I had an interesting conversation today with a professor of English. The topic was business; specifically what it takes for a business to be successful. My friend has a latent desire to own a used bookstore, probably not an unusual desire for someone in his profession. He understands business concepts and looks for evidence of them when he visits bookstores during his travels.
He related his experiences from a recent swing through the Pacific Northwest. He described one shop owner as “prickly.”Actually, that was a relatively high rating as several shop owners were rude. One owner stood out because she was quite the opposite. She was vivacious and couldn’t stop talking about the books she read and, perhaps by extension, should be read by everyone. Although better than prickly or rude, that is probably not the best personality to unleash on a prospective customer.
His stories recalled a personal experience with a bookstore owner who curled up on a stool behind the cash register reading a book. He refused to even look up and acknowledge the entry of a customer into his store.
This article is not meant to castigate bookstore owners. There are many examples of well-run and profitable stores. It is meant to point out that there is more to operating a successful business than a liking for the product or service sold.
Almost certainly none of the above individuals wanted to come across as they did. They certainly do not want to drive away sales. They just don’t want to be sales people. The Harvard Business Review recently showcased a blog by Dorie Clark in which she talked about sales and marketing for the extremely shy. Some people are shy. Others shun being seen engaging in what they see as a somewhat tacky activity.
Plenty of material designed to train people about how to improve selling skills is available. Consulting expertise is available to guide you in making the sales process more planned and organized and thus somewhat automatic.
If you are in the “no desire to sell” category, hopefully you have taken advantage of books and courses in selling.
There are owners, however, who are not going to cross the line into sales regardless of the cost to their business. Clark has some advice for them. She recommends putting incredibly strong emphasis on marketing. You can, to a considerable extent, make up for weak salesmanship if your marketing brings in so many prospects that enough buy and allow you to survive.
Let’s stop for a moment and quickly review the difference between sales and marketing. Marketing activities bring prospects to you. Sales activities engage with prospects and close the sale.
Another option is to hire qualified sales people. You will have to pay well to get people who will represent you properly in important client situations.
Selling is an important, even critical, responsibility of the owner. If it is something you cannot bring yourself to do, then become a marketing powerhouse.
Bowser@BusinessValueInsights.com. Dan Bowser is president of Value Insights, Inc. of Durango, Chandler, Ariz., and Summerville, Pa.