Every day it becomes clearer to me that running my own business is nothing like my role as an employee in a marketing communications department. It’s great that I can write, optimize a web site, crank out some cool PowerPoint presentations and develop a social media strategy–but I’ve also got to master an understanding the legal, financial, and operational complexities of this little company if I’m going to make it work.
Oh yeah, and I have to sell.
Next to keeping an Oreo cookie out of my mouth, selling is one of the hardest things you can ask me to do. I’m pretty sure it’s because I want to please everyone and be “nice,” and I find talking about money very difficult. In my mind (however wrong this is!), sales people annoy others and try to separate them from their money. I don’t want to be this person! But when I stop to think about it, good sales people are actually some of my favorite people–they help me find a way to meet my needs and move forward towards my goals, even if I have to pay up. (Please note, no one ever had to “sell” me a baked good!)
For crying out loud, as a “marketing person” I’ve been trained to tread lightly with the sales folk. Marketing people like to blame sales people and sales people like to blame marketing people when the going gets tough. Not unlike siblings, actually. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team but I’d much rather not be in their shoes because they have to have the tough conversations with people, and clearly I’m a wimp.
Please, let me express myself theatrically: Picture me standing on a stage in an auditorium full of salespeople, a lone stage light beside me, and soft piano music accompanying the following monologue:
“O, how do you do it? You put yourself out there and face rejection. You have to battle objections, ask people for their money, and risk getting the phone slammed down in your ear! You can take my beautifully constructed value proposition, my pretty list of sales tips, my sales and marketing collateral and work your magic to bring in business only to get judged…alas! You toil away in the trenches with no guarantee of success! How do these things not terrify you, make you nervous or even a little sad?”
Slap slap slap! Is all of this drama really necessary? I can handle this. I’m really not a wimp. I’ve achieved a lot in my life and probably have a lot more sales savvy than I give myself credit for. It’s just a new skill set to learn. As a marketer, I’m fundamentally a salesperson. What this really comes down to is I have to develop a harder shell and not take rejection personally–and I have to ask for what I’m worth. I absolutely, 100%, no argument, you can’t convince me otherwise, hate the idea that my “nice, accommodating personality” alone can’t do the work for me.
A very successful business woman recently told me, “It’s not about being nice, it’s about being honest.” In business, that couldn’t be more true. Of course, it’s important to be friendly and kind, but business is business–there comes a time when people who are negotiating to work together have to have the tough conversations about time and money, needs and expectations. I see the sale (and my breakdown) happening herein. My instinct is to defer to the other person and not ruffle feathers–or worse, railroad them! But I have needs, too, and I sure as hell know that I’m smart, capable, and a great person to work with. I hope the people I work with agree!
I also realize that what I’m selling is an honest-to-goodness value to a business. The services I bring to the table are an important part of their sales process (eek!). Talking about my services and positioning them verbally as part of a “pitch,” complete with pricing, is something I’ll get better at over time. Sales for my business isn’t trying to sell ice to an Eskimo–my customers and prospects already want to boost their marketing efforts and are giving me the opportunity to help them get it all together.
One of the stickiest points for me on this entrepreneurial journey has been embracing the inescapable fact that I must be a salesperson. But if I keep in mind that as long as I’m being honest, the emotional stuff needn’t factor in too much. If someone is mean to me or laughs in my face because I’m asking them to pay for services I believe can really help them reach their goals, at a fair price, then they can move on. Someone can like me and not buy from me, and vice versa. Not everyone is going to like me or agree with my approach. That’s business. That’s sales. No drama. That’s what I’m taking on as a business owner/consultant.
One last thing. Sorry if I’ve offended any salespeople here. Please, take this whole thing as a compliment to you–even a cry for help. Feel free to contact me with any sales tips you can provide a marketing person like me! I’ll pay you with Oreos! 🙂