes the right decision for them. If that decision is a no then that’s OK.

Nobody likes the smell of desperation

When you’re selling widgets for someone else the worst that happens if you don’t meet your quota is you get a dressing down from the boss or you don’t get a bonus. When you have your own business, it’s all different. If you don’t make sales now then you don’t get to pay the bills. Suddenly there is a whole level of needing to make money that didn’t exist before

The problem is, desperation and neediness is off putting. A bit like any new relationship. The more you try to convince someone to buy, the less trustworthy you seem and the more likely they will back off. Stay where you are and let clients come to you and the dynamic shifts, making you more likely to make money rather than less

I once worked with a client who told me at the end of our time together that part of what made her want to work with me was that I made it clear I didn’t work with everyone. The less I tried to convince her, the more she wanted to feel like she’d made the grade. That wasn’t a deliberate tactic but it made huge sense when she told me.

You’re focused on you instead of them

Even when people get all of the above stuff nailed, I see them fall at the final hurdle by approaching sales from their own perspective rather than stepping into the shoes of their potential clients. They think about what they want to sell rather than consider what their potential clients want to buy

Back in my Ann Summers days, people didn’t want to buy a vibrator because it had 3 speeds and 7 settings and was made of premium grade bodysafe silicone. They wanted something that would give them an orgasm

Stop telling people all the stuff you are proud of about the thing you want to sell, and instead focus on understanding what they want to buy. Talk to them in their own language about the things they want. 

You don’t have a sales process

When I ask clients about their typical sales process, the most common answer is that they don’t have one. Or they can sketchily describe it but haven’t nailed it. The problem with that is if you don’t have a structure to the way you sell, you’re winging it each time. And if you’re not that confident at selling, the pressure of winging it is pressure you don’t need

A sales process doesn’t have to be rigid, difficult or pressured. It’s a structure, not a strait jacket. It’s a way to make sure your potential buyer gets what they need from you to make the decision that’s right for them

Think of it by considering how you would train someone else to sell your product or service. If you can’t explain it to someone else then you are likely selling yourself short (pun absolutely intended)

If there’s one tip I’d leave you with to make sales easier for yourself, it is to get clear on your sales process. If that’s something you need help with then you can book a power hour where I can help you create one.


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