Building and Nurturing Businesses — Avoid the Hard Sell
When I talk with my clients about starting online businesses, their first reaction is to imagine setting up Squarespace websites or their first Shopify accounts, signing up for a dependable web hosting service or tinkering around with their email marketing automation and overall digital marketing strategies. While the process of starting an online business does include this technical “backend” part, it’s not the only thing you need to do, and neither is it the only thing you ought to focus time, effort, and attention on.
Running any business — online or offline — requires much more than the actual “hands-on, backend” work you imagined yourself doing, and quickly becomes managing people and building business relationships.
On building relationships — instead of going for the “hard sell”
Here’s a case I’ve handled. The names and business services have been changed for anonymity.
Carmen wanted to build her sales agency into a sales empire. A company whose main business was to become the sales department of every startup in the world. Carmen dreamt big. But Carmen’s actions didn’t align with her goals and dreams.
First, Carmen quit her job before validating her business idea. She took an enormous and uncertain risk by leaving her comfort zone before she was sure she had a solution to problems which people would pay for.
Second, Carmen spent days working on her website, telling her freelancer to change her business logo, name, tagline, color schemes, and copy multiple times.
Third, she spent days crafting her script for the cold calls she was going to make — the same script for every company she planned to call. She spent zero hours researching the leads she’d found, yet proceeded to call her leads, looking to either close a deal or set up a meeting to close a deal.
Carmen spent weeks, arranged a whopping two meetings, and closed zero deals. What’s more startling was that she had built zero relationships with any of the businesses she sought out. Carmen was confused and didn’t understand why her weeks of hard work and sales pitches didn’t result in anything. It left her feeling puzzled and extremely discouraged. That’s when Carmen reached out to me for advice and help.
Carmen acknowledged making several common mistakes new entrepreneurs make — not validating business ideas; spending time, effort and money, upfront, on the business “backend” (websites, email automation, social media, etc.); and sticking to the hard sell during the cold call.
Unfortunately, she ardently believed that her hard-sell, cold-call script would turn leads into customers:
It worked for me when I was working as a sales executive in the company I worked for previously — it will work today.
Instead of focusing on building quality relationships and bringing her authentic self to the table, she believed that the fault lay in her leads:
Perhaps I’m not reaching out to the right people. Why don’t they want to buy from me?
Just to be clear, I’m not implying that the cold call is dead — but rather, the hard sell is dead. I do cold calling and door knocking, even today. But I don’t push for a sale within the first five minutes of the meeting, and especially not if all five minutes are taken up by me, explaining what my business is all about, who I’ve helped, and how much my services would cost.
Authenticity and the willingness to forge and build relationships in business, or when building a community, is essential. Simply put, being authentic means staying true to who you are, your mission, and who you serve. Whether you’re looking to build a business or grow a community of creatives, authenticity and reliability will go much further than hard selling.
By bringing the human element into the conversation, you build your identity and image into something influential, elevate your business above your competition, and encourage engagement. Building relationships with your customers also encourages customer retention and long-term monetization. And, ideally, it turns your audience into advocates and helps them remember you when their friend needs a recommendation for a service your business can provide. The list goes on.
Why relationship-building is more important than ever because of the internet
The internet gives your customers the power to do their own research on your company — or the services which your business provides — to help identify their problems and needs and browse through various solutions which they can compare and consider.
Because the power of information now lies in the hands of your leads, prospects, and customers, your job when you wear your sales hat is not to convince them of what they need — they know what they need.
Be their trusted adviser and friend. Listen carefully and understand their needs by having them talk through their problems, as well as the solutions they’ve been considering and trying.
Educate — don’t sell — your prospective clients on how they can benefit by using your product/offering. Throw some gimmicky sales technique in there and you’ll find yourself instantly repelling your prospects.
Don’t become the person everyone avoids at the party. This trend is not going away.
With Carmen, we’re working on ways in which she can move beyond the mindset of closing deals with one pushy sales call, based on the same pitch used over and over again, to something far more fulfilling and productive — helping her boost her motivation and mood, while building win-win relationships with her prospects and network.
Have you cold called/emailed recently? What was that like for you, and how did it turn out? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.