Women receive a lot of negative messages about sales – from pithy advice about “not selling ourselves short” to vague dating tips about street corners, milk and cows. We’re told not to be pushy. Some of us were told never to make the first call.
When you own your business, all those beliefs will hold you back. So much so that only 2% of all women owned businesses in North America ever reach a million dollars in revenue!
To succeed in business, you have to get good at selling.
Fortunately, if you’re willing to put yourself out there, becoming a good sales person isn’t rocket science. But it does require discipline. Here are the five key success traits I’ve uncovered on my sales journey:
1. Be True to Yourself
The most successful women are genuine people who bring their whole selves to their work relationships. They somehow find a way to make who they are work for them. Authenticity sells. It increases prospects’ trust in everything you say. Good salespeople have learned how to use their best traits for the benefit of their companies and their clients. To get really good at selling, first figure out exactly who you are and what you do particularly well. Then figure out how to bring that to the sales conversation in a way that benefits your prospects.
example: Susan is a quiet, introverted woman and an attentive listener. When she is with a prospect, she gives them her complete and undivided attention; listening carefully for tiny inflections that help her understand her prospects’ emotional state around a situation. Her ability to quickly recognize a change in emotion has lead to more than one closed deal.
2. Build Relationships
Your best sales will come from the most unexpected sources. I’ve had sales conversations with people who happened to be in a room where I was speaking a year back, people I met when I dropped by their booth at a trade show, and people referred to me by past colleagues, employees, and my next door neighbor. I’ve also had referrals from parents of my children’s friends or team mates, and the lady in line behind me at the grocery store. Show a genuine interest in the people around you, and keep your antennae up for possible connections.
3. Get Out of the Office
You won’t meet anyone sitting at your desk, staring at the stack of bills piling up and wishing for a windfall. The only way to sell to new clients is to actually get out there and meet people who might either become your clients or introduce you to people who could become your clients. Set a goal for yourself – say, at least 3 networking events every month – then stick to it. Pick your events carefully and choose places your customers are likely to hang out; the monthly meet up of people in your industry might make you feel good but your competitors are unlikely to be your primary source of leads.
example: Katy wanted to build her coaching practice working with women business owners, so she deliberately scheduled at least two women’s events into her calendar every month. She set a networking goal for each event (3 new contacts; 4 qualified business cards) and, if an event or group didn’t deliver the right kind of connections after attending a couple of times, she would replace it with something else. Within a year, she had built a broad network of qualified prospects who regularly refer business her way.
4. The Fortune is in the Follow Up
The best salespeople take action. They follow up with leads quickly, and with relevant information. Those people who stopped by your booth at the tradeshow? Email them and invite them to take advantage of the resources on your website. The connections you made at the networking event this morning? Reach out on LinkedIn to connect or email them and invite them to join your mailing list. The client you haven’t worked with in over a year? Drop them a brief email that says “thinking of you, hope things are going well.” And keep doing that at least every 3 or 4 months.
5. Get Mentally Tough
This is the most important trait of all. Sales is a career fraught with rejection. More people will say no than yes, that’s a fact. And it can be hard not to take things personally when it’s your company they’re rejecting. The best advice? Get over it and get on with it. Every no gets you one step closer to a yes. The best salespeople have learned to handle rejection, to embrace it and move on to greener pastures. Getting discouraged is the hardest challenge for most sales professionals. Everyone feels it at some point; the key is to keep doing the behaviours you know will generate the results.
Make the calls and the appointments WILL follow. But remember, you won’t get a single appointment from the calls you never make.