Breaking and Updating the Sales Rules
This is my site Written by Alora on September 14, 2010 – 10:39 am

I had an unsettling phone call last night with a prospective client. A mutual collegue had put us in touch so that I could help him with a new web and ecommerce strategy for his business.

I thought I was getting on a call to answer specific questions about the approach I was recommending. Much to my surprise, when we got on the phone, he wanted me to explain to him why he should want an updated web and ecommerce strategy, when he considered his current solution more than sufficient.

Needless to say, I was caught by surprise and had to make a quick decision: did I try to convince him that he does need a new solution, or do I merely explain why I would be a good choice to help him if he decides he sees value in a new solution?

I made a promise to myself when I started my business last year that I was not going to try to make people feel that their current business solutions were crap merely to sell my services as a solution. If a person is ok with an entirely manual process that takes two hours, I can talk to them about ways to automate a solution, but in the end, it’s merely an option, and may not meet their needs. I refuse to presume that faster or newer is automatically better.

So I held to my guns and refused to hard sell him on the idea that he needed a new solution at all. He outlined the reasons he felt that his current solution was rock solid in the areas that he considers most important (personal touch and security), and therefore any automated, highly transactional solution I could propose would only cost him more money than he wants to spend on something he doesn’t consider important.

When I got off the phone, though, I was highly rattled. He had clearly been very annoyed at the idea that I might be implying that he didn’t have a good solution (which, technically speaking, I didn’t actually do, since I’d been recruited by a member of his team to propose an update solution), and was then even more annoyed when I did not articulate (to his satisfaction) what was “wrong” with his current solution.

But it’s forced me to go back to my rules for sales. When I started my own business, I defined these, and I have not always been good about following them, but I think it’s time to dust them off and update them a bit.

    Entrepreneur’s Sales Rule #1

  • Original Rule: Do not sell anything for less money than it costs to do/build.
  • Lesson: My time is not “free.” I’ve broken this rule too many times because “anything is better than nothing,” which is actually not usually true at all. That’s the voice of panic. Rational choices are hard to make when panic is ringing in your ears.
  • Updated Rule: Do not sell anything for less money than it costs to do/build based on my standard and acceptable hourly rate.

    Entrepreneur’s Sales Rule #2

  • Original Rule: Focus on why my solution meets their need.
  • Lesson: Defining “need” is fuzzy, inconsistent and highly subjective.
  • Updated Rule: Focus on why my solution is the best fit for a need, not convincing someone of their need.

    Entrepreneur’s Sales Rule #3

  • Original Rule: Don’t sell something that I’m not 100% confident of my ability to deliver.
  • Lesson: Confidence is something delusional, and I am no stranger to arroagance.
  • Updated Rule: Build a network and project budget that provides opportunities to enlist subject matter experts into projects to cover areas where I am not the best expert I know on any given topic.

Over the past year, I’ve broken each of these rules at least once. And in each case, I learned an important lesson. Now that the rules are updated to be more meaningful and precise, I guess we’ll see how to I the next time.

For the moment, though, even though it meant losing the job, I’m glad I toed the line last night. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds next time it happens.

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