Anyone who has ever started a service-based business knows the importance of sales. Actually, they know that sales is everything. Without it - you could have the best service, the best support, the biggest reach, the fanciest website, the coolest logo and still not be able to attract your first client. Surely there are exceptions (as with anything else in life), but these exceptions are rare.
And for a beginner entrepreneur with a service to offer, it can be very intimidating in the beginning. But let me tell you this. As difficult as it might seem, it is very possible. Even if you are an introvert & suck at sales (like me).
When I started my first successful company, Fabric Folks - I would spend days doing nothing but stare at my website thinking about all of the potential this business had. Sure, it was fun to daydream… but this wasn’t going to pay the bills. Sales was the last thing I wanted to do.
But ever since I started reaching out to companies instead of waiting for them to come to me, things have gotten much better in terms of the financials.
It really wasn’t easy since this does not come naturally to me.
And it still is the biggest struggle I face with this business… but alas, I learnt a few things along the way when it comes to selling your service when you suck at sales… so hopefully you’ll be able to learn a thing or two from all of my mistakes.
Here we go.
A - It’s All A Numbers Game
Before we jump into some of the more actionable points, I think that it should be made clear that when it comes to sales… it pretty much is all a numbers game.
All sales people know this.
And what this means is that the more people you reach out to, the higher the chances you have of getting more work. That simple. No one has ever been able to reach out to a handful of people they want to work with and get them all onboard.
A great way to think about this is that if you are able to convince three out of every ten people you ‘pitch’ to set up a meeting… and then one out of the three converts to a customer… this means that for every ten you reach out to you’ll get one client.
So if your goal is to work with five people a month, you’ll have to reach out to fifty people every single month. It’s not easy, and perhaps you might have to lower standards a little… but the truth is that there’s a lot of money in big numbers.
But it’s the truth.
It’s all a numbers game, don’t forget that.
B - Free Trial = Money
When it comes to selling, you need to remember that you are asking someone to take their hard earned cash out of their own pockets and to put that money into yours. It sounds crazy. And nobody in the history of the world has ever wanted less money. Well, maybe a few. But that’s besides the point...
What I am trying to say here is that it’s really not easy to get people to pay you. Sure - they might listen to your pitch, tell you it’s a good idea and offer you some advice… but getting them to give you money is a whole other ball-game.
I realised this very early on with Fabric Folks, and in order to combat this problem (because I already knew I had a damn good service that worked) I decided to give it away for free for anyone who was even remotely interested in working with us.
So now, before we take on anyone as a client… we give them a full seven day free trial in order to show them just how awesome our product is and how much it can change their Facebook page if they decide to continue working with us long-term.
If you have a great product that does an awesome job, give it away for free. You’ll make it much easier for them to pay you once they’ve already seen it work, because in their minds… it’s like… ‘Ok, this is free. We’ve got nothing to lose’.
When you ask for money first, they be like...
‘Hmmm, no no no… I like my money!’.
Show them what your service can do first, then charge them.
C - Sell To The Right People
Another rookie mistake I made when starting out was reaching out to the wrong people. This was a huge mistake! And when I realised that I wasn’t getting any response from any of the emails I sent out… it made me doubt my entire business.
Thankfully I realised that you need to reach out to the right people.
In any business or organization, there might be anywhere from a few hundred to thousands upon thousands of people working there… so there are many different types of people who have different roles and might not care about your service…
… simply because it’s not in their particular department.
So instead of finding the generic company email address and sending them your pitch (which they’ll ignore), you need to find the exact person who might actually need what you are trying to sell and to email them personally and professionally.
As an example, when I’d reach out to the support people I almost always got turned down. But since my service is in the ‘marketing’ sector… when I reached out to the one or two people who were in charge of marketing for the company I was reaching out to… response was better… and most agreed to give me a chance.
Sure, it takes more work because you have to figure out the right people to talk to… their email address, etc… but this also means you’ll be given the opportunity to draft a more personal email to someone who might actually give a damn.
Whatever it is you are selling, figure out the right person at the right department and send them a sincere and personal email.
This is what has worked best for me.
D - Friends Of Friends Matter
It’s never easy trying to sell to someone who might be out of your league. And when you’re starting out with very little money, influence, or any sort of a reputation… the chances of them giving you a chance is honestly very low.
But here’s the good news...
Friends of friends matter.
Let me explain...
When I wanted to reach out to and work with a hot shot marketer I admire, one who could potentially bring a lot of business my way if I did well - instead of reaching out to him directly… I decided to work on one of his side-project run by someone else. I knew that if I could do a good job on this particular project, it would surely catch his attention… and who knows… if my service is good enough then maybe he’d reach out to me and we could work together.
That is exactly what happened.
Now of course, this is a long shot. But definitely worth the risk.
If there’s someone you’d like to ‘sell’ your product or service to… someone way out of your league… try and find someone they know or follow who is less influential and reach out to that person. Work for them for free (that’s what I did) and there’s a good chance that the person you initially wanted to notice just might.
Trust me, it really sucks when you have to work for free (especially if you have people to pay) but the truth is that if your reputation just isn’t at the level where it should be… then you need to make small sacrifices like these to make it happen.
E - Do They Really Need You?
Finally, before reaching out to anyone you need to be super honest with yourself.
Do they really need your product or service?
Sure it’s cool to run your own business, but before any of this you need to make sure that you are able to offer something that will genuinely help those you’re pitching. Otherwise, why would they even give you the time of day?
I really do believe that the main reason why Fabric Folks is working out is because I am offering something that is both completely different from anything out there and works really well for the people I am trying to attract.
I only reach out to people with massive Facebook followings that get very low engagement rates… with the promise that I can make sure their Facebook page gets all of the love that it deserves.
And we constantly deliver on that promise.
Our free trial proves that, and I guarantee each and every single person that I reach out to that our posts will do much better than anything they have ever done.
If not, then they don’t have to work with us.
So before you start to get your hands dirty with sales, start with the problem at hand first... come up with a solid solution… and then go crazy by applying some of the things I’ve shared above, or some of the things you’ve come to learn as well.
I guess that’s about it.
It’s taken me a very long time to get in the habit of trying to sell.
It does not come natural to me, and am still too small to be able to afford someone to take on this role. Writing about what I’ve learnt has helped me come up with new ideas, but even more importantly… I know there are many people out there who struggle with this as much as me - and I just wanted to share what I’ve learnt.
Hopefully it can help one or two people who are on the same path.
And since I know that there’s so much more that can be done here... I’d love to hear from you guys as well... what has been the most effective thing you do when it comes to selling? What has worked and what hasn’t?
What can you teach us?