As an entrepreneur, it’s natural to wear many hats within the company: managing the business, handling the hiring, and perhaps even overseeing the finances. And yet, when it comes to selling their product or service to a customer or an investor, many entrepreneurs feel that sales is a skill they just don't have. The truth is, by keeping a few key tips in mind, you can become your business’s best salesperson.
Know your product
Knowing your product is an essential part of selling. You can’t sell something you don’t know inside and out. This shouldn’t be a problem for most entrepreneurs. You, more than anyone else in your organization, should know every detail of your product or service. In fact, talking about your business is probably second nature.
Know your customer
In order to fully understand the potential for your business, you need to know your customer. What is it about your product that will help them? Will it satisfy a need or solve a problem? Knowing how your product becomes a solution will help you position your offering in the most appealing way. Lamont Mackley, a Senior Advisor with JumpStart, provides some insight into preparing for and making these important connections in his recent post, “It’s Not You, It’s Them: Tips for Pitching Potential Customers.”
Know your competition
You’ve heard it before, but you need to know your competition. During a sales pitch, a customer or investor might offer a comparison: “Oh, so this is like Product A.” Being able to address how your offering is, or is not, like Product A, demonstrates your product and industry knowledge, and as a result, adds to your credibility.
In the process of addressing your competition, be careful not to criticize the other company or product, as you run the risk of making your potential customer uneasy. Focusing on the strengths of each, rather than the weaknesses of one, instills the customer with a sense of confidence. They’ll know that you recognize they have other options.
Sales isn’t just about being a good talker, it’s also about being a good listener. Allow for a natural dialogue to take shape between you and your potential customer. If the customer asks about a certain feature your product doesn’t offer, don’t dismiss it. Instead, find out why s/he is interested in that functionality. (Perhaps it’s a feature or function you can consider for the future.) Then bring the focus back to the product as it stands, continuing to show its benefits to them. Try to understand the “pain” they are trying to solve, then be prepared to show how your product can alleviate it.
While you are enthusiastic about your business, be aware of when to stop talking about it. Keep It Simple Stupid, or KISS, is another important tip for a salesperson to embrace. Give your customer a basic outline of your product or service. If they want to hear more in-depth details, they’ll ask for them. Talking to the customer for a long time doesn’t mean they’re any more likely to buy what you’re selling. It actually increases the chances that they’ll tune out and find you pushy. Start with what’s most beneficial to them as a customer. If they’re interested, you’ll know.
Remember, you won’t make every sale you pitch. Look at the sales you don’t make as learning opportunities. Think about why the customer or investor wasn’t interested. Was it in your presentation? The price point? Or perhaps your product or service just wasn’t of interest to that particular person, regardless of how you sold it? Evaluate your successful sales too. Knowing what you should keep doing is just as important as knowing what you shouldn’t. And, while you may feel uncomfortable putting on that salesperson cap at first, over time, it will begin to feel more natural.
Tiffan Clark is the Vice President of IdeaCrossing, a free online community created by JumpStart, which connects entrepreneurs with the capital, mentors and technical resources necessary to grow their businesses. Tiffan has worked at several venture-backed startup technology companies and strategic marketing agencies in both Boston and Cleveland.