If I were to identify my weak point in business a year ago, I would say my skills as a salesperson. I seriously doubted my ability to convince people to buy my products.
When you run a one-person business, you need to be good at a lot of things. And getting people to buy your products is high on that list.
But it was an area where I really struggled. I didn’t feel confident in selling my products. I wasn’t comfortable asking for the sale. And I was worried that this would be the downfall of my business.
At one point I settled into the mindset that maybe this just wasn’t my strength. I thought that perhaps I should seek out a sales rep, or take on a partner who was better at sales than I am.
But before I took such drastic measures, I thought I’d first try to learn to be a better salesperson.
And after coming off this last round of trade shows, I’m happy to report that you can learn to be better at sales.
Just like many other things in business, it’s not a skill possessed by the lucky few, but something that can be learned, practiced, and cultivated.
So how did I do it?
First, I got some experience. A few years ago, I started working at a retail clothing store. This was more than just a strategic move to boost my cash flow (and get a discount on one of my favorite clothing brands). I had never had a job in retail before. In high school and college, I always worked food service. And while that involves selling, it’s much different when you have a line around the block of people who already decided they want ice cream.
Fortunately, I had good bosses at the store, who were committed to training the sales staff. I learned a lot about talking to customers and the art of the up sell. And because they freely shared info about how the store was doing, I learned the importance of paying attention to conversion rates and average dollars per sale.
But despite doing a good job on the sales floor at the store, I still didn’t feel confident selling my own work.
So, being me, I turned to books to get more information. I started looking for anything I could read that would improve my sales ability. The best book I read was called Women Make the Best Salesmen, and it was a little book I picked up cheaply at a book store in New York City. This book gives some really solid advice on improving your sales skills.
But as much as I hate to admit it, you can’t become a better salesperson just by reading books.
And while you could argue that practice makes perfect, for me, it was a shift in mindset that helped me become a good salesperson.
First, I had to get over the obstacle that plagues many makers – the guilt of selling. I had to learn to be confident in myself and my products. I had to remind myself that my jewelry is something of great value that people will wear and love for many years.
Then I had to come get comfortable with the idea that in selling to people, I’m actually helping them. In wholesale, buyers come to a show looking to buy. It’s their job. So by selling to them, I’m actually making their job easier. They come to the show looking for great products, and I can help them by sharing what makes my products great.
Even if you only sell retail, you can still help people by selling to them. The need might not be as universal as looking for products for a store, but most people shop with a purpose (even if it’s only to relieve boredom) and it’s your job as the salesperson to help them fill that need.
I won’t lie and say that the shift in mindset is easy. For some, it takes a lot of time and serious introspection to become a better salesperson. I’m a naturally outgoing person who enjoys public speaking, and even I didn’t get it overnight. But if you want to have a successful business selling the things you make, that shift in mindset is critical.
Work on it, talk to friends about it, and practice as often as you can. Because it is possible to learn not to suck at sales.
Feel free to share in the comments: What’s holding you back as a salesperson? Is it lack of knowledge? Lack of technique? Lack of confidence?