Need a pep talk for someone new to promotions and sales
January 11, 2014 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Help! I'm crippled with anxiety over promoting our business and selling our services!! Looking for tips and tricks from seasoned sales professionals.

My husband and I recently opened a new business and in order to be successful, we will have to do some self promotion and sales so local people and businesses know about us. I knew I wasn't very good or comfortable with this, but I figured I could learn it and since I'm so passionate about our business, I wasn't too worried about it.

Fast forward a couple of months and one thing I've learned about myself is not only am I "not very good" at self promotion and sales, I'm close to crippled with anxiety about it! I did not expect this reaction! I just got a prescription for Xanax hoping that will help!

I'm hoping to hear from seasoned sales people who can gives me tips on how to open the conversation, how to psych myself up to talk to people cold, how to get the right people on the phone in order to set up meetings, etc. In the very short term, all I want to do is drop off flyers at local businesses and I can't stop worrying that as soon as I walk in the door, they will think I'm selling something and they'll turn me away.

I know I'm being ridiculous, but I can't stop the negative thoughts. I really need a crash course in sales!!

Can anyone help? Are there any helpful books I can read? Websites? Podcasts?

Thank you!!
posted by SheIsMighty to Work & Money (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I used to sell cars and the things I used to get psyched up were movies like Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, etc.

Also check out sales-related motivational speakers like Grant Cardone (insane Scientologist but a hell of a salesman)
posted by Hiding From Goro at 2:54 PM on January 11, 2014

It sounds like you have enthusiasm and you believe in your product or offering - that's a first step many salespeople never have for products or offerings.

Take that enthusiasm and remember first that sales is a percentage game. I hate to use a sports analogy, but it's so fitting: the All Star batters in the major leagues strike out around 7/10 times. With sales, you need to be ready for a "no" when approaching a prospect, and what you really want to do is confirm if they really mean it. Sometimes they mean "not right now." Sometimes they mean "I don't know you."

"No" actually can mean any number of things. Work to anticipate and accept "no" as an answer, and be prepared to respond to it.

Without knowing your industry or offering, it's hard to give specific advice, but here are some question:
-How do you get prospects?
-How do similar companies sell that product/service?
-Who are your competitors, and how do you compare as a company?
-What do you know is important to your customers? (Many times, there's no blanket, all encompassing important note you can hit for all customers. Often, good salespeople know to get to know their individual customers personally and then that's where they learn the real objections).

I'm happy to talk or email things through - just MeMail me. I don't know how much exactly I can help, but definitely knowing more about your company and industry might be beneficial.

And take heart that you want to find the right answers. Many people don't even care to try and find new ways to do things. They just keep banging their heads agains walls and praying for different results.
posted by glaucon at 3:06 PM on January 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

One of my old mentors used to tell me: "You've already got the 'no', why not try for the 'yes'?"

(The idea being, the answer is always 'no' if you don't put yourself out there to see what happens).

Part of getting good at sales is learning to be comfortable with rejection- part of that is learning to be comfortable with what you're saying to people. Good salespeople don't sound cheesy or gimicky, they take the time to understand their customer, understand their customer's business (assuming this is b2b), understand how their customers make money, and understand how their (i.e. your) product or service can help your customer's business grow (or make someone's life better/more enoyable). Be honest with yourself and with your customer!

Re: the anxiety - IT'S NATURAL! Everyone feels like that sometimes! The trick is learning how to turn your focus away from yourself and towards your business and/or your customers.

My thoughts are a little scrambled and probably not 100% coherent right now. It's Saturday night. I'd really like to help you in any way I can though, feel free to PM me and we can set up a better conversation.
posted by stinkfoot at 4:36 PM on January 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd also be happy to help you. I'm very good at sales now, so many years after being crestfallen when someone hung up the phone on me (after I was terrified to even pick up and dial the phone - now I actually quite enjoy it). I can help you with your sales pitch and even do some role play so you can practice. Practice, both in role play and real life, is the only way to get comfortable and get better at it.
posted by Dansaman at 6:49 PM on January 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Guerilla Selling by Wilson, Gallagher, and Levinson is a good place to start. It's a classic book on the subject of sales, and based on your post it sounds like you will be doing a lot of phone and face-to-face.

Secrets of Closing The Sale by Zig Ziglar is another classic. Also, his tapes and videos are inspirational to many salespeople.

Detailed advice would depend on specific factors. It might be qualifying your prospects. It might be distinguishing yourself from the competition. It might be educating people about what you can offer.

As for general advice, however, remember that you don't have to be perfect in order to be successful in sales. You can go far by listening, staying organized, and maintaining a positive attitude. Never stop prospecting and always be ready to make one more call.

Good luck!
posted by 99percentfake at 7:08 PM on January 11, 2014

2nd Dansaman on the roleplaying! It may feel silly at first but it's an effective practice tool and will make you more comfortable in actual sales situations.

It's also good to come up with an "elevator speech". You're on an elevator with someone for 15-20 seconds - how do you tell them about what you do clearly and concisely? (This is more for walk-ins and cold-calls than for actual elevators).
posted by stinkfoot at 7:47 AM on January 12, 2014

I work in sales, but I'm a sales engineer with a background in software development. Until I did customer-facing stuff, I was very shy and did not handle rejection well. My mind was always consumed with "what-if" questions -- What if they get mad I called them with a sales call, what if they throw me out of the office, what if they tell me off, etc etc.

After having done sales for many years now, I can tell you that the "what if" questions in the mind are ALWAYS worse than what actually happens. People don't scream at you just because you promoted something or asked for a favor to post a flyer in their business. It just doesn't happen that way. Once you can get past the mental block, that's 80% of the challenge.

Two examples. I used to be mortified by turbulence while flying. Any bumps would cause me to grip the armrests for dear life. But when I transitioned to sales, and got on an airplane multiple times a week, I realized I really needed to do something about this. So I started studying and learning about what turbulence was, everything about it, the physics, and so forth. Guess what? I learned that turbulence doesn't cause crashes. Like, ever. So pretty soon after that I could relax for the most part because no matter how "scared" I was, I knew in the back of my mind that it was fine. I got past the mental block, and it really made a huge difference.

Second example. I am involved with the Oregon Symphony and will occasionally make calls to local businesses for donations for events and fundraisers we are doing. Early on, I made a list of 15 businesses to call on. I was so nervous that they were going to reject me, hang up on me, whatever, that I literally could not even pick up the phone. But in a moment on confidence, I literally forced myself to make those calls over lunch one day. Guess what? It was fine!!! Most people were polite, honestly interested, and wanted to help me out. I only got one donation out of the 15, but it was fine!! It was a mental block only.

Most of the local businesses you are wanting to put up flyers are in the same boat you are -- they too need to promote their businesses! It's ok.

I wish you the best of luck, the skills you develop by challenging yourself with this will be worth it!
posted by Piano Raptor at 12:52 PM on January 12, 2014

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