Bananas (or customers) (courtesy JimReeves at Flickr CC)I attended an excellent Network in Austin “Netstorming” session this week (my first one since joining the paid membership community) and I listened carefully to our table facilitator, Amy Hardin of acSELLerate, to learn more about sales.

Do I know diddly about sales?  Nope, not much, which is precisely why I chose to sit at that table.

There is a language to learn – “funnel,” “conversion,” “revenue recognition,” “added value propositions,” “price sensitive,” etc.  Bonus….now I am better armed for playing Marketing Bingo.

There is a standard sales process – prospecting for clients, “qualifying” them as good targets,  demonstrating the value of your product and proposing it to them, closing the deal and setting up for repeat business.

When you are speaking to a large group of your target market, and you do a good job of presenting yourself and your expertise, your audience is a bunch of “ripe bananas” in terms of being open to a discussion with you about your product or service,  but you have to move fast to catch them at that ripeness point (within 24-48 hours, even faster if you can do it) to get wallets to open.

A lot of this seemed very rote, mechanistic and manipulative, and it left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable.

So, as I usually do with such a visceral reaction, I’ve sat around for a couple of days mentally poking at those feelings of discomfort.

Here’s what I think, and this of course assumes (duh) that you have an outstanding product, service or feature that you back to the hilt and believe in:

You Do Need A Sales Process

One of Amy’s “money quotes” from our discussion was that you….

“….must have a sales process, a plan. Just saying ‘I’ll do some networking and depend on word-of-mouth’ is NOT a sales process.”

Break down each of the steps.

Lay out very specifically how you want to go from finding clients to closing a sale with them.  As Amy says, “Get incredibly granular.”

How will you prospect for clients? Networking might be fine as a part of the Prospecting phase, but where are you networking, how are you networking and what do you do with the business cards or interaction that may result?

How do you follow up with prospects? How will you know when you find likely customers;  i.e., how will you qualify them as appropriate candidates to buy your product or service?  What are your customers’ pain points and how can your product or service solve their problems?

Newsflash – your ideas or service or product are great, but if you want to make money with that passion, you have to sell it to someone. You know, for money.

You Don’t Have To Bruise Your Bananas To Sell To Them

Closing a sale means that you have convinced someone that what you can do for them will solve their problems.  That’s a nice feeling.  It’s better than mechanistic banana-harvesting in my mind, but the fact is that it is easier to sell when you catch people at the right moment.

Me, for example.

I stood in CVS Pharmacy the other day looking at a Olay moisturizer that is, ahem, targeted to my 40+ age group.  I have other products in their line and I like them. The price was reasonable, but even better was a shelf coupon on the moisturizer that halved the price.

I was a ripe banana right then, honey. I bought that “hope in a jar” and was happy to do so. In sales parlance, it “met my value proposition” even though I’m very “price sensitive.”

If you’re like me, you’d prefer to see people as humans rather than ripe bananas, so inject humanity into your sales process.

Certainly you should have a plan – a mechanism – that helps you stay on track and know where you’re going, but never lose sight of your customers as people.  They are not simply fruit in your sales funnel, no matter how desperate you may be to sell stuff and make money and pay the light bill.

The best ripe banana customer is one who doesn’t mind being picked, because you’ve done a thorough and honest job of convincing them that you’re worth cracking open that wallet.

Does that help take some of the possible “ick” out of sales for you?

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