This is the first installment in a series, where I will focus on sales, business concepts, and strategies for improving your exposure and customer base. I am hoping that this series will be helpful as well as bring people together to share ideas, ask questions and improve all of our businesses.
Having said that, some of you might wonder why I have any business doing the writing. I spent 15 years in corporate AV (audio visual) sales, during which time I helped grow three separate offices from the ground up. I began my career at the reception desk and learned the entire back house part of the business before ever selling a thing. I was able to have a very successful sales career because I understood every person, piece of paper, piece of equipment and signature associated with each transaction. When it came time to open my own business, I found that my years in the corporate world had taught me more than I'd ever realized. I sure don't know it all though - so this isn't about me preaching. This is about me sharing what I know and hopefully encouraging others to do the same so that, together, we can all improve our businesses and our profits.
The word "sales" strikes terror in the hearts of those who've never done it and have heard all their lives: "You are either born a sales person, or you aren't." I don't agree. I WAS born a sales person, or at least that's what I've always been told, but I know for a fact that I wasn't born a GOOD sales person. I worked my tail off for 15 years to improve and grow a skill set that would enable me to work hard and smart. What I finally realized was that the first lesson I learned was the most important - People buy from people.
So, that is First Law of Sales: People buy from people. Seems pretty straight-forward, right? It is. Sales becomes so much less daunting when you realize that the buyer is a person, just like you. They want you to give them a reason to buy from you - some connection that has more to it than just grabbing something off a shelf or putting it into an online shopping cart. Isn't that what YOU want when you shop? I know it's exactly what I want.
So how do we accomplish that feat - how do we become people to our buyers, instead of just a selection of wares on a website? Let's start with my own personal favorite - Facebook! I've been on Facebook less than a year and have 1740 (at last count) fans. Do all of them make purchases? No. But they all have pages and friends who see where they comment, what pictures post on their walls, etc. The networking possibilities of Facebook and other social networking sites is astronomical, so take advantage of it. Twitter is also another amazing resource, albeit one that I don't yet use. I know I should and have it on my "to do" list of things to figure out. Have no doubt that I'm still learning too - and technology is an ever-changing creature that we all chase.
But that still doesn't really tell you how to become a person to all those fans, does it? The simplest answer is to tell your own story through your work, your posts and your comments. I share bits and pieces about my family, share the laughs and cries that come with each day of being a WAHM with 2 small children. I post pictures of new creations and finished orders, share links from other business pages and just generally try to be me. Hard-nosed, pushy sales will never work in the online world because people just don't like it and they don't have to accept it. They can, and DO, choose to spend their money where they find good products, good value and excellent customer service. So that's the good news, right? Sales doesn't have to be pushy and uncomfortable!
Facebook and other similar tools make it easy to show your work right away and get a response. What you do with that response is critical. Do you reply with answers to questions? Do you thank people for stopping by and leaving you a comment? Do you return the favor when someone visits your page by visiting them back? Do you post pictures of what you buy from other businesses and thank them when they do the same for you? Never forget that every single post and comment you make can and will be seen by others - make the most of those opportunities.
When it comes right down to it, think of it as selling to yourself. Imagine that you are your own client - what would you want to see? How would you want to be treated? A gentleman who taught me the world about sales once said to me, "Sell unto others as you would have sold unto you." That's really a brilliant way to put it, and I'd be willing to bet that one thing you enjoy is a buying experience that feels warm and friendly. Give that to your clients and they will come back to you again and again.