“I’m talking to potential clients and I need to land a contract with one of them soon. Oh no: do I have to learn about sales now?”
I’m not a sales expert. Most of my clients have been long-term, and I haven’t had to close new contracts often. So, honestly, I don’t feel comfortable talking at length and in detail about sales techniques.
I will recommend a book that’s been very helpful for me. If you’re an introverted techie like me, you’ll probably find it useful, too.
My problem when I started was that I overthought things (I still do!) And sales was one of the things I went overboard on: “I need to buy five books and learn all about this before I can even think of working for myself!”
Unfortunately, the sales technique stuff I initially found did not click for me. At all.
I chewed through a bunch of material initially:
Sales systems, establishing rapport, questioning for exploration, influencing customer thinking, establishing value by highlighting benefits and cost comparisons, addressing objections, closing/post-closing, psychological biases, conversational hypnosis, NLP techniques, Cialdini’s six factors of influence, etc…
And on and on. There’s no end to these books on Amazon.
I did not enjoy my initial book haul at all. Most of the material seemed overly complicated, some of it felt manipulative and adversarial, and almost none of it appealed to me as an introverted software developer.
But then I finally found a book that clicked: a slim volume written back in 1969. The book is a quick read and well worth the 8$ investment:
The core idea is to think of sales as helping people get what they want.
Try to be an excellent listener (as opposed to an aggressive talker). Listen, ask questions, emphasize. Do your best to grok their business, goals, and constraints. Restate what you hear back to them in your own words and verify that you understand what they are looking for. Then, discuss how and if you are a good fit for them. If it’s not a good match, you simply move on to the next potential client. That’s it!
I also really like that this book focuses on the following traits: being sensitive, alert, imaginative, honest, and a good listener. You don’t have to be charismatic or extroverted to be good in any of those areas.
Finally, an unexpected side effect of reading this book was that I gained a greater appreciation for professional salespeople—the good ones, that is—both when I work alongside them, as well as when they sell to me in my personal life. Any craft that people do well is fascinating. Especially so when you understand at least a little of what they are doing.
Relax, don’t overthink, be a good listener, land your contracts.