How I Conquered My Fear of Selling With a Step-by-Step Sales Strategy

I learned how to prepare, ask questions, and care


Tealfeed Guest Blog

2 years ago | 8 min read

Journalism and writing fiction were both my majors during my last two years in university. I envisioned a career in either radio or TV journalism. A person who worked at the campus radio station at the University of Pittsburgh said he was going into sales since there was no money in radio. Not me. I knew my interests and strengths, and sales wasn’t on the list.

Having to sell was like being force-fed fish oil.

My first job was in radio in State College, Pennsylvania, home to Penn State, where I covered news and made extra money sending interviews of luminaries visiting campus to NBC radio.

I gathered the news and reported on-air while the sales staff gathered advertisers to keep us on the air. I was content because I wasn’t a salesperson.

Sales seemed fun and exciting, but I didn’t have positive experiences.

As a kid, I played Little League baseball like so many boys in my hometown. Even then, sales haunted me.

We stood outside the local grocery store for a week each season and raised money for our uniforms and the upkeep of our field by selling submarine sandwiches. Sorry, not for me. I was willing to play second base, but hawking food to pay for my uniform rattled my nerves.

Fast forward to high school, college, and the middle of my adult years. During life’s twists and turns I was let go from a nonprofit and launched a marketing firm with two other people. I was elected as the salesperson because I was more jovial than either the graphics partner or the other partner who had a Ph.D. in finance. I was it!

“After all,” said one partner, “the most important thing salespeople have to do is schmooze and you’re good at that.”

Agreed. I was an outgoing person who enjoyed attending the local chamber of commerce meetings and business networking breakfasts. So, yes, it was important that I become the salesperson.

Doing What I Thought Was Sales

I explained our skill in creating brochures, websites, and newsletters to business owners. Our own tri-fold brochure looked great and we did OK during our first year. I read a book on consultative selling and hosted a few events where prospective customers showed up to get a few drinks, chat, and eat appetizers.

I followed up with every lead from events or phone calls and discussed what they needed. Writing a quote took a couple of hours and I’d email it or present it in an in-person meeting where I answered questions.

Sometimes we got business, but other times we didn’t. Oh well.

Rejection was part of the sales process, wasn’t it? I was learning new concepts like the length of time needed in our sales cycle. Was it 30 days? 60 days?

A comment that stuck with me from this time, almost 20 years ago, was from a successful businessman whom we asked for input. He chuckled when he told us that we were in the right business because “marketing is for people who don’t know how to sell.”

Sales was a mystery to me. I had heard so many times, “You’re a writer, not a salesperson.” Or, “You’re friendly, you’d probably do OK in sales.”

Both were misleading statements, but I didn’t know why at the time. I was definitely not the outgoing guy who could shake someone’s hand, tell a joke, and pull out a form to write up a large order. Those were real salespeople and that wasn’t me.

Until disruption hit and I had to really learn how to sell.

How I Learned a Sales Process

After two years, I knew the firm we started just wasn’t going to work out. Someone told me that direct sales was expanding at Home Depot and I knew one of the sales managers. Selling roofing to homeowners was definitely a pure sales job.

I doubted my ability, but the position sounded attractive because once I sold a project, I didn’t have to go back to the office and oversee it. I simply went on to the next sale. The roofing crew and supervisor handled the tear-off and installation.

The person I knew, Gary, sat down and let me review the numbers his team had been making. He said very little. What he did was show me the sales numbers and asked, “Do you see this?”

My eyes popped out. The money was a big payoff with only 10 appointments per week.

He briefly spoke about who each of his team members was, and my thought was, “I’m as qualified as any of these people.”

“It’ll take you a while,” said Gary, “but I think you can learn this.”

I didn’t realize it at the time but he “sold” me on the position by showing me information, asking a question, and letting me make my own decision. Gary had been selling his entire career and managed his team well, so I took the position with an open mind

Soon, I was estimating roofs and discovering what sales was really like. Here I was, stepping into people’s homes and after 90 minutes to two hours asking for signed agreements usually ranging from $20,000 to $40,000.

It was tough work. I could smile, visit, and sometimes I got a sale, but most of the time I didn’t. That confused me. Sales was as mysterious as the occult.

