If you’re too scared to sell, you shouldn’t run a business

As a business coach, I’ve noticed a big problem among small to medium-sized business owners: a fear of selling. The hard truth is that if you’re too scared or reluctant to go out and sell, you’re not ready to run a business. Here’s my take on this tough truth and how getting over this fear is key for anyone who wants their business to do well.

Fear of selling stops success

If you’re not willing to sell, you’re putting a big roadblock in your way to success. A reluctance to sell is often coupled with underselling products or services. People end up not charging enough because they think low prices are the main way to nab sales. In other words, bad cash flow often boils down to the business owner not wanting to get out there and cop rejection. Many would rather just stay in their comfort zone even if it means their business struggles. But comfort zones are the slow poison to your business’s success.

I have a family friend who, long story short, passed away due to diabetes, a situation he could have avoided if he had made healthier choices. He chose comfort over discomfort, refusing to change his lifestyle or eating habits. He’d wake up in the middle of the night and eat half a tub of ice cream. All this eventually had fatal consequences. This story is a lot like the reality of owning a business. Just as he ignored his health, entrepreneurs who avoid the sales process are killing themselves. You’re going to have a stack of expenses piling up, and you question, “Why am I dying?” Well, you didn’t stop eating the ice cream at midnight. It’s time to stop waiting for customers to come walking through the door. Sales is the uncomfortable, yet undeniable, responsibility of every business owner.

I’m no exception to business owners being reluctant to sell. When I first started Brainiact, it wasn’t so much fear holding me back from selling, it was a lack of knowledge of what that actually meant. It took guidance and some tough love from one of my mentors to shift my mindset to see how important it was for me to start selling. Realising that sales are crucial for a business was a game-changer for me. It pushed me to get out there proactively, connect with potential clients, and learn the art of selling.

The reality of sales

If you have a large starting capital or some unique selling proposition that sells itself, your story may be different. But the majority of us don’t have lots of working capital. That’s why you need to get out there, suck it up, and sell.

Realistically, out of a hundred people, only a small fraction might be ready to buy what you’re offering at the outset. If you contact 100 people, it might be the 95th to 100th person who says yes to you. This means you might need to face 95 people ignoring, rejecting or being rude to you until you find the five that welcome you with open arms.

One of the biggest reasons why the failure rate for small businesses is so high is that people don’t want to go through that rejection process. They prefer the illusion of comfort over the pursuit of success. They think somehow someone’s coming to rescue them. I mean, sure it’s possible, but it’s highly unlikely.

Getting over rejection

If you are afraid or reluctant to face rejection, turn it into a game. How many people have rejected or ignored you today? What record can you make? If one person has rejected you today, you only need 99 more until you get to 100. Think about how every ‘no’ gets you closer to a ‘yes.’ Suddenly, the negative experience of rejection turns into a motivational one.

Make your fear of remaining the same stronger than your fear of failure. This mentality will force you into action. Constantly remind yourself that you need to generate revenue for your business and pay its bills before you can pay yourself otherwise, you’ll drown.

We’re all bad at everything until we’re not. Understand that it’s okay to be bad at something at first, and with every practice you get, you’re going to get a little better at it each time. But you’re never going to get better if you don’t try.

Sales is a process

Many don’t even understand what sales is. It’s not just a transaction, it’s a process. Think of it like making a new friend – it takes time and effort. The biggest mistake people make is trying to sell immediately after meeting a potential customer without building an understanding or a relationship first.

To understand sales, you need to understand the customer lifecycle. The customer lifecycle is awareness, interest, enquiry, purchase, repeat purchase, and then, advocacy. It’s a process of generating awareness in whatever your target market is. And the more people that are aware of your product/service, the better off you’ll be and the more likely you are to get enquiries. So, the process usually takes some time, especially if what you’re selling is expensive or complicated.

The nature and duration of the sales cycle depend on the type of product or service being offered. Typically, the more complex and service-based your business is, the longer the sales cycle. If you’re selling something expensive, like a fancy software system to a multi-million dollar company, it takes lots of talking, planning, and meetings because there’s a lot of money at stake and therefore, a higher risk factor.

But most small businesses in Australia would have a low transaction amount, whether it’s lawn mowing, a bakery, electrical work, or personal training, and so the process is relatively quick. You’re not asking for tons of money, so people are more willing to say yes. Looking at it through this lens, selling your product or service should not be daunting for small businesses, as long as you become okay with being rejected a few times.

The reluctance to sell, I believe, is a significant reason behind the high failure rate among Australian SMEs. Many business owners take a passive expectation of success, and don’t actively generate leads and engage customers. Adopt a systematic approach to sales, with patience, persistence, and professionalism.

Strategies to sell successfully

The key to sales is to be yourself, be honest about what you’re offering, and make sure you exceed customers’ expectations just enough to make them really happy. Eventually, you’ll start to have that word-of-mouth come through the door and you won’t have to do a lot of the selling.

Remember, most people won’t buy something the first time they hear about it. You wouldn’t just walk up to someone you’ve just met and ask if they want to buy from you. They don’t know you yet! The vast majority of purchases aren’t done until there’s been multiple interactions with the business or the brand. This could be through emails, seeing your ads online, and then your posts on social media, or visiting your website. That’s already four points of contact. Then they might chat with you directly and you send a follow up email, then another phone call. That’s seven points of contact before they finally decide to buy from you. So, selling also takes patience and having a plan so you don’t prematurely give up on potential customers.

Most people don’t have a sales plan, which makes them give up too quickly. Say you’re a lawn mower and ring someone asking if they want their lawns mowed. They say, “Oh no, I’ve just mowed my lawn, but maybe in August when Spring is around the corner.” Do you give up the potential lead? No, you should make a note to call them back in five months. It’s almost certain you’ll get the job. Why? Because that person will feel like you remembered and value them, and that you are a professional with a system.

Having a system is going to work far better than “spraying and praying” flyers 100 times. That works too, but not as effectively. So have a list of target customers and try to hit them up eight or more times, over an appropriate amount of time. When I say people should be prepared to sell that, that’s really what I mean. You need to be able to have a process of generating awareness in your target market which will lead to a sale.

So, it’s simplistic to say if you’re not prepared to sell you shouldn’t be in business because what it really means is you need to have a system, patience, and commit to it.

If you’re not willing to sell, you shouldn’t be in business. This hard truth is not meant to discourage you, but to motivate you. As entrepreneurs, we must get out of our comfort zone if we ever want to see growth in our businesses. With the right attitude, knowledge, and effort, you can turn selling into an exciting part of your business. It’s time to step up, face rejection, and move forward until you succeed.