Since the lockdown began, I have been offering free 30-minute clarity and connection calls to members of the Actually community. One of the key themes that has emerged in these conversations is a reluctance to sell during this crisis… a resistance to having a sales conversation…a nervousness that it is somehow unseemly or unethical to be making sales right now. I decided to tackle this issue head-on in one of my regular Masterclasses last week when I invited Actually partner, Catherine Watkin – Founder of Selling from the Heart – to join me. If you missed the session, you can find the recording here. If you prefer to read all about it, I’ve summarised five of the key lessons from the class in this blog. I hope you find them helpful.
IS IT REALLY ABOUT THE CRISIS?
One of the questions I hear a lot from my community right now is ‘Is it wrong to be selling my services during this crisis?’.
I estimate that about 90%* of the people asking this question…feel uncomfortable about sales even during the good times. This pandemic is the perfect breeding ground for that part of you that thinks sales are ‘icky’. So before you tackle the sales in a crisis question, be honest with yourself about your attitude to sales under normal circumstances.
Is this really about the crisis? Or is this a convenient excuse to get out of sales before you find it uncomfortable?
If it’s the latter, then now is the perfect time to address that issue. Because you may have been able to get by in the good times with a ‘so-so’ attitude to sales but in a crisis, you are going to have to get over your resistance.
Let’s assume that you’re usually comfortable with selling but you’re questioning whether you should be selling NOW. This is not a difficult issue for me. If the product or service you are providing has value; if it’s something that your clients want and need right now; if you’re not seeking to make exorbitant profit from it…then hell yes you should be selling it. You know why? No sales = no business. And I’m assuming you need to stay in business, right? And certainly, the wider economy needs as many of us to stay in business as possible. Simple. Get selling.
WHAT DO ASSUMPTIONS DO?
One of the primary reasons that a lot of people are feeling uncomfortable about sales is because of these assumptions: about ourselves, about other people and about this crisis as a whole.
Here are just some of the assumptions I have heard recently with my perspective:
- People will think that I’m heartless if I sell right now…
- Will they? I won’t think you’re heartless. And I’m a person which means that by definition this statement is not a fact, it’s an assumption.
- Everybody is freaking out right now…
- I’m not freaking out. See point 1.
- Nobody is in the right ‘headspace’ to buy…
- I’ve just bout a place in a high-end training programme and signed up for a monthly subscription to a coaching service. I’m in the right headspace to buy. See point 1.
- Nobody has any money at the moment…
- Actually there are plenty of people who have more money than they did before and more time to spend it. A report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies estimated that of those who qualify for Government support, over half will be BETTER OFF! And there are those who always had plenty of money – who still do.
- Nobody who has money is spending money right now…
- Ummmm…I refer you back to points 1-3.
- People have more important things to spend money on than my services…
- Now, this right here is a limiting belief about the value of your services AND an assumption about what might be a priority for your clients.
My Grandad used to say that “That’s just an assumption darling and…to ass-u-me puts an ass before u and me.” Don’t be an ass. Check your assumptions.
HELPING OR RESCUING?
A lot of people asking me questions about sales often go on to ask about giving their services away for free or at a significant discount. Now, let me start out by saying I am not opposed to free content. After all…the Masterclass that this blog is based on was free. But when you’re giving away free content or offering discounts, it needs to be part of a considered, strategic plan not a knee jerk default position born out of panic, fear or an aversion to sales.
If you’re considering whether to offer free or discounted services, ask yourself these questions first:
- Can you afford – in time and money terms – to give away this work?
- Don’t take away time from your paid work or impact your cashflow in order to offer free or discounted work.
- Does offering the work for free or at a discounted rate fulfil a genuine strategic need eg: building your list or re-engaging with former clients?
- If you can make a strategic argument for the offer then it may be worth it – but check that argument with a friend or business mentor so as to be sure you’re not just fooling yourself!
- Is the product or service new or a one-off?
- If so – and you don’t intend to offer it again at a much higher price, then OK. But if it’s been on the market before at a much higher price you’ll create resentment amongst past clients. And if you offer the same product in the future at a higher price, you’ll make it very difficult to sell then.
- Is the price you’re considering still a fair reflection of value?
- Avoid what my mentor calls ‘resentment prices’ – prices so low that you resent every moment of delivering the product!
One of the reasons many people feel awkward about sales is because they’ve been taught a style of selling that – frankly – feels coercive and manipulative. I have always disliked what I think of as the ‘sneak bomber’ style of selling where you ‘spring’ a sale on someone who wasn’t expecting it having first worked them into a frenzy by tweaking all their ‘pain points’ and nullifying all of their objections.
When you know that at the end of your conversation, webinar, training or Masterclass you’re going to be making an offer or inviting participants to buy something from you: tell them so up-front.
Make sure they are aware and comfortable with the fact that you’re going to be offering them something of value and that you’re going to be 100% OK if they decide it’s not for them. By being explicit about this, you create safety and remove some of the awkwardness.
Here’s how I do that:
- I explain what I’m going to be covering during the call, webinar or training
- I explain that at the end of the session I will be telling them about training programme / coaching programme (or whatever it is I’m planning to sell) and inviting them to find out more
- I make it crystal clear that I’m not going to ram it down their throat and that if it’s not for them, that’s absolutely fine
- And I explain that if I don’t think my products or services are right for them, I’ll explain that too and refer them to someone who I think might be able to help.
I was really heartened during this Masterclass to learn from Catherine – the sales guru – that I’ve been doing it right! Phew!
I CAN’T AFFORD IT
One of the questions from a participant in the Masterclass focussed in on handling objections and in particular the ‘I’d love to work with you but I can’t afford it’ objection.
Catherine’s advice was, as always, brilliant! People don’t like to say ‘No’ – and so instead of simply explaining that they are not interested in your product or service, they will often use money (or time) as a reason. So before you go any further, you need to be sure if this is a genuine objection or if the person concerned is just offering you a ‘polite No’.
The question you ask is this: ‘And if you were able to afford it, would you want to take part in this course?’
If the person says ‘Well yes…but then there’s also the time / my kids / my job / the fact that my dog regularly eats my homework…’ then you know that it’s just a polite ‘No’. Thank them for their consideration and don’t waste any more time. However, if they say ‘Yes…I’d really love to work with you but I just can’t afford it right now.’ Then you ask ‘OK…can we explore that a little more?’ or ‘Can I offer you some coaching around that?’ or ‘Can I ask a few more questions about this and see if we can find a way through?’. From that moment on you’re working WITH them to find a solution. Maybe they pay a deposit now and then instalments; maybe you clarify that actually they can afford it but they just need to switch their mindset about the value of what you’re offering…
As long as it isn’t a ‘polite no’ and you have their permission to proceed, you can very often turn an initial ‘I can’t afford it’ into a sale.
Let’s make the sales and ACTUALLY make a difference.