Why is it that some people seem to be naturals at selling, while others struggle to close every sale or even fail completely in a role that requires them to sell? In 1982, psychologist Martin Seligman, PhD, set out to answer that question for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Seligman had been studying optimism and pessimism in the laboratory for almost twenty years when Met Life heard about his research. Could Seligman help them learn how to hire more effective salespeople, they asked?
As it turned out, he could. In a series of studies for Met Life that analyzed the relationship between successful selling and the personality of the salesperson, Seligman confirmed in the field what his laboratory research had predicted — optimists make more sales than pessimists.
The fear of hearing those words when marketing your professional services can stop you in your tracks. It’s the response you may most dread hearing when you make a sales pitch: “You? You think I should hire you? Well, who do you think you are?”
In reality, potential clients rarely say anything quite so confronting. Most people are polite and considerate when they decline to do business with you. But the real replies you hear from prospects are often a lesser obstacle to your success than the responses you imagine in advance. The negative reactions you think you might get can prevent you from saying anything at all.
Unless you’re literally hiding under a rock, if you’re in business and have any clients at all, you’re doing something that qualifies as marketing. People tend to fall into two camps: those who are doing more marketing than they realize, and those who are doing less than they think.
Which camp do you fall into?
As an aside, for our purposes we’re defining marketing as getting the word out about your business, it’s services and benefits, to potential customers so that you can have a sales conversation with them and hopefully close the sale. Marketing creates opportunities to have sales conversations.
When thinking about the best way to get new business, it’s often good to remember that contacting a prospect directly can be the most effective tactic. However, this can sometimes seem too scary: the thought of picking up the phone, or meeting someone for coffee, or even sending an email can send a wave of fear through your business heart.
Here are some common fears you might experience when considering reaching out to someone directly:
- They’ll think I’m bothering them.
- I don’t know what to say.
- I’m not a good salesperson.
- I’m an introvert.
- I’m not good with words.
- They won’t remember me.
- I’m not sure how to make an offer.
A question I often get from clients and students goes something like this: “I’ve been collecting marketing ideas… and I have a drawer full! I also have a stack of promising leads I’ve accumulated. And I know it’s important to stay visible, so I keep marketing, but then I just end up with more names in the stack. How do I prioritize all this?”
If you’ve ever wondered something similar, you may have lost sight of a very important truth — the way to win the business game is not to collect the most leads; it’s to make the most sales.
“So that’s what I have to offer you, Mr. Prospect. What do you think?”
“Well, Ms. Professional, I’d like to think about it.”
“Okay, may I call you next week?”
Does this dialogue sound at all familiar? Yet another sales conversation is ending with a stall from the prospective client. Is he actually interested in hiring you, or was that just a polite way to say no? What exactly is it that he wants to think about?