I Just Can’t Sell
Many franchises in the home services sector require franchisees to engage in the sales process with the customer. If you think you just “can’t sell”, I promise you, you can.
In February of 2020, the world began to change, and the tectonic plates that underpin our personal, social, and business lives are still moving. For some people, this is the time to hunker down; others see opportunities in the changing landscape, or simply must pivot due to a lost job or other source of income. Irrespective of the reason, franchisors in industries ranging from in-home senior care to preschools to gift basket delivery are reporting year-over-year stability or growth in franchise development.
Home-based businesses are uniquely attractive in 2021. With minimal or no staffing or real estate requirements, and reduced face-to-face exposure to customers, the appeal is obvious. Home services businesses have an added advantage. As Tim Smeltz, the founder of the driveway repair and maintenance franchise NextGen GreatSealcoating recently told me, “Even people that are not working from home are spending significantly more of their free time in their houses. Our homes have truly become our sanctuaries, and people are spending more on both upkeep and the aesthetics of their home environment.” His case is supported by the fact that his first franchisee, who opened in May of 2020, took less than 90 days to break even (according to NextGen’s Franchise Disclosure Document). There are many brick and mortar businesses that are equally well-positioned, such as childcare, senior care, and fast-casual delivery, but the home services sector has most certainly enjoyed a lift in visibility.
For some, these obvious upsides can be tempered by the daunting idea of becoming a “sales person”. If you are hesitating to get into the home services space for this reason, I have great news for you; not only can you sell, but without ever meeting you I can tell you the sales style that you should adopt to sell effectively, and eventually even become great at it.
To be clear, a great salesperson is not someone that can “sell anything to anybody” or “water to a drowning man”. Part of being a great salesperson is identifying someone’s need or want and helping them comfortably reach a purchasing decision that fills it. Salespeople that “convince” someone to buy a product or service that isn’t right for them are not “great’, they are con artists.
So, how do you become comfortable in a sales role? It’s simple, really. First, I’ll share with you the two pillars of any great salesperson, and then I’ll tell you how to find your unique sales voice.
Lay Your Foundation
Pillar one: Become a scholar of your business.
Study your competitive landscape, and what differentiators you offer. Understanding both the strengths and weaknesses of what you are selling is pivotal. I sell franchises for a living, and of course part of my competitive landscape is simply non-franchised businesses. Starting your own business without a franchise does have advantages; for example, franchisees have restrictions on how they can advertise, or what products and services they can offer. If I were to not acknowledge this, at best my prospects would think that I didn’t understand franchising; at worst they would think I was dishonest. By understanding the limitations of your model, you can contrast them against the strengths, and again help the customer reach the decision that is right for them.
Pillar two: Know your competitor’s business as well as your own.
Every business owner sells on their own unique value proposition. In order to effectively communicate what makes your service different and valuable, you have to know the market. When your prospect brings up either a competitor, or even just a feature or benefit that a competitor offers, you’ll be much better positioned if you’ve already studied the advantages and disadvantages of the competition. Also, and equally important, your prospect may simply ask you questions to see how well you know your business; be prepared to answer them.
Zig Ziglar, one of the great sales theorists of all time, famously wrote that “sales is a transference of emotion”. This one phrase has many layers; the fact that you have to be enthusiastic about what you are selling and that people make buying decisions based on emotion backed by logic, rather than the other way around, are just two. Another, which you may not have considered, is that no matter how much you believe in your service you will struggle to covey enthusiasm if you are nervous. It’s hard to be excited in the moment when you are worried about your ability to answer customer questions. Suffice it to say that Mr. Ziglar was not referring to nervousness and self-doubt as the emotions that you need to transfer in a successful sale!
Find Your Voice
Of course, knowledge by itself will not make you a great salesperson. You must be able to transfer the appropriate amount of knowledge, along with enthusiasm and excitement, so that your prospect is fully informed and not overwhelmed. To accomplish this, you must have the knowledge base, and know your best method of walking the prospective candidate through your process, and ultimately decide to do business with you.
Buy Your Own Offering
I don’t mean actually make a purchase from yourself, but mentally go through the sales process from a customer’s point of view. Find the level of information, the tone, and the communication methods that would make you most comfortable if you were the customer. Break you’re the sales process down into steps and analyze each step through this lens. Ask yourself:
- What information would I need to know at this step to move to the next step.
- What information would overwhelm me at the stage. This is actually a difficult mental exercise; we like to think that we can just take in all of the information and make a logical choice, but that is simply not how we make decisions.
- What information, if it wasn’t shared at this point, would you feel was misleading by its absence.
- What tone, approach, or style would take you from considering to buying?
- What would make you walk away from the purchase?
These 5 questions, when answered for every interaction along the sales process, will illustrate for you your most authentic sales style. If you start from a base of authenticity, and have a deep understanding of your service offering, you will be able to sell comfortably. As you interact with your first several prospects, go back to your notes and see where you may have been incorrect, or where you may need to make minor adjustments to ensure what you are saying and what your prospect is hearing match up.
I told you it was simple! Using this process, you may not start out great, but you will start out proficient. Most importantly, you’ll be comfortable, because you are not trying to force yourself into selling in an unnatural way. If you continue to use this lens to study your sales process, greatness in sales is achievable.