I have a law degree, Masters of Business Administration and an economics undergraduate degree. But none of this formal education taught me how to generate demand and have a sales conversation. You can hang a sales sign or banner outside of your store, but none of those techniques puts you in the position of authority that’s needed to have an effective sales conversation. Authority is built one message at a time.
In July of 2002, I joined Infusionsoft. My primary responsibility was bringing in sales, but I also did strategy, finance, marketing, bookkeeping, janitorial services and a host of other tasks. I had many different roles because, like every startup, I needed to wear any and every hat that was necessary to keep the business going.
My sales hat kept me busy most of the day. I'd spend countless hours prospecting for leads, getting them to finally answer their phones and then chase them for weeks. I felt like I was in a never-ending battle for survival, which put me in a really bad position to negotiate. Over time, I learned that effective sales conversations happen when people chase you, so I began to make the shift from salesperson to an authoritative advisor. Here are the things I've learned:
1. The manual sales process wastes time and money.
Spending time prospecting on social and spamming people who don't care to talk to you wastes time and money. The manual sales method that your parents passed down to you doesn't work effectively. Moving away from manual sales processes takes time, but is well worth the effort.
Most of my first year at Infusionsoft was spent knee-deep in sales and marketing. I used pay-per-click advertising to attract interest of potential customers. They’d click an ad, fill out a form on our website and I’d be notified that I had a lead. I’d then get on the phone as fast as possible to begin the sales conversation.
During the first call, I would diligently work to identify customer problems and educate them on the power of our software. More often than not, I would spend hours on the phone over weeks or months to close a sale. I used our customer relationship management functionality to keep track of the conversations and organize them based on how far they had gone in the sales process. Occasionally, I would send emails one by one to follow up after the call.
I used and perfected this manual sales process for over a year and was making slow, steady progress in the business. But, I didn't feel successful. I was wasting a lot of time chasing leads that didn’t care to talk to me. My conversations weren’t powerful or effective and didn’t leave me in a good position to negotiate. My sales weren't as large as I needed them to be and I had to figure out a way to get the phone to ring without so much effort.
2. Authority is the key to getting the phone to ring.
Many salespeople spend their careers trying to sell through their eyes instead of the customer’s perspective. They forget that people don't buy for the sake of buying. They buy products and services that fulfill a need.
To establish authority, you must first empathize. Take the time to listen to your customer's problems. Pour over your conversations, emails and notes. You've been on the phone long enough to understand the trials your potential customers are facing and have been exposed to multiple ways to solve the same problem. You are the expert they need and can deliver your expertise in an e-book, blog post, video, email campaign, phone call or in another format that’s right for your customers.
As you deliver your expertise, you’ll want to provide resources that you've found to be effective even if the best solution isn't something that you sell. To be the authority, you must be authentic. You may lose a few immediate sales, but you'll strengthen your brand, bring in fewer of the wrong customers and likely gain referrals.
3. Automation frees you up to work on your business.
After a year of perfecting the manual sales process, I was ready to take advantage of automation. I had shared the benefits of automation with potential customers, but hadn’t fully utilized it myself. One night, while my wife prepared to throw a bracelet party so that we could have money to buy Christmas presents for the kids that year, I made the decision to automate.
I spent the night pouring through my notes and emails and recalling hundreds of conversations with people in the mortgage industry to plan my first campaign. I wanted people to view me as authoritative despite my lack of formal mortgage education. Within a few hours, I planned an email campaign titled, “Six Secrets to Explode your Mortgage Profits” and had the first email ready to go.
I didn’t complete the entire campaign overnight. Writing the content took longer than I thought. Rather, I stayed in front of it until it was fully built. I’d spend the days wearing my sales hat and my nights writing another piece of content.
A couple weeks into the campaign, the phone started to ring with people who wanted to talk to me and who were interested in learning how I could help solve their problems. The sales conversation shifted as they began opening up about their situations and seeking my advice.
4. The transformation will leave you speechless.
There are no words to describe the transformative process of going from selling to advising. You can waste your time like I did for over a year building authority one phone call at a time or you can automate the process. When you learn how to make the phone ring with interest, your sales conversations become a whole lot easier, and you reduce the time to conversion.