7 Tips on How to Sell More by “Selling” Less

I’ve been in sales for a very long time. While my job has not always been defined by a traditional sales title, I’ve come to the realization that many people in their chosen profession, especially those working as entrepreneurs and freelancers, are all in sales. Just because they don’t have, as I have had, a title that has been determined by their company as a sales representative,  that doesn’t mean they should ignore the fine intricacies of selling.

Here are some useful pointers that have been important to me as I’ve become a seasoned sales professional. These are not all tips that I’ve created, but rather a perspective that is in step with most highly successful sales professionals.


This is probably the biggest difference between great sellers and poor ones. We all have something important to say. We have facts, figures, messages and solutions. In the sales process, or any business interaction for that matter, it’s important to remember one thing: you are not them. When you are selling something-  a product, a service or an idea- you must first take very serious consideration to what you customer or counterpart has to say. If you’re not clear on something, ask a question and listen some more. What you will say will be important only after it is determined why it will be. Sales people fail when its made obvious that their agenda is obvious and self-serving. Interview the buyer and shut up for a while, it’ll mean a lot.

2. Sell the endgame. Sell results.

Features and benefits are great, but if they don’t solve a problem, they’re useless. Why would someone buy what you’re selling? Find out what that is, and sell that. All that nitty gritty detail should be used for supporting arguments and to help your buyer feel that they are making the right decision.

3. Keep it professional, don’t force buddy talk.

I see it all the time, sales reps that come across as big phonies because they think that if their customers likes them, they’ll buy. I’ve had customers that I considered friends that didn’t buy from me and I’ve had customers that I’ve had cold relationships with buy from me. Relationships are important, but they can’t be forced. Trying to force a relationship on a customer is the same as forcing your product down their throat. Remember, when they’re ready to act, on a relationship or a sale they will. Until then, keep it professional and keep the process moving in a respectful manner.

4. First things first. Don’t waste your time.

Would you sell a fur coat to a member of PETA? Would you sell an expensive car to someone on food stamps? Of course not. Cut down on wasting your time and energy by asking the important questions up front. Find out if there is a need for what you are selling and if there is a budget for it. Otherwise, you are just wasting your time that could be spent moving real sales and solutions forward.

5. Don’t put the onus on the buyer to keep things going.

Be proactive. Decide if you and you’re buyer are going to move forward and then move forward. If you’re waiting for your customer to get the ball rolling, you’ll sell a lot less. Close every conversation with the next step, whether it is following up or finalizing a sale. If the buyer is not ready to buy, decide if they will ever be and either commit stay in touch or move on. Either way, keep some control of the conversation.

Also, don’t write a proposal until your customer has made a serious verbal commitment. Time is a very valuable resource.

6. Make individual To-Do lists.

Throughout my career, many times I’d make little checklists associated with specific accounts. This would ensure that I’d follow through with my commitments and gave my customer faith in my competency. Even if there were only one or two items, I’d make sure I’d follow through with the things I committed to and get back to my customer sooner than later. This is a top marketing tool for you as an individual, because you are showing your customer that they and their needs are important to you. It also makes the next item on this list easier to attain.

7. Referrals follow happy times.

If you’re customer is happy with what you are providing them, that is the time to ask for referrals. I’ve seen many sales people ask for referrals right off the bat, before the buyer could determine anything about the person’s quality as a professional. It’s like asking for a raise after working at a company for a week- not advisable. Have patience and wait until you know you’re buyer will be willing to back you up when they refer you.

8. Closing is an ugly word.

I hate the term “close” in a sales call. I understand it is important, but to me someone who insists on a hard close has decided to end the call with a forced call to action. Asking your customer “will you buy this now?” puts pressure on the customer to act and puts them on their heels. My career has been successful by preaching the mantra:

I am an expert in what I am selling. I want to find out what you need in your business and see if my expertise can help you. If we can share with each other what your needs and my offerings are and there’s a fit, we’ll work together. If there isn’t, we won’t.

