“I’m just not good at selling myself” is a sentence i hear nearly every day. Strangely enough, however, it often comes from people who are good at articulating what they do. They just don’t see their own capability, John Niland of Success 121 reveals all.

Of course, some have reasons to doubt their competence:

  • Perhaps they are getting lots of first-meetings or interviews but somehow not closing deals.
  • Others have put a lot of effort into proposal-writing, and now the client is hesitating or procrastinating.

Then they blame themselves: what did they do wrong? It’s important to be objective. It’s equally important to get feedback that is relevant and factual and this is not as easy as it looks. The client may say “you were too expensive” when the reality was they didn’t like you.

How can you establish the truth?

Firstly do you really want to?

Not everyone does. It’s strangely comforting to cloak one’s talent in the “I’m just not good at selling” excuse. It’s a reason to avoid meetings that make us nervous. As the experienced salesman said to the rookie, “If you are afraid of risk, stay in the car”.

So how can you objectively assess your own competence?

First, try to reframe the client’s requirements before you try to sell them anything. If you cannot achieve this, it’s unlikely that they regard you as an expert (yet), and hence there is no point in writing proposals or making offers. In short, you want to sell them the ‘Reframe’ before you see them the ‘Solution’.

Let’s take an example

The client says “We want your proposal for a sales-training session: the content to be covered, your costs and examples of typical case-studies that you use. When can we have this?”

  • A bad response would be: “Tomorrow afternoon”.
  • A much better response would be: “I don’t do conventional ‘sales-training’; these generic sheep-dip approaches simply don’t work. Who decided you needed sales-training in the first place? What was – or wasn’t happening – that drives this need?”

If they don’t want to answer this question, or point you to someone who can, it’s not your closing skills you need to sharpen but your opening skills. And that’s much less about selling, much more about added-value deep-thinking consulting. And that’s really a whole different ball-game.

If you can reframe their requirements, you are well on your way to closing the sale. They have accepted you as someone who adds value and knows the territory. They respect your pushback enough, even if they are responding reluctantly.

Yes, this takes courage. And nothing works all the time. But if a professional cannot influence a client’s thinking at the level of their requirements, how can they possibly be compelling at the level of a solution?

This isn’t so much a sales challenge, but a fresh-thinking challenge. It’s about them, not you.

For more about John Niland's work with independent professionals, see www.success121.com, John also gets regulary involved in IPSE's events programme and will be talking at several in septemner and November.

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