During a sales meeting, I looked around the room. One person on the team was an older man who could strike up a conversation with anybody. Personality was everything, right? He was outgoing. But another person was a quiet man who rarely spoke. He even seemed shy.

Here were two totally different individuals and yet both had high closing ratios. I was confused.

Week after week, though, I kept learning one part after another of a complete sales process. Gary got in touch with me recently and said that based on his years of selling, managing, and consulting, he learned that there are 10 important steps to a sales process. One step builds on the other.

Why You Need a 10-Step Sales Process

So you’re not a salesperson? If you’re an independent consultant you certainly are. If you own a small business you are, even if you have a dedicated sales rep.

Selling is a process of persuasion, and the intended goal is to help your customer make an informed decision.

As sales legend Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough people get what they want.”

What we refer to as selling is around us in everyday life. Parents convincing children to do homework; managers rallying departments; writers looking for clients.

Having a logical process that builds from one step to the other gives you a tangible way to motivate someone from potential customer to satisfied customer. This isn’t a script that you memorize, but these are steps you practice.

Step 1: Appointment preparation

Know your product’s benefits and your customer’s need. Understanding how your product or service makes your customer’s life better is the foundation for messaging.

Step 2: Rapport building

Ask initial questions and conversations to find common, personal ground. This breeds trust.

Step 3: Determining customer needs

Ask why the person is willing to meet. How long have they been thinking about this issue? Ask questions to get them talking and you listening.

Step 4: Your company story

This is another way to differentiate yourself. Share why you and your company are in business. This isn’t a monologue, but it is messaging to sprinkle in with your questions above.

Step 5: Preparing the client for the approximate price

I learned how to have fun doing this at Home Depot. I’d joke like, “Yeah, a $60,000 roof is going to be way too high but a $9,000 roof is going to be too low.” It broke the ice. This will vary for B2B clients. Find the way that works for you and the particular situation.

In B2B, rather than ask, “What’s your budget?” you can give pricing ranges or share the benefits of premium pricing.

Step 6: Pre-close

This is where you ensure you’ve met all the customer’s concerns and wants before moving ahead.

Step 7: Quoting the price

When rapport is built, and a conversation around solving needs has taken place, then this step is natural.

Step 8: Asking for and getting the business

For B2C transactions, you get the paperwork started. In B2B you sign an agreement. Practice moving into this step calmly and pleasantly.

Step 9: Handling customer concerns

Resolve any issues to assure the customer that they’ve just made a great decision and prevent cancellations once you leave.

Step 10: Warm down

Don’t just leave. Talk for a bit like you’ve been with a friend.

Think of selling as a linear process and not as some sort of magical ritual where some people have the natural talent to make all the money. Just like all endeavors, there are those who outperform and earn more than others. But even though you’re not a natural-born salesperson you can learn the art.

Selling effectively in any industry is a step by step process. Learning the steps, implementing them, and then practicing each one is key in terms of boosting an income.

Even though I’ve long since gone back into content writing, I’ve found these sales steps that Gary Kvisler taught me has given me confidence in speaking with clients.

If you’re responsible for your business then you’re a salesperson.

How I Look at Sales Today

I’ll agree that sales is a numbers game, but it’s a quality numbers game. Know the type of person who is most likely to use your product and service. Find where they are both online and in person.

As a content writer, I’ve started a new habit.

When I drive around Southern California, I now note the names of businesses that may benefit the most from what I do. I’ll jot down their names in a notebook or on my phone and then go back to my home office and pull up their websites or do a LinkedIn search.

Then I ask:

  • How can I help them improve — are they lacking messaging?
  • Are their blog posts out of date?
  • Are there sites where they can post articles or answer questions to expand their visibility?

I’m not concerned with the length of time of the sales process. I’m looking for companies I can talk to now and organizing others into a follow-up strategy. This groundwork helps me in potential appointment preparation.

I can also frame my thoughts to ask the right questions when I get the chance. This makes the sales process a natural extension of a relationship and less of an intrusive process.

Don’t fear sales. Learn a step-by-step process.

See sales as an opportunity to go and help new friends and, with one step at a time, solve their problems.

This article was originally published by Don simkovich on medium.


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