Take the pressure off the buyer and allow them to decide that they want to buy. Often times a pressurized sale will fall apart through further reflection. Confident, well-informed buyers are great customers and selling to them is much simpler.


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Social Media and the PR Evolution

Welcome to the New Age.

Public Relations is an old business. For many years, the PR business has thrived on a familiar formula:

– an event happens (new business, new product news, an event, explanation, need for change in perception)

– a press release is drafted

– the approved release is sent to various media outlets for coverage

– the client is then inserted into the news cycle

It was a business formula that worked. It was simple, a bit time and labor consuming and it relied heavily on details and relationships. PR firms around the world made great business using this model to near perfection.

But times they are a-changin’. Strike that, they’ve changed completely.

Press releases have been typically reserved for certain specific sets of eyes- the press. With the dawn of social media, the press is not necessarily where we get all of our information anymore. In fact, the media can be blamed for much misinformation.

The social exchange of information has been good and bad. Yes, there has been a bevvy of misinformation in the social media stratosphere, but the good is that one can dig only slightly further or allow for a little more time and the truth will ultimately be revealed, to many extents anyway.

The press is still important. There will always be sources and leads that those that are talented in the press to break important news, but now, there are so many more commentators that are available to the public. The public is available to the public, and now they are more informed.

Non-press sources- eyewitnesses, users, experts, the people in the street- are equally as valuable as the information they can share. That’s why PR firms can no longer limit their dealings with the traditional media. PR firms and their clients need to be interactive with their target audience. That is where social media will take the firms that are willing to adapt and change into the new age.

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Being a Social Professional

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...
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There’s a strange trend that stands out to me the more social media takes that death grip on our day to day lives, especially as it cements a foothold in our working lives as it has in our personal lives. It’s a loss of professionalism.

I understand that the whole social media movement appears to lend itself to a sort of casual “this is me” vibe. I understand the need to be “real”. But while I’m certainly not one to completely subscribe to the “image is everything” mantra, impressions- visual or otherwise- still mean something.

I love LinkedIn. It fascinates me. It’s not Facebook, though there are some who would like it to be, but rather its an opportunity to be social in our working lives. It allows us to easily stretch our network to something bigger than we could have conceived by simply staying within our own geographical borders. It is difficult, and frowned upon, to just go out into the LinkedIn network and start pulling in unfamiliar connections, a la Facebook or Twitter, because you should have a connection in common to make that link complete.

I have been able to get some good prospecting done because of these networks, because as the adage goes, it’s not necessarily what you know, its who you know.

What baffles me from time to time on some of the discussion boards or in instances where there are opportunities to make connections is when users choose a manner to promote themselves in a ridiculously unprofessional light.

I’m not saying what these people are doing is necessarily offensive (though I do get pretty irked from time to time), or even wrong. The issue I have is that these people have joined this network to further their professional careers. LinkedIn is a far more valuable tool than I gave it credit for just four or five years ago, yet many professionals still use it and view it as another social media toy. Their profiles are sloppy, their head shots are more than amateurish and they come off poorly altogether. I seriously doubt that many of these people would want themselves to be viewed this way in their careers.

I’ve been on many professional encounters in the non-virtual “real” world where the prospect or employer had gathered information on me through researching my LinkedIn page. It gave the person more insight into me than any resume could, therefore I treat it as such. I’m certainly not alone, the majority of LinkedIn users have great profiles. They look professional and willing to be that they found some reward in giving that impression in their network.

I can hear some of those users in my head now, saying that they feel the need to express themselves and keep their image on a personal level to show who they, that they don’t find the need to be some suit-wearing, buttoned up, businessman or woman that isn’t casual, fun and social. That’s fine, especially if that’s the circles you are in and it works for you, rock on. But if your profile and activity don’t express who you are or who you’d like to be professionally, than do yourself a favor and take some time to make it so. Everybody on the network is a professional something, so everyone just use LinkedIn in a professional manner, unless you’d show to an interview or business meeting in shorts and a t-shirt.

