Selling is hard and most don’t enjoy it. In this article, Mike Gastin shares his approach to selling that will turn sales into an enjoyable, ethical, and good experience for all parties.
Selling or Root Canal?
Let’s face it, it’s the rare person who enjoys selling. For most, whether selling or being sold to, we’re left with an icky feeling, like something bad just happened.
But, here’s the thing. If you’re a freelancer, work for a non-profit, are an entrepreneur, or even if you’re a career professional, you need to sell. New clients, big donors, profitable projects, and plum positions don’t just fall in our laps—we have to sell to make them happen.
In this article I’ll share my ethical and ick-free approach to sales. It’s allowed me to close tens of millions of dollars in deals with a clear conscience and the security that comes from doing good. And the great news is my approach will work for anyone that needs to sell—even you!
Roots & Fruits
To feel good about selling we need to first understand why selling makes us feel badly. You see, those feelings are there for a good reason. It’s your heart telling you that something isn’t quite right. Once we understand what’s not right we can eliminate the root cause of those feelings and move on to ick-free selling.
What isn’t right? In a word: manipulation. At the root of most sales engagements is some degree of manipulation and that what makes us feel icky.
We all know that people deserve respect—that each person has intrinsic value. This means each person is valuable regardless of any fact other than being human. It doesn’t matter if you can help me, buy my stuff, or even if you like me—you’re valuable and I need to respect your autonomy.
It’s when we disregard someone’s value and transgress their autonomy that we cross a moral line and begin to experience a crisis of conscience. This is what often happens when we’re selling. We use someone for our own gain, manipulating them in an effort to sell our product or service.
So, when we’re in a sales situation, we feel uncomfortable because we’re worried about manipulating that person, or we’re concerned that they might think we’re trying to take advantage of them.
The solution is to eliminate manipulation from our approach. Once we do this, sales becomes something much different, something that’s potentially positive and good.
You Got A Problem?
So, how do we remove manipulation from the sales process and still remain effective? It’s simple. All you have to do is to stop selling and start solving problems.
When you enter a sales engagement you have a goal in mind: to close a deal. This creates a dynamic that’s hard to escape, because your goal is to get what you want and the person you’re selling to becomes the means to your end. You can’t help but be in a manipulative mindset because you want a specific outcome.
But, when you enter the sales process as a problem solver, the dynamic is completely different. You’re focused on solving problems, which in turn makes your prospect’s life better in some way. Problem solving puts you in a position to serve the other person which is moral, ethical, and good.
This may sound simplistic, but I can assure you of three things. First, not many people approach sales in this way. Second, if you can master the art of problem solving you’ll begin to enjoy selling. Third, you will be more successful because people value problem solvers.
A Simple Process
To approach sales as a problem solver it helps to have a bit of a process. I like to use the following high-level steps.
- Solution Development
- Consensus Building
- Follow Through
Here’s a brief description of each stage.
Try to find what’s causing your prospect’s pain. What is the problem and what’s the impact the problem is having? My goal at the end of this step is to have two things: a clear problem statement and the quantified value of resolving the problem. It’s critical that my prospect agrees with the problem statement and the resolution value.
Work with your prospect to develop a solution. This is collaborative. I’m not coming back with a proposal, but am rather working through the issues with them, making suggestions, and asking questions until we arrive at a solution that we both think can solve the problem. I also make sure at this point to include a loose budget as part of the solution.
Make certain your prospect is 100% on board with the solution and proposed budget. I will also at this stage work with my prospect to help promote the solution in their organization as needed. If I don’t have consensus I don’t move forward.
Present your formal solution and prices. There should be no surprises for your prospect at this stage. They’ve been with you the whole way, having helped identify the problem, its value, the solution, and the budget. I treat a proposal as simply the formalized document that will serve as our working contract.
Follow through may look different depending on your work. For me, it’s my chance to put the trust we’ve built to good use by establishing kick off meetings, timelines, and responsibilities. This builds momentum and cements the good foundation we’ve established through the sales process.
This approach can apply to anyone. Regardless of the work you do, the people you serve have problems that need solving—be it your manager, donors, customers, or clients. Take the role of a problem solver and you’ll be able to engage the sales process with confidence and a clear conscience. You’ll be more successful and you’ll never feel icky again.