How to Make Sales, Without Really Selling

Anne Wolfson / Owner, Anne Wolfson, PLLC

Many of us dream of launching a new business – whether a novel software platform, a manufacturing operation or a unique technical or professional service.

Entrepreneurs have new ideas and begin figuring out at least the initial stages of creating them: identifying whom to work with to efficiently refine the technologies, polish their commercial expression, and develop prototypes, all at a reasonable cost. They may even have fruitful relationships with trusted cofounders and other partners. If all goes well, pretty soon, it’s time to bring the thing to market and start improving people’s lives.

Unfortunately, very few ideas will sell themselves. Many entrepreneurs – technology or design geniuses, or both – have immense difficulty learning how to sell their creations. They find it embarrassing. Maybe even incomprehensible.

Perhaps the prospect of closing a sale is too daunting; some find “selling” to be distasteful and even dishonest. Perhaps they don’t consider themselves persuasive or particularly articulate; for certain, they don’t know the magic words to close a sale, which others seemed to have learned in business school or big corporate marketing departments.

They never focused on how to articulate someone else’s unexpressed need in a pithy way. Or to intuitively understand the most a prospect will pay for this product.

For those who can create things that meet the needs of broad populations – if only people knew how much this can help! – figuring out how and where to sell, and to whom, can be overwhelming.

Remember: You are your creation’s best salesperson. You know your creation better than anyone.

In watching hundreds, probably thousands, of product and service pitches, and in trying to figure out how to differentiate myself from my colleagues in technology law, I have learned this:

  • Don’t “sell.” Listen.

  • Then, listen some more.

  • Make sure to listen actively.

  • Think carefully about what has been said.

  • Ask questions about their needs and concerns.

  • Show that you are open to learning about them, can take in new information and want to help them solve their problems.

  • Try to develop a genuine connection over this shared issue or your approach to problem-solving.

  • Describe a remarkably similar problem you’ve solved.

  • In non-jargony terms, describe your solution.

Then stop talking and listen again. Productive selling is not about selling, it’s about listening, creating a connection and helping to solve an important problem in someone else’s life.

Once the SELLING stops, a productive exchange can occur – and maybe a sale, too.