Like opportunity that presents itself, use LinkedIn as an opportunity to impress. You’ll get more out of it if you do.

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$5 for a terrible business decision

If you haven’t heard or read the story yet, there is a store in Australia that has decided to charge $5 for its customers to enter its store and peruse its showroom. The management says it has taken this step to prevent people from simply coming into its store and leave without purchasing something. The $5 will be discounted from once a purchase is made. In a notice displayed at the front of the store, that you can read HERE, it claims that it has the same products that other stores carry and some other unique ones. All the customer has to do is pay $5 to enter the store to come to this realization.

Naturally this has caused some very harsh criticism and backlash. Why? Because it is the most asinine business decision ever made.

If the store wasn’t already in a free-fall, which it sounds like it was, judging by this ridiculous decision, its future as a business is finished. Even if the store retracts the $5 in-store “browsing fee”, the attitude towards potential customers is loud and clear: it’s us against you.

The most interesting side of this entire story are the comments that internet readers post. Many agree that this is an excellent strategy to put yourself out of business. But there is an interesting minority that thinks that this is actually a good idea and that many brick and mortar stores need to do this to combat the online marketplace. Thank goodness that they are the minority, because they are clearly missing the point of being in business in the first place.

Now, I don’t know too much about this store. From what I have read it is called Celiac and sells gluten-free products. By its actions, it is clearly placing the blame on its failure to convert prospects into sales on its customers rather than the business itself to create meaningful value. It’s also placing barriers to any potential customers ever having any desire to form a meaningful relationship with the store. “Anybody want to buy my jalopy? If you give me $5 I can let you see just what a piece of junk it is.” That may be the worst sales pitch ever.

Of course the purpose of a business is to make money and create a livelihood for all those invested. But what this store and so many other stores with the similar attitudes will find is that customer loyalty is worth so much more than a point of sale purchase. Don’t believe me? Just ask Apple, Google, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Toyota, Coca Cola, Pepsi and a million other companies that have managed to be successful for more than a year.

Companies that view their potential customers as unruly freeloaders will give the impression, however subtle, that “all they want is my money.” You think that’s a winning strategy? Ask the American banking industry how that worked out a couple years ago.

A successful business has an open door and welcome mat for its customers, not a brick wall with a cover charge. The sooner businesses with the attitude that are financial targets instead of people that they can help come to this realization, the sooner they can find themselves on the path to long term success.

We are all in the business of customer service; otherwise we will not find ourselves in business for long.

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What is PR, anyway?

We get this question a lot. There is actually lots of confusion from some well established companies that we start working with that seem to confuse public relations with advertising or overall marketing. While PR is a part of the marketing mix, and we certainly don’t want to downplay the importance of advertising in many instances. There is a discernible difference that was penned beautifully by someone whom I read who I can’t remember, but will now steal from:

Advertising is saying how great you are. Public relations is getting someone else to say how great you are.

In our business, our job is to get a credible resource, the media or a thought leader, to vouch for you. In many cases this will build awareness of your business and get your customers the knowledge that you actually exist and that you will indeed serve the needs they need fulfilled in some way, shape or form.

But isn’t this precisely what advertising does? Sometimes.

Advertising can build awareness, but the core principle of advertising is branding. Ads don’t always tell the customer the precise information that PR and other forms of marketing can like where to buy, who else is buying, who is behind the product and other stories that can build a solid relationship between the customer and your business.

We try to be very diligent in understanding your goals and what your business is all about  because we represent your message to the media and ultimately your target audience. Where a lot of PR fails is when the goal is to simply get placements rather than using your message to create a bridge between you and your customers. That’s what good PR is: conveying that message of awareness and detailed understanding.

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Getting you out there.

Welcome to 9th Street Communications, where we specialize in moving your small business into the media.

At 9th Street Communications, we work with our clients to create buzz. We are experts in publicity, marketing, media communications and brand consultation. We promote your business, so you can focus on your success.