One of the most common factors that can limit the growth of a business is an entrepreneur’s reluctance to sell, says Kevan Wright, a business coach, mentor and workshop facilitator at Fetola Business Development Professionals.
Based on his experience working with entrepreneurs enrolled in the SAB Foundation’s Tholoana Enterprise Programme, a skills development programme; Wright says the two activities avoided most often by business owners are sales and asking for money, even though without these essential activities a business cannot survive – let alone thrive.
This is regardless of how passionate the entrepreneur may be or how much they may believe in their business and its offering, he adds.
Although comfortable with the usual rigors associated with entrepreneurship, the prospect of asking somebody to part with their money in exchange for their product or service seems to strike fear into one’s core.
Furthermore, the attributes of a ‘successful sales person’ are commonly defined using phrases like ‘has the gift of the gab’, ‘can sell ice to an Eskimo’ and ‘is very pushy’. However, implying that the art of selling is a natural, God-given talent couldn’t be further from the truth.
I believe the most prevalent reason for sales avoidance is a fear of rejection, inherent in most individuals – whether due to cultural reasons, social conditioning, low self-esteem or other reasons. But the fact remains – if you’re not selling, you aren’t in business!
Expecting to win every sale is unrealistic
Rejection can be a bitter pill to swallow as it instills a sense of failure within oneself and amongst one’s peers. It is taken as a personal affront, often leaving one disillusioned and dejected. But it should never be seen as personal, specifically since we all unwittingly reject businesses every day – like when we walk past shops without buying anything.
It’s not that we don’t like the store, its owner or its products – we merely don’t need that particular item on that day.
Rejection can make one feel inadequate and unworthy, resulting in a decline in motivation and self-belief. This potentially leads to a downward spiral in performance, which in turn fuels self-fulfilling prophecies and further decline.
A fear of rejection often constrains salespeople to their comfort zones, which is usually aligned to the perceived seniority level or social standing of the relevant decision maker.
As an avoidance measure, they most often engage with inappropriate role-players who command minimal influence – resulting in wasted time, resources and a further decline in self-esteem.
This translates directly to forecasting integrity and is often a collateral result of the fear of rejection. Examples include:
If you’re not in it to win, why be in it at all?
Successful salespeople need to passionately believe in the value that will be received by the customer, not just the technical features that are being offered. Appropriate research, asking the right questions and placing oneself in the customer’s shoes will help in establishing their exact needs.
Shifting the perception from “getting the deal” to “helping the customer” will significantly reduce the fear of rejection due to an unyielding belief in the value that is being offered.
Successful salespeople are structured and strategic thinkers who maintain a strict discipline of prospecting and follow-up activities, irrespective of whether a previous sale has been won or lost.
Customer needs change continuously and tomorrow they may need what they didn’t before. Never stop calling!
Although not all sales opportunities will necessarily be successful, a winning attitude to each opportunity is essential in fostering the appropriate commitment to the sale. “If you’re not in it to win, why be in it at all?”
Often portrayed as an isolated and feared final activity in any sales cycle, closing should actually be no more than a confirmation and formalisation of the scope, terms and conditions as mutually agreed during the initial proposal phase.