Changing Your Perspective Makes Sales Easier – and More Successful
June 8, 2021
By Lynne Golodner, originally featured in SBAM’s FOCUS on Business magazine
ave you ever felt awkward about sales? Like you sounded desperate, or demanding? Or worried that it would turn people off if you asked them to purchase something?
A lot of people are uncomfortable with the concept of selling, believing you either have a knack for it or you don’t. I disagree. Selling is all about perspective.
While the last year has been tumultuous and turned many businesses upside down, it’s not necessarily a global pandemic that has altered the landscape of business sales. Some businesses have thrived in the past year because they’ve pivoted or assumed a new perspective in the essential aspects of what they offer. They’ve come to a new understanding of what is possible, and who they want to be in the marketplace. They have taken this time of great change to reinvent, to see new opportunities, to rethink what they assumed was true.
Many businesses can transcend the natural flux of the times by changing their sales approach to one based on relationships. And likewise, if relationships are at the forefront of your business, then you can weather many challenges and tumultuous times. If we view 2021 as a year of transition between a catastrophic global pandemic and what-will-come-next, then consider adopting a new way of looking at your business as a way to transform, and transcend, transactions.
Even if you are not an entrepreneur per se, you can adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. According to a recent McKinsey report on trends that will define this year and take us into a new business frontier, “disruption creates space for entrepreneurs.”
Unlike the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis, the past year has inspired a tidal wave of new small businesses. In the third quarter of 2020, the report says, there were more than 1.5 million new business applications in the United States—double the figure for the same period a year earlier!
What this tells us is that societal factors do not necessarily determine our success (or lack thereof). It’s more what we believe is possible that drives outcomes.
Businesses often come from passion or an astute perception of what is needed in the market—or both. But just because you have a great idea and a talent to bring it to others does not mean you have the skills to grow your vision.
You may have heard the adage that entrepreneurs create and managers maintain. To grow, you must build connection and sustainable engagement with customers, and expand that base through robust, ongoing sales.
At its core, though, sales has always been a human transaction. Convincing someone to buy what you’re offering is a one-way conversation which often does not build brand loyalty or repeat business.
When mutual benefit is at the heart of sales—the devotion to an idea that both of you gain from the transaction—then you have a better chance of building a long-term, mutually-fulfilling relationship that grows your company and also grows your clientele.
Research shows that you are more likely to sell more to people already in love with your brand than you are to bring new people through the door. It is so much harder to win over complete strangers and convince them to engage with you.
When you have a relationship with someone, though, they are familiar with you, they are convinced about the quality of your product or service, and it doesn’t take much to reel them in again and again, and inspire them to bring friends.
And as that builds, you have the opportunity to thank them, show appreciation, and deepen the connection. It goes round and round, in a win-win-win scenario.
Hence the notion that sales comes from relationships.
When social media was blossoming 10-15 years ago, some people believed if they could just hawk their wares online, their business would grow. The ones that saw such results were the ones who realized social media is simply an online way to deepen mutually-beneficial connections.
In a relationship, I care about you and you care about me. Ironically, the rise of digital media deepened Americans’ sense of loneliness. Yes, we were connecting across great distances, and had the illusion of connection while standing in line at the grocery, checking our phones. But all this connection happened in solitary form, behind screens, and many Americans sunk into a deeper loneliness than they had ever known.
The businesses that decided to truly care about their customers and build mutually-beneficial relationships were the ones that benefited in that time—and continued to grow. When relationship drives an outcome, there is a sense that humans are involved and there is something meaningful at stake.
Do you ever ask, “Why are we in business? What are we hoping to gain?” If not, it’s an important conversation to have. That “why” can direct outcomes, especially if you can be honest about it. If you’re just in it for the money and there is no higher purpose or societal concern driving what you do every day, your long-term livelihood may be at great risk.
Marketing guru Seth Godin once said, “We are in a connection economy, and stories are the currency.” Stories can only be told and elicit emotional reaction when there is a transaction. I offer you a journey through detail and experience, and you receive it. We connect over the details, and we both know that we care.
Social media is all about storytelling. So is sales. And relationships drive both.
In large companies, sales is a function of the job you show up to. Someone employs you, someone signs your paycheck, and you sell to earn commission, to earn approval, to improve your own life. But the goal of moving the company forward or better yet, moving the city, state or country forward, may not resonate with the individual. The long-term health of the bottom line is not of concern.
It is different when we own the business, because it’s as if our personal salvation comes from each transaction. When it’s just a job, sales is about winning approval and advancement. When it’s a passion turned into a business, it’s about making the world better.
What if that were to change to relationships at every level? Relationship from manager to employee, from employee to customer, from business owner to team and external audience. Meaningful, mutually-beneficial relationships driving every step of your business.
According to the McKinsey report, the past year of COVID-19 has “created an imperative for companies to reconfigure operations—and an opportunity to transform them.” It says that we are in a fourth industrial revolution.
Yes, change can be scary, but with change comes possibility for innovation, and unimagined success. The term “industrial revolution” suggests a complete up-ending of the market as we know it. I won’t suggest that relationships as the focus of sales is a revolutionary concept. It’s more a back-to-basics, get-to-the-core-of-what-matters. And it’s high time we went there.
Lynne Golodner owns Your People LLC, a marketing and strategic communications company in Huntington Woods. She is also the host of the Make Meaning Podcast and creates courses to empower small businesses with marketing skills. Before becoming an entrepreneur in 2007, Lynne was a nationally-celebrated journalist and author. She has taught writing and communications at the college level for 20 years, and is the author of eight books.