Hard-Selling is Dead: On Starting Online Businesses

small business
by Cherie Tan

When I talk about starting online businesses, my clients’ first reaction to this is to imagine setting up Squarespace Inc. websites or their first Shopify accounts, signing up for a dependable web hosting service or tinkering around with their email marketing automation and overall digital marketing strategies. While the process of starting an online business does include this technical “backend” part, it’s not the only thing you need to do, and neither is it the only thing you ought to focus time, effort, and attention to.

Running any business—online or offline—requires much more than the actual “hands-on, backend” work you imagined yourself to do, and quickly becomes managing people and building business relationships.

On Building Relationships—instead of going for the “hard-sell”

Here’s a case I’ve handled. The names and business services have been changed for anonymity.

Carmen wanted to build her sales agency into a sales empire. A company whose main business was to become the sales department of every startup in the world. Carmen dreamt big. But Carmen’s actions didn’t align with her goals and dreams.

First, Carmen quit her job before validating her business idea. She took an enormous and uncertain risk by leaving her comfort zone before she ensured that she had a solution to problems which people would pay for to be solved.

Second, Carmen spent days working on her website, telling her freelancer to change her business logo, name, tagline, color schemes and copy multiple times.

Third, she spent days crafting her script for her cold calls she was going to make?—?the same script she would be using for every company she plans to call. She spent approximately zero hours researching on the leads she’s found, and proceeded to call her leads, looking to either close a deal or set up a meeting to close a deal.

Carmen spent weeks and arranged a whopping two meetings, and closed zero deals. What’s more startling was that she had built zero relationships with any of these businesses she’s sought out to find. Carmen was confused and didn’t understand why her weeks of hard work and sales pitches weren’t resulting in anything. It left her feeling puzzled and extremely discouraged. That’s when Carmen reached out to me for advice and help.

Carmen acknowledged making several common mistakes new entrepreneurs make?—?not validating business ideas, spending time and effort and money on the business “backend” (websites, email automation, social media, etc.) before validating a business idea, and sticking to the hard-sell during the cold call.

Unfortunately, she ardently believed that her hard-sell, cold call script would help turn leads into customers.

    “It worked for me when I was working as a sales executive in the company I worked for previously—it will work today.”

Instead of focusing on building quality relationships and bringing her authentic self to the table, she believed that the fault lies in her leads.

    “Perhaps I’m not reaching out to the right people. Why won’t they want to buy from me?”

Just to be clear, I’m not implying that the cold call is dead?—?but rather, the hard-sell is dead. I do cold-calling and door-knocking, even today. But I don’t push for a sale within the first five minutes of the meeting, and especially not if all five minutes were taken up by me, talking about what my business is all about, who I’ve helped, and how much my services would cost you.

Authenticity and the willingness to forge and build relationships in business or when building a community is essential. Simply put, being authentic means staying true to who you are, your mission, and who you serve. Whether you’re looking to build a business or grow a community of creatives, authenticity and reliability will go a longer way than hard-selling.

By bringing the human element into the conversation, you build your identity and image into something influential, elevate your business above your competition, and encourages engagement.

Building relationships with your customers also encourage customer retention and long-term monetization. It also helps turn your audiences into advocates, and help them remember you when their friend needs a recommendation for a service your business can provide. The list goes on.
Why relationship -building is more important than ever because of the Internet

    When the internet gave consumers the keys to information, it broke the traditional sales tactics.—Sam Mallikarjunan

 Sam Mallikarjunan article “The closer is dead, long live the listener.”

The Internet gave your customers power to do their research on your company?—?or the services which your business provides?—?to identify what their problems and needs are, and browse through various solutions which they would be able to compare and consider. As a small business owner, you often find yourself as the “chief of everything”?—?sales included.

Because the power of information now lies in the hands of your leads, prospects and customers, your job when you wear your sales hat on is not to convince them of what they need?—?they know what they need.

Be their trusted adviser and friend. Listen and understand what they need, hear them talk you through their problems, and solutions which they’ve been looking at and trying.

Educate—not sell—them on how they can benefit with your product, and how they could find a solution for what they need in your offering. Throw some gimmicky sales technique in there, and you’ll find yourself repelling your prospects instantly.

Don’t become that person everyone avoids at the party.

This trend is not going away. With Carmen, we’re working on ways in which she can move beyond that mindset of closing deals with one pushy sales call based on the same pitch used over and over again to something more fulfilling and productive, helping her boost her motivation and mood, and build good relationships with her prospects and network.

Have you sent a cold-call or email recently? What was that like for you, and how did it turn out? Share your experience with me in the comments section below.

About the Author: Cherie Tan (@cherietanjy) helps entrepreneurs build better businesses. She is also an advocate formore accessible, quality education around the world. In 2017, Cherie spoke about Education Technology (#edtech) implementation at Frontiers and Innovations in Technology, Manila. 

Originally posted on Cherietan.com.

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