New book takes the fear out of selling with practical, easy-to-implement techniques
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New book takes the fear out of selling with practical, easy-to-implement techniques

As a small business owner, I found Greg Andersen’s Small Business Sales, WTF (Without the Fear) full of practical advice, new ideas, and practical common sense to help me rethink my sales approaches. Andersen has been in sales for many years in the printing business, but the advice he offers is applicable to anyone in sales, especially small business owners who may be wearing all hats or unable to focus on sales because they are too busy searching after everything else.

Small Business Sales, WTF is divided into two sections: Pre-Sales Planning, in which Andersen discusses products, marketing products, creating a sales environment, and then The Sales Process, in which he explores how find customers, make contact, get the opportunity to sell to the customer, execute the sale, and then follow up and retain the customer long-term. Andersen guides readers through each step of the sales process, providing practical, personal examples of what has worked for him that readers can easily model or put their own spin on.

Andersen writes in a humorous but telling style to dispel myths about the sales process and eliminate sales jargon to get to what the reader really needs to know. For example, at the beginning of the book, he has a list of “Words/phrases you won’t hear in my book.” Among the phrases included is “Belly-to-Belly” to which he replies, “Gross. How about face-to-face?” Another phrase is “Low Hanging Fruit”, which he says doesn’t really exist, and yet another is “Hook”, which he finds insulting because he assumes customers are fools or fish. Instead, Andersen prefers to treat his clients like human beings and, instead of “closing the sale,” strike a “deal” between two parties who trust and respect each other.

For most people, sales can get a bad rap. No one likes to be sold to, and people who reluctantly step into a sales role are aware of this and are often afraid to sell. Andersen teaches readers how to eliminate the fear of sales by rethinking what sales really are. Most people fear “cold calling,” which is why Andersen talks about seeing sales as “demand generation.” It’s about finding where there is demand for your services and then providing the product or service to meet that demand. It’s also about listening to customers.

Andersen says, “When all is said and done, only a few outreach methods will really get you in touch with a potential new customer: the phone, letter writing, a trade show, and email. What really counts is the technique you use.” He then provides creative examples of how to drive sales through each of these approaches, as well as discussing social media as a sales strategy. His examples are based on personal experiences, from his days as a shoe salesman at Nordstrom to his current sales position in the printing industry. Best of all, he even includes copies of letters he has sent to clients. His techniques are simple and straightforward, so anyone, no matter how scared they are of sales, can implement them.

Of course, there will be difficult clients or people who don’t want to know how you can help them. Andersen provides strategies for moving from gatekeepers to decision makers. He reveals his research techniques, which are quite clever and even include looking at potential customers’ job postings to determine who in a company is or will be in a buyer’s position for their product.

When faced with resistance from a potential customer, Andersen realizes that it’s not always about him, his approach, or his product. I loved the next invaluable point he made: “Another way I like to approach these challenging situations is to remind myself that all of these excuses mean the customer is probably protecting their current supplier. If they’re loyal to their current supplier, some day he will be loyal to me. Stay positive.” I personally know this to be true as a business owner. If I have a supplier that gives me good service at a good price, I feel loyal to that supplier and I am not willing to change. These customers may be resistant to change, but they are the ones you want because they are loyal. Andersen shows how persistence pays off in these situations. Sometimes you get in touch with clients who don’t need your services at the time, but years later, you secure business with them, and even if you don’t get the level of business you want at first, they will often give you some business as a trial. and then you can work your way to higher sales with them.

Perhaps what I liked most about Andersen’s approaches is that he truly believes in being responsive to clients. I can’t stress enough how frustrated I get when I email someone who doesn’t respond to me for several days. Personally, I am always very responsive to my clients and usually respond within hours, if not minutes. Andersen points out that even if you don’t have an answer to a customer’s problem or can’t take the time to answer a question right now, a simple response like “I’m on it” lets customers know you’ll reach out to them and they can then stop worrying about your problem and move on to the next item on their to-do list until you contact them. In other words, Andersen is always in favor of assuring the customer that he will do what he says and provide quality and reliable service.

Together, Small Business Sales, WTF takes much of the fear and stress out of selling. I think most readers will be pleasantly surprised by this book; they’ll read Andersen’s stories and examples and say to themselves, “I can do that,” and even come up with ideas of their own as they build on Andersen’s advice. Whether you’re a small business owner with no sales experience, just starting out in sales, or have been in sales for years, here are plenty of tips that can make your sales process easier, more lucrative, and all. nicer.

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