sell_a_solution9 times out 10, you read the title, “Sales Tactics,” and you did not want to click on it and read this.  Honestly.

The topic of sales or sales tactics is somewhat of a taboo subject for me.  I am not a salesman.  I do not like salesmen.  In fact, I have a hard time selling anything and I do not like being sold.  Unless you are from a long family line of salesmen, as a small business owner and entrepreneur, you probably feel the same way.  I mean, who goes on to a car lot and is delighted to see the salesman?

Today, I attended Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s Small Business Workshop in Fort Lauderdale.  There were some interesting breakout sessions that, upon seeing the titles without reading their summaries, I knew I wanted to attend.  They were “Starting a Business,” “Marketing,” “Web Marketing and Social Media” and “Doing Business with the County.”

Due to timing and the workshop layout, I decided to attend the “Web Marketing and Social Media” session first.  I know something about it yet I figured I could always use the continued education to beef up my skills.  Besides, there may be some new strategies I could learn and share with our clients.  Unfortunately, there was not.  I gained no new strategies but I did get some pointers on what not to do when presenting our social media marketing programs in the same context.

As I ventured from the “Web Marketing and Social Media” session, I headed over to the “Doing Business with the County” session.  On the way, something caught my eye.  It was a session on “Branding” presented by FPL.  This class was not on my program and apparently was part of a co-op between the Small Business Workshop and an organization that supports early childhood centers.  I figured I would step in and learn something about marketing an early childhood center.  It made sense being that we have an early childhood center as a client.  I sat through the session and was able to hear some real life stories about how the directors of the preschools were marketing and branding their schools.  It was actually good and beneficial.  I walked away with some good ideas to engage our client in the childcare center arena.

As that session ended, I proceeded to the “Sales Tactics” class that I had selected only because there was no other worthy option during this particular hour block, at least nothing that interested me.  So, I sucked it up and headed in.  When I walked into the room, there were very few people and I thought to myself, “I understand why!”  Again, unless you are in the direct sales business and your official title is Salesman, you are likely to stay away from this session.

Nobody likes sales.  Nobody wants to sell.  In fact, our country has given us a bad idea of sales. We know very well the insurance salesman, the vacuum cleaner salesman, the encyclopedia salesman, the car salesman and so on of decades past.  All of these people made their living from selling us something we did not want and, at most times, did not have a need for.  Thus, the idea of selling does not sit well with a lot of us, particularly my generation.  Let me say that I have nothing against salesmen.  I have friends who do it and do it well.  It is just something that I do not do.  Or, at least, so I thought.

Anyone in Business is in Business to Sell

The “Sales Tactics” session, taught by Rafael Cruz, the Regional Director for Florida’s Small Business Development Center was quick to point out to us the issue with being a salesman, as I described above.  But, he also stated that anyone in business is in business to sell.  How you sell is what makes a world of a difference.  Rafael quickly moved on to confirm for me that the best salesmen do not sell a product, they sell something much more tangible – they sell solutions.  Solutions fill voids.  Solutions provide for a need.  And, ultimately, solutions solve problems.  At that moment, he had my attention.  I was hooked and I was able to move past what I originally thought would be a rather boring session.

As Rafael continued, I think he pretty much jarred the interests of everyone in the room.  I was too far engaged in what he had to say to turn around and read the expressions or body language of everyone else.  He talked about some of the central concepts that we at Notion Motion Corp. hold as truths.  I won’t list them all but, here are some of my takeaways from the session that I did not want to go to.  And, before I begin, I should say “Thanks Rafael!” for helping me to bring them to the forefront.

1) Know Your Environment

When selling your service or product, you need to know your environment – your geographical environment, that is.  You need to know everything about the region or locale in which you do business.  You need to have an understanding about the people who live there, what products or services they use, how they use them and what they use them for.  Essentially, you should be an authority on the arena where you conduct your business.

Over the past five years, I have buried myself in the politics and issues of my city.  I have learned the people who are community leaders.  I have learned the history of the area and why certain issues exist.  I know how many people live here.  And, though I’m still learning, people are coming to me and asking my advice because I am intrinsically involved in the landscape of my city.  Now, how that plays out in the surrounding cities is up for discussion.  Nevertheless, knowing your environment will help you in being able to offer solutions to existing and potential clients.

2) Believe

Beyond knowing your environment, you have to believe in the products or services you offer.  You have to believe that what you offer does fill a void.  Believe that you provide an answer for a right now need.  And, believe that your product or service is the right solution for your environment.

Beyond knowing our environment and believing in our product then, what we offer will in effect become something of value to the people who currently use it and something desired for everyone else.  People desire brands not products.  A good brand solves a problem and it fills a void.  That void can be emotional, psychological or physical.

I never made it to the “Starting a Business,” “Marketing,” or “Doing Business with the County” sessions but I am really happy that I forced myself to walk into Rafael’s class.  He has reinforced some really simple principles of selling that we often easily put aside and he has given me something to look forward to when offering (or selling) my services and furthering our brand.  I am excited about sharing with others and helping them to solve their problems and fulfill their needs.

Sell a Solution Not a Product

How do you sell your products?  Are you offering a shelf commodity?  Or, are you offering a solution?  Tell us what you are doing to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve.