This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com - #Growing Your Business
Learn how to build a reputation as an expert no matter what you sell, so you can earn prospects’ trust and start to achieve your sales goals.
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In the book Selling, author Paul Harvey uses the American experiment as a basis for his lessons on the nature of selling. Whether you’re selling a concept, an experience, or an experiment, it’s all about positioning yourself as a trustworthy expert. That’s especially true if your product, idea, or concept is traditionally considered a “tough sell,” like the concept of self-discipline he writes about.
If, as Harvey posits, everyone is a salesperson at heart, then we must all have the same approach, right? Not so fast. Your sales approach (and what you’re selling) depends largely on your goals. And if you feel confident and knowledgeable about the product, service, or idea you’re selling, then you’re well positioned to not only sell it, but yourself as well.
The most successful salespeople in the world don’t come across as salespeople. Instead, they carry themselves as experts in their industry who can solve key challenges for their ideal prospects. Simply put, if you’re in the business of selling, then you’re an expert in whatever you sell. It’s up to you to make sure your prospects know it. While your prospects only see what’s going on at their own companies, you can offer them a valuable bird’s eye view of trends across the entire industry. But do your customers see it that way? If not, it’s because you’re coming off as salesy instead of as an expert.
The following eight simple keys will help you build a reputation as an expert in whatever you sell, so you can earn prospects’ trust and start to achieve your sales goals.
1. Don’t Think Like a Salesperson
If you want to come across as an expert to your prospects, you must first stop being “salesy.” That means you have to stop thinking like a salesperson. When you think like a salesperson, you jump at any chance to pitch your product or service. Instead, slow down and listen. Strive to identify whether your prospects are a fit in the first place. Practicing thoughtful intentionality is the first step toward being viewed as an expert in the eyes of your customers.
2. Adopt a Doctor’s Mindset
Instead of thinking like a salesperson, try adopting the mindset of a doctor. I’ve never met a doctor who used a pitch like, “We have this incredible new procedure that I just can’t wait to tell you about! It’s going to change everything!” Rather, good doctors ask questions to make sure they understand your pain before making a diagnosis. Mimic this approach by making it your goal to understand your prospects’ deepest frustrations before you propose a solution.
3. Lose the P.E.P.
Most salespeople are full of P.E.P.—persuasion, enthusiasm, and pitching. They’ve been told this is the key to closing more sales, but it isn’t true. If you have to persuade a prospect, then they probably aren’t a good fit for what you sell. Enthusiasm comes off as salesy and insincere, and pitching is the opposite of trying to understand a prospect’s problem. Instead of turning your sales meeting into a P.E.P. rally, adopt a genuine approach to understand and diagnose key challenges. When you do, prospects will view you as an expert they can trust.
4. Share Challenges You’ve Observed
As an expert, you have valuable industry information that your prospects would love to know. Capture their attention and increase your perceived value by sharing some of that information at the start of your conversations with prospects. Try listing a few examples of challenges you’ve seen in their industry. This will provide value, give the prospect something to relate to, and serve as a launching pad for a great discussion.
5. Ask About Their Challenges
Once you’ve shared a few common challenges you’ve observed, simply ask, “Do any of these challenges ring true to you?” Simple questions like this create more value when you sell, in addition to engaging prospects and encouraging them to open up to you. If you can get someone to articulate a challenge that they’ve yet to share with anyone else, you’ll immediately gain respect as an authority in your field who can tap into, and ultimately resolve, big problems.
6. Know When to Walk Away
What do you do if you ask, “Do any of these challenges ring true to you?” and your prospect answers, “No”? Well, if a prospect doesn’t have challenges you can solve, then it’s probably not a good fit. When this happens, you must be willing to disqualify. Walk away without looking back so you can spend your time with qualified prospects instead. Customers will respect and trust you more when they notice you aren’t trying to push a product they don’t need.
7. Remember the 15 Percent Rule
Salespeople should never talk for more than 15 percent of a meeting. Talking doesn’t put you in control of a conversation—great questions do. Engaged body language, thoughtful questions, and small prompts such as, “Really?” are all great tools to keep the customer talking. Follow this rule, and prospects will view you as a thoughtful listener and an expert.
8. Never Need a Sale
In all fairness, there may be times when you really do need a sale to pay your bills, but prospects should never be able to tell. When you come across as successful and confident, prospects will believe you don’t need their business. Instead, you’re simply meeting with them because you think your offering will truly help them. Relaxed confidence is attractive to prospects, and an air of success will suggest that you’re an established expert in your field.
You’re already an expert in your industry. Now it’s time to act like one. Which of these keys will you use to establish yourself as an expert in the eyes of your prospect?