How to Sell Anything
Without Being EvilConway Daily Sun, April 28, 2010
By Michael Kline, the Entreprenologist
All sales people are evil, selling skills are the devils work, and there awaits, a special place in hell for people who recruit sales people and teach sales skills to others. Ironically, the people who are closest to agreeing with this view point often work in sales and don’t know it. Oh, you know who you are – you work in a business office, medical or legal office, retail store, food service, hotel, attraction, or you work in customer service and you don’t like sales and don’t want to be called a salesperson. First, let’s clear the air before we argue semantics because we have differing views on what it means to be “selling” something. A properly trained, professional sales person establishes what their customer needs, then uses their products or services to see if they can find a solution to the customer’s problem. Sounds like a doctor, therapist or consultant to me! That’s why we sometimes call it “consultative selling”. The successful salesperson knows they must always provide more in value than they take in money from their customer. That’s a difficult principle for some to grasp, but it is the shortest path to happiness and riches. A salesperson should never be a pushy, aggressive, manipulative con-artist trying to make people buy something the neither want nor need; rather quite the opposite.Let’s dispel some more negative perceptions about sales. We all have wildly different personality types, communication styles and strong biases toward our way of thinking. A passive communicator, who just wants to make everyone happy, may dislike or even fear an aggressive salesperson. The aggressive (as opposed to the appropriately assertive) salesperson is not evil, but they may be misguided and do a disservice to their company whether they succeed in selling something or not.However, a customer with a strong personality, wanting bottom-line answers to make a buying decision is just as underserved by the merchant so afraid to be pushy, they won’t help him buy.You can’t help a customer who won’t tell you what they want. They won’t tell you what they really want until you engage them and establish some trust. This is fair and reasonable in our cynical world, but it is difficult to intelligently engage if you don’t speak the same language. You will not recognize even major points of the customer needs, much less small clues that hint at what the customer is really looking for. When we have different personality and communication styles, we are speaking different “languages”. Fortunately, unlike my CD-Rom French lessons, these languages are easily learned (Hint: and taught in my seminars). We need to learn our own communication styles and learn to recognize our customer’s styles to speak their language to be of the highest possible service to them.No one loves to be sold, but everyone loves to buy. A professional salesperson will help, counsel and guide but never push; they are honest, trustworthy and deserving of the customer’s business. Yes, it may feel like walking a tight rope since it is technically your job to convince a customer to buy. Sales training is about learning the process of Service-First selling; the art of intelligent engagement, trust building and providing more value than you take in payment. If this is done properly, the prospect should come to the same conclusion you do and not need cajoling. In truth, “the close” is a step in the process you don’t need if the earlier part of the process is well executed.Because selling is a process, to increase sales, we need only to identify which step(s) of the sales process need improvement. Fortunately, we have a management system to help us pinpoint the opportunity for increase, whether you are targeting the wrong prospects or too few prospects, or if it is the product, its price, or a lack of follow-up, etc. Many sales people think they closed a sale, but then it falls apart; this is almost totally avoidable with the proper sales system in place. Just about anyone can learn this process and provide the Service-First sales experience for their customers and create more success for themselves.According to the IBM Institute, companies who win have “simple goals repeatedly revisited, together with clear target and strong follow-through, including the measurement of results”. Large organizations provide this support and structure. If you don’t have the luxury of educational and motivational sales meetings, or frequent sales training and re-training, constant improvement is a lonely and difficult mission.To help fill this void for the independent local business, I have created two resources – seminars and Mastermind groups. For seminars, I recommend Service-First Sales Remedies and Advanced Sales and Management. Then, consider joining one of our Mastermind Groups forming this summer for a weekly meeting with peers from non-competing businesses to keep your continuing education and motivation going. The next seminar is scheduled in N. Conway on June 22nd. Reserve a seat online at www.klineseminars.com.With the possible exception of the woman who attacked me with cologne at the mall last week, sales people are no more or less likely to be evil than anyone else. Help abolish the too passive or too aggressive sales problems by getting yourself and your staff trained in Service-First Selling.
The Artist as a Business Person
Poking Some Fun at Both Sides of the Brain
Conway Daily Sun
Wed. April 21, 2010
By Michael Kline
We’re lucky to live in a beautiful place full of painters, potters, photographers and craftspeople of all kinds. I’ve been lucky enough to counseled many of them on the business aspects of their lives and found that most fit into one of three categories – Rock, Paper or Scissors.
The rock is committed, strong-willed, won’t change for any reason, lives for their art, works nights to pay only some of their bills so they can paint during the light of day, probably a vegan, communist, tree-hugging, hiker who detests all commercial progress and technology, but can’t be a minute away from Facebooking on their I-Phone - the easiest way to be with a crowd and not have to see a lot of people. They amaze everyone with their talent and wit, but they can barely count, much less understand their costs, pricing structures and gallery consignment contracts. They would be rich and famous if only someone would discover them, but they would never lower themselves to put their work on display at an art show, or local retailer to test the market.
