It may be the hidden epidemic that's driving high business failure rates: Owners who hate selling.
So says Julie Steelman, author of the new book The Effortless Yes: Get the Sales You Want & Make All You Need. Women in particular, she says, are reluctant to sell and find it distasteful. They're either afraid to ask for business or just plain hate selling.
So how can entrepreneurs overcome their reluctance to sell? Here are five tips from Steelman, plus a few of my own:
1. Have a chat. You start conversations all the time, Steelman says, so why clam up when the person is a potential customer? Simply talk about your products and services as you would to a good friend.
2. Be inspirational and heartfelt. Recall your own "aha" moment that led you to start your business, and communicate your faith in the value you offer your customers.
3. Avoid common mistakes. Focusing too much on the product rather than on the customer's emotions, delivering the entire sales story in one big run-on monologue and trying to charm the customer into a sale are the three most common selling mistakes, Steelman says. Instead, you should listen, make the sales process enjoyable and focus on how you can meet the person's needs.
4. Make "warm" calls. Before you call a prospect, do some research on the person and find something you can both relate to. Craft an opening line based on what you perceive as his or her top challenges that discusses how your products or services would help.
5. Overcome objections. Think about what's stopping the customer from buying and what you could do to remove those objections. Entrepreneurs who are solely focused on how great they feel their product or service is should spend more time identifying the obstacles that are preventing sales.
Have a game plan. How will you market your products and services this month, and this year? Don't be scattershot about what you're doing. Make a commitment to how much and what types of marketing you will do and stick with it -- whether it's monthly in-person networking or television ads.
Ramp up passive marketing. Does your business's website rank at the top of the Google search for your key search terms, at least for your local market? If not, work with a webmaster or search engine optimization specialist to improve your rankings.
Also, be sure there's a clear way for people to subscribe to your blog or newsletter, or contact the company when they arrive at your site. Choose the single most important thing each page of your site should ask customers to do and eliminate other options so the action you want prospects to take is clear.
Maximize your social-media presence. Fully flesh out your profiles on social-media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and make sure they're packed with the key words customers use to find your type of business. A little work here and more prospects may come to you.
Do you hate selling? Tell us how you approach sales at your business.