In my day to day, I do a lot of hiring and selling.
Professionally, I have two companies – Credo and EditorNinja – that are both growing and I’m building out the teams. In just the last 3 months I have hired a content person, a designer, 4 editors, a developer, and various other contractors.
In my personal life, my wife and I own two homes and have had some work done on them. We’ve hired a stone contractor, a stone installer, an arborist, and a lawn care provider. We also own two cars, and I’ve found a ceramic coating specialist and local Toyota mechanic (because I have a truck and my last few cars have all been German).
I also do a lot of the sales for both companies, so I’ve had 50+ sales conversations over the last few quarters as well and sold about half of those on the various services we offer. My team at Credo also does some sales and has a similar close rate.
I don’t say any of this to brag. I say it because I have a ton of experience hiring and selling, and one of the things that bugs me is when companies are basically allergic to sales and then wonder why they’re getting bad customers or not enough customers.
The solution is simple, but not easy – they (and maybe you) need to change their perspective on sales.
Sales is not scammy
The first mental shift you need to make is to come to believe (because it’s true) that sales does not have to be scammy or pushy.
Too many founders/business owners (who, as you may notice, are not sales people themselves!) have a picture of a dude in a shiny button down wearing black shoes with jeans and a brown belt who is trying to sell them a junk car that they don’t want. They feel taken advantage of, bad saying no, and ultimately are unhappy.
This is not the sales I am talking about.
Sales is SERVICE
I genuinely believe that sales is SERVICE, and if someone comes to you with a real solution and you have the expertise and solution then you are doing them a DISSERVICE by not selling them.
By not selling the right solution to someone with a real problem, you are harming them.
“Wow John,” you might be saying, “isn’t that a bit harsh?”
Think about it this way.
Let’s imagine you’re a doctor. Someone comes to you with a broken bone. Instead of saying you can fix it, you waffle and talk about “it depends” and “here are some solutions, which one do you want?” instead of fixing their broken bone. They don’t have the expertise to fix it – you do. You literally owe it to them to fix it if you have the expertise.
I work with a lot of marketers. This is like someone coming to a marketing firm with declining traffic and the means to get you to fix it. But you waffle, you hem and haw, you don’t pitch them or you pitch them something that they don’t understand and is above their budget.
You have just done them a DISSERVICE by not showing them the solution and how you’ll fix it and what it requires, and how you can work with them to make it work for their budget and timelines.
Notice I am not saying you sell them something you know won’t work. If they need results in 2 weeks and have a tiny budget, you owe it to them to tell them that. They need to reset expectations. But if they have reasonable expectations and a reasonable budget, you need to sell them.
An example from my current life
My wife and I own a 2016 German SUV. I’m a car guy and care very much about my vehicles. I take good care of them and expect them to take good care of me.
This past winter some skis were leaned against the car and fell, chipping the paint as they went. One of us also recently rubbed the driver’s side of the front bumper against our garage, scratching the paint.
I need to get this taken care of. I got a referral from someone I trust, and the guy came out to look. He put together a proposal and scope of work for me. He sent it over, I said it looks good. He’s followed up once, but at this point I have not heard from him in two weeks.
Let me be clear here – I am ready to pay him thousands of dollars to fix something for me, something I am prioritizing, and he hasn’t followed up in two weeks.
I understand getting busy and not being able to sell someone on something. This guy is not in that situation. He has guys “standing around ready to work” as he told me.
Yet he hasn’t followed up in two weeks. Literally all he would have to do is text me and say “we can get you in on Thursday. How does that sound?”
I’d say yes. I’d drop off the vehicle and we’d get the work done.
Inability to sell someone is not their problem
Now, you might be saying “John, why don’t you just follow up with him?”
I’m going to, because I want to get the work done.
But let’s be clear about what’s happening here – he is putting the work back on me. I am trying to hire him for a service, and he’s putting work back on me. Maybe it’s some weird power thing, which I know some of you marketing agencies do “to see if they’ll be a good partner,” but this isn’t that. This is purely a transactional thing – you sell me, I drop off my vehicle, you fix the paint, I pay you.
Note: I also don’t think marketing agencies should play the above game with prospects. You’ll know by how quickly they respond and how they engage if they’ll be a good client or not. Stop playing games.
There is a chance, or could be a situation, where he’s not selling me because they’re too busy. That happens, and I see it all the time with agencies. Shoot, Credo’s been there at various times in the year.
But let’s be clear – that is my problem, not my prospect’s. It means something is broken in my business, and by not fixing it I am doing prospects who need what we offer a disservice.
I’m all about taking responsibility. If I am unable to sell someone in and serve them through solving their problem, that is MY problem. It is MY fault that I am unable to do so.
You owe it to prospects to sell them
If you are delivering a service that solves a problem and have the means to deliver the solution to someone looking for it, then you owe it to them to sell them on why your solution is the right one. If you’ve built your name as a trusted provider for that service (like a doctor has for fixing broken bones), it will be easy to sell them.
If you offer a service but are “full” or not able to sell them, then that is YOUR problem and you are doing your prospects a disservice by not solving it at your company so you can help people.
And don’t give me the crap “we don’t want to grow too fast” excuse. Do you hate helping people? Do you hate having a bigger impact? Do you hate doing more of the work you claim to love? Do you hate creating jobs? Do you hate money?
Stop making excuses and start selling to people. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to your prospects.