Most small-business owners are more concerned with plying their trades than selling their services.
That’s the conclusion Michael Gerber reaches in his seminal book “The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” (Harper Business, 1990). The “E-Myth” is the false notion that it’s entrepreneurs who start most of America’s businesses.
Rather, Gerber writes, most businesses founders are good at a certain craft but fail to quality as entrepreneurs because they are ignorant or even suspicious of sales and marketing. He calls these people “technicians.”
If technicians fear sales, they are in better company than they may know. I spoke recently to an ad agency staffer who said the work she does for a major client centers entirely on building a certain perception of its brand; she insisted this work has nothing to do with sales.
I realize things that are clear at the small-business level (like the ostensible connection between advertising and sales) become diffuse in corporations, but I have to imagine the client in question would be troubled to learn its ad agency is indifferent to moving units.
Gerber’s writing, my conversation with the ad agency staffer, and my experience working with hundreds of small-business owners leads me to believe many who ought to embrace sales fear or loathe it.
“Selling is the asking of appropriate questions so that your prospective client determines for himself or herself that he or she needs what you offer.”
If you are among those who suffer from sales-phobia, I’d like you to consider this quote from marketing consultant Frank Kern: “Understand that no matter what you’re doing, even if you want to be a ballplayer, a rapper, a movie star — nothing happens until something gets sold. Ever. The reason actors make so much money is because their face sells the [expletive] movie tickets. It’s not about their ability to act.” I learned of this snippet of Kern’s thoughts when Michael Ellsberg quoted it in his book, “The Education of Millionaires” (Penguin Group, 2011).
In Ellsberg’s book, Kern continues: “The key to making money, and therefore living a life of less stress, is to cause someone to joyfully give you money in exchange for something that they perceive to be of greater value than the money they gave you.”
Kern’s comments lack subtlety, but they contain a glut of useful guidance. If you believe your product or service is useful and could even delight your potential customers, why balk at selling it?
Granted, even the best of offerings fail to please everybody. But the sales process — if executed correctly — can address this. “Selling is the asking of appropriate questions so that your prospective client determines for himself or herself that he or she needs what you offer,” writes author Sandy Schussel in his book, “Become a Client Magnet”(Robert D. Reed Publishers, 2009).
If you believe Schussel — and I do — you realize the process by which you sell something should never impose or intimidate; rather, it should educate. And if you’re doing it really well, it should give your prospective customer the chance to share the problems she faces and feel relieved when she finds your offering can solve these problems.
In such a situation, the customer may well give you her money “joyfully,” as Kern says. When this happens a few times, you will warm to sales, begin thinking of ways to attract more clients, and embark on the path toward turning your business into a powerhouse.