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While consulting or training entrepreneurs, I often hear comments like: “I'm not a salesperson”,  “I don’t know how to sell”, “I’ll never be able to sell myself or my products or services”.

It is true that selling our products or services is one of the hardest things to do; when we’re told ‘no’, we often consider this as a rejection of who we are and what we do.

However, we should realize that we are all salespeople in one way or another. One of the things I like to use to illustrate this concept is to ask new parents to talk about their children; their eyes light up, their voice is joyful and they are well spoken in expressing how far their little one has progressed. Even though the child’s progress is most probably within the norm, parents are thrilled with each new achievement of their child. The same is true when parents have older children; when they get into university, they find a job in their field or other great milestones. These parents have absolutely no problems "selling" the achievements of their children. So why is it so difficult to do the same thing for our business?

So let’s agree that for many of us, we can eloquently speak about certain topics, but for other subjects, we have difficulty. If this is not the case, you may be shy or introverted and what we are talking about here might not solve that situation. For the rest of us, what would be the difference between us talking passionately about our children and selling our products and services?  In both instances, we are at least partially responsible for the creative process. 

For the most part, the answer lies in the preparation: you are an expert on your children.  You have been there from day one.  No one knows them better than you do (excluding your spouse that is), so if someone came to you and said that your children’s achievements were not so incredible, you would undoubtedly discredit that comment immediately rather than doubting what your children have done (the only exception to this might be a professional in child development of some sort). 

The same must be done for your business. And to achieve this, the preparation phase must be thorough; you should know the market like the back of your hand, know what your competitors are offering, identify your value added proposition and your differentiating factor, and understand very clearly the benefits that you would bring to your customers. Confidence comes from preparation.

Another point that is very important is our relationship with rejection. In everyday life, rejection is something very visceral, as we have mentioned above. In the business world, rejection is much more cerebral; it is usually a signal that something went wrong in your sales process and it does not mean that you or your products or services are not up to par. There are of course potential-customers who do not need your product or service; not everyone will be interested in buying from you. But there are some rejections that have to do with an error in the process. Understanding this renders negative feedback less emotive and it can be used to develop a feedback loop which will improve your sales process. If the customer has not seen the added value of what you offer, then the presentation should be reworked. If this is not the right time for them to make a purchase decision, then it probably has something to do with leads pre-qualification and a follow up at a more appropriate time should be offered.  In short, getting a "no" as an answer can be a source of information that helps you in building your sales process.


Stéphane Elmaleh-Riel, B.Ed., MBA
Marketing consultant