BlogHer U: Pitching and Pricing -- If You Want to Make This Your Business, You Have to Be a Salesperson with Joanne Tombrakos

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Pitching and Pricing: If You Want to Make This Your Business You Have to Be a Salesperson
Joanne Tombrakos

When you say "sell," all kinds of uncomfortable things come up: Pushy, intrusive, uncool. But you have to sell; there's no way around it.

We envision Herb from WKRP in Cincinnati or Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. Cheesy or miserable. But you have to sell. Or the "coffee is for closers" scene with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. But you have to sell.

I spent 25 years actually selling for a living. I want to reframe and give you different ideas of what selling really looks like and you'll see you're already doing a lot of these things.

All those images above? All men. Until recently women weren't selling professionally (except "the oldest profession," which isn't quite the same.) But as women your natural skills make you better salespeople. Things you do every day make you a great salesperson, except for the fact that you don't like the work.

Salespeople are storytellers. Selling is persuasion. Salespeople are problem solvers and detectives -- getting to what the problem is and telling how your business is going to fix that. You're selling every day.

Everything I learned in my very first job selling radio time in the 80s has prepared me for today; I'm a creative entrepreneur. I didn't get the job because I knew what I was doing or because I got a degree in sales. (I was a trained teacher; selling is education -- if you're teaching in public school you're selling something every day.) I got because I had a lot of passion and determination, two essential skills to sell. (I also got it because the only woman on the sales force had left so I had an advantage.)

I would like to tell you I was a rockstar out of the box. I wasn't. It was awful the first year. All the realities of selling hit home. They were asking me to call strangers out of the phone book and make appointments with them, to ask people for money. Really terrifying. About six months in, I wasn't making money, going into debt. They switched the product -- to a country music format, in Philadelphia, in the '80s. Nobody thought it would work. I had no passion for the music. We would go to concerts to try to gauge the customer.

I wasn't making my numbers, but at one conference my bosses read me the riot act. But they didn't fire me. They said I had what it took, I knew how to be around people. And I turned it around. But what I learned still serves me today.

8 Tips That Sales Pros Know

1) Good selling is storytelling.

Nobody is really sold on anything; they're engaged in the story. This is what bloggers do all day long. Engaging people on your blogs is the same as engaging them in their story, until you get to the point they're ready to lay down money. Marketing is the presell, leads up to that point (the "close")

2) How to listen.

Twitter is not just about talking. If you're using it right, to your advantage, it's about listening.

3) To be an expert in their art.

I call it art because I'm a big Seth Godin fan -- he refers to your work as an art, and you're an entrepreneur. We're passionate. It's more than just a business. And you need to be an expert -- not just in what you're doing but also in what your competition is doing. If you don't know, you're not comfortable, and if you're uncomfortable, that's when selling gets scary.

4) To believe in the value of their art.

Authenticity is key. Selling is considered plastic but you genuinely believe in what you do and what you're selling.

5) Not to be afraid to ask.

2000 years of subjugation, we were told to not open our mouths. It's still hard to ask, and to ask for money.

Question: I ask a lot of questions at work. The guys don't necessarily see that as a positive, it shows weakness.

Answer: Men pretend to know everything. They pretend to know much better than we do. Asking is a good thing if someone things you're asking too much they're wrong.

6) To create opportunities.

We have to go out there. It's not just going to come to us. Something can come out of left field; consider that the universe giving us an assist.

7) Numbers count.

The number of calls you make will return the number of sales you make. You have to get past the fear.

Question: Setting goals, keeping metrics, how do you stay focused?

Answer: You have to be organized. You can use tools like Salesforce. You can play games with yourself with an hour on the egg timer to focus on doing nothing but follow-ups. So many people don't take the time to follow up when they want something from me.

Question: What would you never do for sales?

Answer: Take the time to learn about the person you're meeting, and that's so easy online. Being unprepared is something I'd never do. Or pulling out your sales deck before making a connection -- death by deck.

Question: When I started I was told if I didn't have 500 people on the list of potential paying clients I had a hobby not a business, because only 1% of potentials will buy.

Answer: The tennis analogy. You want to get really good at your serve. You don't take one lesson and hit three balls and say you're better now and be done. Sales is just lots and lots of practice.

8) To detach from the outcome.

We get so attached to how it's going to turn out -- "I have to get this sale." You have to know you're not going to close every sale, and that's OK. There are a thousand sports analogies I could use for sales, even though I'm not a sports person. It's a game; it's also an art. It's not a science. You can't always pinpoint what's going to happen, but you have to be willing to play the game.

Question: I had heard a formula to look for the no's - you get a certain number of no's and then something happens.

Answer: There are no formulas, but "no" is a good thing. Maybe is what you don't want' it's limbo. With "no" you can ask "how come?"

Question: I have been approached by companies who want to sell for me and say they can magically bring in business. Do these magical people exist?

Answer: There's no magic. If there's an affiliate who says they can make sales, they want a piece of your business, and if you're willing to do that, great. Be clear about your brand and your product and your audience and look for those fits, and believe in it. It's not magic.

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