Selling oneself is a skill that everyone should learn. Whether you’re looking for a job, asking someone out for a date, or asking people for a favor, we’ve all been in scenarios where we tried to persuade others and win them over to our point of view.
Often, the word “selling” has a negative connotation. As a matter of fact, we often associate sales representatives with being greedy, deceitful, and willing to say anything just to close a deal. But the truth is that we are all marketers to some extent. I firmly believe that coming in with a mindset of helping people by offering yourself, or your product or service will serve you better.
The purpose of all sales techniques is to communicate the worth of a product. As a result, “selling yourself” entails communicating your worth, which is a skill that you can benefit from when you want to sell your business. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Does buying from you help their situation or fix a problem?
To help you understand the importance of “selling yourself” to your internal and external customers, here is a short crash course from Nick Rodites and Geoffrey James:
“People do business with people they like.” Do you agree? For buyers in the M&A arena, this is an important insight to remember. We often find ourselves coaching inexperienced buyers on using this logic as an effective technique to negotiate their best deal.
While price and terms are important to owners seeking to sell their closely held company, oftentimes sellers emphasize the importance of finding the “right” successor. They place a high priority on finding someone:
- With the skills and experience to take their business to the next level
- That will take great care of the good name and reputation they have established over many years
- That will treat their employees right
- That is respectful of the sellers’ personal, emotional, and financial concerns of turning over the reins to a qualified person.
On a number of occasions, clients select an offer from someone that met these conditions, rather than alternative buyers with higher price offers. Therefore, when representing buyers in our Targeted Acquisition Search Program, we insist on packaging the buyer in much the same way we painstakingly package a Seller before entering the market.
Packaging a buyer includes being ready to share:
- Financial qualifications by securing a credit report and signing a personal financial statement
- A professional bio and resume
- A written pre-due diligence list of relevant and thoughtful questions shared in advance of meetings
- A humble, yet positive and confident attitude
Above all, as a buyer evaluating potential acquisition targets, you need information and cooperation from the seller as quickly as possible. Approaching your potential targets prepared, and making the effort to give them what they need to qualify you, creates the desire and motivation to want to do business with you.
Whether that gets returned to you in the form of price, terms, extra efforts to ensure success during the transition, or any number of other valuable concessions, selling yourself as the buyer is the best approach.
Why is it important to sell yourself to your customers? Well, before anybody is going to buy from you or your company, they’ve got to “buy” the idea that you’re somebody trustworthy. In other words, just like a job candidate, your first task is always to sell yourself. That said, here are some effective ways to sell your business to your customers from Geoffrey James of Inc.com:
1. Research the Target
Before visiting a potential customer, examine the company’s website. Notice how they communicate about themselves, how they view their market, and whom they see as their primary customers. Use Wikipedia and other online resources (like Hoovers.com) to learn the basics and the background of the industry and market. Then use LinkedIn and online news stories to learn about key individuals in the company.
2. Create a Story
At some point in the relationship, the customer is going to want to know what you’re all about. The best way to give an impression of who you are is to tell a personal story about some event in your life. Preferably one that inspired your interest in what you’re selling: that is, your company and your products.
For example, if you own a chemical wholesaler, start your story with the chemistry set that you had as a kid and explain how you’ve always been fascinated by how the chemical industry works.
3. Anticipate Inevitable Questions
Before buying, a customer will want to know specifics about what you and your firm has accomplished. “Tell detailed accomplishment stories that clearly illustrate the … challenge, what [you] did about it, what results [you] produced,” says Ford R. Myers, author of the newly published. Get the Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring.
4. Be a Professional
At the risk of stating the obvious, you don’t have a second chance to make a first impression. To sell your business, being professional is a must. If your meeting with a customer is face to face, get lots of rest the night before, wear your best clothes, leave plenty of time for traffic, and arrive at least 10 minutes early.
Just before the interview starts, take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand. That’s not “making the sale,” but rather determining whether your offering actually matches the customer’s wants and needs.
5. Ask Thoughtful Questions
Never ask questions that could be answered with a little research on the Web. Instead, ask questions, and start conversations that build on the research that you accomplished in Step 1–and which illustrate your business acumen. Provide relevant examples of what you and your firm have accomplished in the past. Then, tie them into the requirements of the current situation.
6. Close on Next Steps
As the meeting comes to its conclusion, establish the way forward. In most situations, this will be another meeting or some form of communication. Most importantly, you must follow up immediately on any commitment that you’ve made. A prompt follow-up tells your customer that you’ll do what’s necessary to make them more successful–without forcing them to wait for you.
We hope that this guide has encouraged you that “selling yourself” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and that it’s always important to maximize your full potential when the time comes to sell your business.