Starting up in business can be an exciting time but also a daunting time too and in the excitement of getting things going, people often overlook the obvious. Profitable sales are the lifeblood of any business and selling is a skill. Without sales there is no business and for most starting a new business there is not the funds to employ a sales person. So that said, where do you start? Accidental Salesman Richard White looks at the journey of ‘Tim’ and how he went from zero confidence in his sales ability to feeling totally in control with the confidence and excitement that he was moving closer to making his dreams a reality.

Tim had always wanted to set up his own business. He felt his IT manager job was going nowhere and when the opportunity for a redundancy package came up he jumped at it. This was his big chance to go it alone. He had been dreaming of setting up an IT support services business. This was his big chance to break free and regain the control over his life and the financial security of his family.

Fast forward a year and things were not quite working out. Tim was struggling to find enough customers to pay himself a salary. The debts were mounting up and his confidence was at an all time low. He was beginning to fear what might happen if things continued.

In every town and village throughout the country there are people like Tim struggling to keep their head above water and for many, their dream has now turned into a nightmare. What unites these people is that they would not take a sales job if it was the last on the planet and yet their livelihood is dependent on their ability to sell their services. The following 5 key areas helped Tim make a significant breakthrough and turn things around for his business and regain that lost confidence and excitement, so maybe they can help you too.

1. Gain Clarity

For many people the source of their lack of confidence is confusion over what they do. They have something valuable to offer that people need and yet everything they have tried just does not seem to work.

Often, it is simply that they are not being clear enough about who their target market is and the problems that their products and services solve. Finding one or two groups of people with specific unresolved problems that they want to fix is essential. Trying to be all things to all people makes selling incredibly hard. You will rarely see top sales people just selling their products and services to all and sundry and they know who is likely to buy and they consider selling to anyone else a total waste of time. The solution is normally quite simple and can come very quickly, but it requires the business owner to take a step back and take a totally dispassionate view about the business. It’s best to do it with someone who can play devil’s advocate and see things from the customer’s perspective. Gaining clarity in this area does give a massive boost of confidence, especially when the person tries it out for real and gets a positive response very quickly.

Tim discovered that many of his existing clients lived within a 20 mile radius and they were busy professionals who relied on the internet to do business. They liked the fact that Tim was just down the road and if they needed to drop off the equipment they could or they could pay Tim to come over and fix it. These clients were much smaller in size than Tim had been looking for and yet they were very profitable and there were lots where he lived. He created some specific packages and found his existing clients happy to move to those packages. Tim’s confidence shot up! He knew he was onto something.

2. Learn the skills

It seems ridiculous to think that someone would buy a car without first learning to drive. The natural assumption is that you would invest in some lessons. So many people start a business with no background in sales. Tim had tried to read a couple of books that guaranteed that he would ‘close that sale!’ every time. As he read the pages his heart would get heavier and heavier thinking that the only way to win customers was to manipulate people. He was sure there must be a better way. There was also such a dazzling array of information around on the internet but where should he start?

Tim read one day that finding a mentor might be a good idea – someone who is already succeeding. The suggestion was to take them to lunch and pick their brains! He tried that with a friend who he had always looked up to. His friend suggested the classic books to read and suggested that he should invest in some sales training, especially around generating leads. Rather than try and learn it all at once his friend suggested learning a little bit at a time and then applying it. Treat it like a distance learning course and gradually build the skills. Tim’s confidence again was boosted because he felt he was moving in the right direction.

3. Get Practice

Like learning any new skill, selling is a little uncomfortable at first. Most people can remember learning to drive. At first there is a lot to think about but the more practice you do the more it becomes automatic and you feel in control. The issue with sales is that people who are reluctant to sell shy away and just do not get enough practice. They do not make the mistakes that others make on the road to building up their skill level.

Emboldened by his new improved focus and what he was reading Tim started to speak to a lot more people that were interested in solving their problems. He won some and lost some but with every deal his ability increased and so did his confidence in being able to sell.

4. Expect Success

One of the books Tim was advised to read was nothing about selling at all. It was to do with the power of the mind and how what we focus on is what we get. Tim realised that previously all he had been thinking about was what would happen if he failed. This was sapping his energy. Now he started to imagine and visualise what success for him would look like. He set some goals and imagined achieving them and how that would feel. He started to do the same thing with every appointment he attended. He would imagine the meeting being successful and he felt emboldened with confidence during the meeting. He did not necessarily win every deal, no one does, but he felt great anyway!

5. Invest in yourself

This new discovery got Tim thinking that perhaps there were other things he did not know about himself and both his own mind and other people’s minds work. He developed a thirst for knowledge and the strange thing is that not only did his sales start improving as he worked on his own personal development he also found that his family life got better too. This turned out to be the best investment he ever made.

Tim took the bold decision of getting a sales coach. He had once used a fitness coach when he needed to get fit but hated to go to the gym. The coach kept him motivated and focused his attention on what he needed to do. The coach also held him accountable and got under his skin when he started shirking off. Tim could see that for him selling was like going to the gym. He wisely selected someone who was used to working with people like him and had a track record of success. He spoke to some of the coach’s clients similar to him to get a sense of what the experience was like and whether it was worth it. This was the final piece and Tim now felt like he was definitely going somewhere and he was doing what the real professionals do. It was not cheap but he quickly recovered the money in increased sales.

For many people who start in business for themselves, selling is a very emotive subject and sometimes people can feel totally in the deep end. You do not need to be a ‘born salesman’ to succeed in developing enough sales in your business and if you approach it in the same way as learning to play the piano or driving a car it becomes much more of an achievable task – only the pay is better!!

Would you like to join the next Lead Generation Masterclass, 6 July 2009 Turning Leads into Sales