Paper – You got it, paper trumps rock, at least in business terms, because this artist vacillates between talented artist and skilled salesperson. They use both sides of their brain to understand the marketplace and bend their skills to provide subject matter for which there is a market. This doesn’t mean they have to paint children’s portraits or local mountain scenes for tourists; they also can work to find a market for their subject matter. The biggest difference is they understand that selling their work is not “selling out”. Those who cannot sell enough of their original work for large sums, learn that selling reproductions is also not “selling-out” and it expands their market and pays the bills so they can pursue their craft.
Scissors – Annihilates paper when it comes to business – This artist cuts through the heart of a “real” artist by selling everything. Licensing is big these days – getting your art printed on everything from t-shirts to coasters to cutting boards can be the road to riches. These capitalists love structure and rules – maybe they went to catholic school and probably learned their skills in art school rather than experimenting with hallucinogens. They may or may not be expressing their deepest emotions in every work, but they work hard to produce a quality product and spend much of their time marketing themselves and their work to corporations. Their real artist friends (in the unlikely event they have any) will call them greedy sell-out hacks and break the scissors with their “rock”.
Now that we’ve had some fun picking on artists, the truth is there are no categories that sum up actual real people. Everyone, especially an artist, is an individual capable of choosing any path they like. However, most artists tend to put themselves into some limiting stereotype. Most of us have a tendency to prefer using one side of our brain over another, but we can all learn to use both sides to strike a little more balance in our lives. Rather than making disempowering statements like “I’m no good at math”, or “I’m no good at systems”, try “I have to learn some math skills” or “I’m working on getting better systems” or ask the empowering question “How can I get better at____” and prepare for powerful answers to come your way.
To prepare for those answers, I encourage all my artist friends (if I still have any) to consider business seminars you might think don’t apply to you. Truthfully, the skills are very similar for any profession – the chef, the hairdresser, the lawyer, the dentist and the artist all needs to learn business skills to run the business that supports their work. They get their power by understanding the need for systems for planning, financing, managing people or subcontractors, making sales, quoting prices, client fulfillment, meeting deadlines, record keeping, and so one.
Most people who don’t like this part of business could discipline themselves to learn it, if they just stop saying they can’t do it. They can and it doesn’t have to hurt – that’s why I became an Entreprenologist. To support my mission to help local businesses be more successful, I’m offering a series of small business seminars this summer. Don’t be left out. If you’re an artists, chef, dentist, surgeon, logger, blogger or programmer, visit www.klineseminars.com for a complete catalog and reserve a seat.
Michael Kline is a local retailer and Business Success Coach. He may be reached through his website www.klineseminars.com or email email@example.com
Loving Your Work
A Romance Worth Pursuing
Conway Daily Sun April 7, 2010
By Michael KlineAny job can be fulfilling, fun and fruitful, or demeaning, depressing and debt-inducing. If you’ve seen an episode of Undercover Boss, you know what I mean – watching employees cheerfully cleaning port-a-potties with gratitude for example. The show is full of examples of people with a different reference about work; both good and bad. Reality (if there is such a thing), doesn’t matter near as much as your frame of reference for how things are or appear to be. If you’re unemployed, a lousy job might be a motivator because it satisfies an immediate need. However, once a need is satisfied, it is no longer a motivator. Money alone does not motivate a person who is financially comfortable. A bigger title without the authority and responsibility to go with it does not satisfy a person who needs to grow personally or financially. In the long list of things that motivate people, I think their frame of reference drives more decisions than anything else. We can simply change our frame of reference or model of the world if life isn’t going the way we want. I’m not saying to decide to like what you have. I’m saying be grateful for what you have and work with what you’ve got to get what you want. Let’s say your life was going along just fine ; you did all the things expected of you, finished school, got married, bought a house, had the kids, worked hard, saved when you could, maybe you even started your own business. Then the world changed – you were employed by a company that doesn’t need you now, or customers don’t care about the little guy anymore, your kids hardy need you and your spouse is a jerk. Maybe you’re a service person serving a throw-away society that would rather buy new than have you fix something. What can you do? What’s the frame of reference or model in your mind that tells you what to do? If you’ve come to a negative conclusion about your situation, that is completely understandable; after all, you have reasonable evidence that supports your conclusion. Your frame of reference however, does not need to be based exclusively on your limited personal experience. Other people doing the same things you do, have different experiences and can prove a completely different frame of reference to be just as true as yours. Consider how people use statistics to support their claim to be factually true – you can almost always find more statistics to prove the opposite is also true. So you can use someone else’s frame of reference, which is just as true as yours, to get you going in a positive direction. Your current situation, even if it appears bleak, provides some hidden opportunity to contribute in some way to advance your personal goals. Force yourself to look for the silver lining in every negative situation - no matter how small, it’s always there. Then ask yourself how you can use the situation to accomplish what you want, and go to work on learning what you need to know to be ready to act on the answer when it comes rushing at you. I promise it will.Michael Kline is a local retailer and Business Success Coach. He may be reached through his website www.klineseminars.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org