Want to close more sales but afraid of the process? A short course in sales from Gerry Black, in this week’s blog posting . . .

It’s an understatement these days to say that entrepreneurs hate selling.  What’s behind that? Many of us have deeply ingrained stereotypes (usually dating from childhood and reinforced by our education system) that sellers are con-men or women, using pushy, sleezy tactics to manipulate buyers into deals the buyers would later regret. 

The stereotype of the “con man”-sales person may be familiar to you through the TV character, Herb Tarlek, sales manager at “WKRP (radio station) in Cincinnati,” in the late 70s/early 80s show of the same name.  Herb kept the financially strapped radio station afloat by currying favour with questionable advertisers, including one owner whose diet pills turned out to be narcotics! Tarlek’s ethically questionable and generally obnoxious sales strategies were perfectly reflected in his atrocious fashion sense—billious, plaid polyester suits, always paired with a shiny white belt and shoes. Could anyone exude more sleaze?

Tarlek made for great TV, but his character reflects the anxiety many of us entrepreneurs have of selling. Even when our services are first-rate and expertly delivered. Many of us lack a “sales mindset,” so we feel inadequate when asking for “the buy.” We fear prospects will perceive us as pushy. We have to “re-examine and change our internal dialog about what selling is really about” says Ontario sales specialist, Gerry Black.

Based in Newmarket, Ontario, Gerry Black is a marketing sales specialist with 30+ years in the industry. He names his sales method (and his website) “Invisible Selling”: https://invisibleselling.com/

Stereotypes often have a small element of reality around which hatred and disdain amplify and distort, so that Herb Tarlek resonates painfully with our fears of selling. But Black steps clear aside of that stereotype, rationally advising entrepreneurs that sales are a service to the community and a “mutually beneficial outcome by both seller and buyer.” Rightly managed, the sales process can have integrity.

We are, as Black says in a video promotion for his program, respected sales professionals who provide solutions to our prospects’ problems. We need to undercut our own fears that selling is “an adversarial relationship.” It does not have to be!

Approaching sales as a way to solve problems for our clients is not a new philosophy, he observes, and “there is nothing new about the basics of sales fundamentals.” For instance, content-rich, accurate and persuasive copywriting can get the work of our clients out to their clients. And,  just as we would expect a doctor or a hair stylist or a butcher to be paid (and paid fairly) for their services, so too should we.

Black recommends that we know exactly what problems that our work can fix (even before we plan a script or method of selling). Here are eight of his tips:

(1) Convert selling opportunities into sales:  Be prepared as an entrepreneur to do that. (This has nothing to do with how great you may be as a service provider. Do not give in to the temptation to apologize for wanting to sell your services!) One way to do this is to learn as much as you can about your prospects, so that you can converse with them more easily.

What pain points of theirs are you relieving? What problems of theirs can you solve? Having a sales mindset is necessary to secure leads and to turn those leads into sales.

(2) Cultivate an audience of people who want or need what you’re selling and are willing to pay for it.  (Don’t go down the rabbit hole of trying to convince the resistant prospect to hire you! This is especially true on the Prairies.)

(3) Adopt a positive sales’ mindset: Make sure you view your services as benefiting both your prospect and yourself.

(4) Be aware of reasons that selling feels stressful to you: entrepreneurs often don’t clearly understand the purpose and structure of a selling interaction. The relationship should be mutually beneficial and not an adversarial tug-of-war between “a winner and a loser.”

(5) Take control of the reigns when a prospect contacts you, because they rarely know what to say, and whether there’s a fit between their project and your services.  Black says: “Don’t let the tail way the dog!” (If the dog is smarter than its tail it can wag it. If the tail were smarter than the dog, then it would wag the dog.)

As sellers, we are the experts in this exchange. Recognizing this,  entrepreneurs can take control of the selling conversation and eliminate the stress of feeling uncertain how things will go.

So, ask questions to direct the conversations. After making small (but genuine) small-talk, the crucial question to ask is this: “What is going on in your life that led you to contact me, today?” This question defuses the tension between buyer and seller and allows the seller the necessary space to speak.

These tips keep your sales conversations in order and instantly relieve the stress around selling that comes to many of us.

(6) Focus on your prospects and customers: they won’t take an interest in you and your services until you take an interest in them. You can do this by constantly gathering information about your prospects and their interests: ask  plenty of questions about them and their work. For instance, show them how your service will change their lives, make their work more efficient or profitable. Show how your service will  keep your existing customers happy over the long term. Make your customers feel that they matter to you, as a seller.  And make sure that everyone in your company understands that importance of valuing each customer.

(7) Know that prospects’ objections to the sale are often “maybes” and are usually a “disguised request from prospects for more information that will allow him/her to make a buying decision. Objections indicate that the prospect hasn’t yet been convinced of your service (and why s/he should pay for it). So, answer objections with statements that explain and show value.

(8) The final (and often fatal) mistake many entrepreneurs make is failing to close the sale—i.e. “ask for the order.” Here, entrepreneurs who don’t understand sales fear rejection. We often lack confident footing and positioning in the exchange, don’t want to seem pushy (when we are a welcomed consultant), and simply don’t know what to say. But if you have already addressed so much in your conversation, the prospect expects you to ask for the order–to close the sale.

It may be that the prospect has one final (hidden) objection that they will put on the table, which you can address and then close the sale.

Some entrepreneurs find themselves closing earlier, if we are earlier confident of the prospect’s acceptance.

Black stresses that our time as entrepreneur/seller is very valuable: if you have already identified a problem of your prospect that you can fix, if you have invested time with him/her and can demonstrate value during the sales process, you have EARNED the right to ask for the sale.

Gerry Black has more tips on sales for those faint-of-heart.  I recommend reading his blog and signing up for his course:  https://invisibleselling.com/

He’s the perfect antidote to those internalized stereotypes that selling is for crooks. Blow that false belief (and Herb Tarlek) out of the water, once and for all. You deserve the space and respect you need to do your work.

And now it’s your turn: Do these tips from Gerry Black make the selling process feel more manageable? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.