Last month, I mentioned the importance of being frugal when starting a business. But the whole point of starting your own business is not to save money. It’s to make money. It’s about getting rich. Now, you can’t get rich without generating revenue. You can’t generate revenue without selling.
“But what will my in-laws think?” I hear you say. Isn’t selling, well, a bit tacky? Your in-laws will think you’re a loser if you can’t support their beloved child. So don’t worry what people think, and start worrying about learning the ‘Art of Selling’.
Yes, selling is an art — a learnt skill. Some people are born with the gift of the gab, but the best salesmen are those for whom it doesn’t come naturally. Why? Because the customer can see you’re not comfortable selling, and so they trust that you wouldn’t be standing there, sweating, unless you truly believed in what you’re pushing.
Entrepreneurs sell every day. You persuade staff to join a high-risk company at below-market-salary. You persuade investors to give you money. You persuade customers to buy your product. You persuade your spouse not to panic when a couple of credit cards bounce.
1. The first step for selling is to always tell the truth
Lying is a short-term strategy. It may work in a big country like the US where you can move around a lot. And with the arrival of social media, our small town is getting smaller every day.
If you lie, you’ll be found out, and then it’s tickets for your career as a salesman. Tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember what you said.
2. Listen to the customer
Most people think selling is about talking. Wrong. Selling is about listening. You can’t give the customer what he wants unless you know what she wants. If the customer wants hotdogs, don’t sell her hamburgers.
3. First impressions count
First impressions may not be everything, but it’s much easier getting a ‘yes’ if you make a positive first impression. Be neat. Be on time. Be prepared. Be polite.
4. Don’t fake it
If you’re not a suit wearer, don’t wear a suit. If your industry requires you to wear a suit to close the sale, change your industry. Pretending to be someone that you’re not is akin to lying. A short-term strategy doomed to failure, and a not a great way to live.
5. Help people
Sales is about your network. The more people you help along the way, the bigger your network will be.
Soon after I took over Mxit I had to see the CEO of Jupiter Drawing Room. Apparently previous Mxit management had reneged on a R200 000 bill. Even though it was not of my making, we agreed to pay the outstanding amount.
Two years later, I’m looking for a sponsor for Project Isizwe, and guess who knocks on my door? The same lady. She wants to sponsor us R1 million. Boom! What goes around, comes around.
6. Show respect
It’s simple. Take the time to learn the culture of your customer. Did you know Tswana consider it a sign of disrespect to make eye contact when shaking hands? Have good manners, respect local customs, be patient. No one will write you a cheque if they feel you don’t respect them.
7. Do what you gotta do
Sometimes you have to suck up your ego and wait six hours to see your customer, or miss your daughter’s birthday, or cancel your annual holiday. When it’s your business, no one else will do what you are willing to do.
8. Close the deal
It’s easy to mess around and avoid the hard questions like: “Do we have a deal?” Many customers specialise in messing you around. The best way to find out whether you’re being messed around is to ask for a commitment.
For a masterclass in how to sell, read Mark McCormack’s What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. If you’re not ready to be a salesman, you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur.