There are many qualities that a successful small businessperson (sole practitioner or sole proprietor) might possess, but ones that they must have. Includes in the desirable qualities that will facilitate growing and maintaining their business are a good work ethic, an entrepreneurial spirit, great communication abilities, empathy for and a genuine interest in people, and product knowledge.
Add to this list anything that comes to mind, such as organizational abilities, self-motivated, energetic, enthusiastic, persistent, and dedicated.
However, the one must-have, essential skill to run a business and be successful at it is sales. For many people sales is a scary word, but it’s nothing more than being able to have a conversation with people who can benefit from what we offer and in knowing how to ask questions. This is partly learned and partly natural ability.
Asking questions comes from a natural sense of curiosity and from an interest in people. When we genuinely want to help people live in their homes and age in place, the questions that we ask them come from this basic desire and not from some script or memorized list of questions to use.
Any person who is people-oriented and enjoys having a conversation with them can learn to sell just from this basic foundation. A love of people causes us to want to learn about them, their needs, and how we can help them. They sense our interest in helping them (and not just in making a sale or earning an income) and talk with us. Along the way, they share important information about their needs, desires, abilities, and budget that we can use in suggesting a solution for them.
Conversely, a person with strong product knowledge that isn’t comfortable asking questions or isn’t able to develop a natural rhythm of asking questions will be more challenged to become a successful salesperson.
Asking questions is nothing more than having a conversation with someone. One of the reasons that sales seems intimidating to some people is that they lack confidence. They can’t imagine themselves being good enough at appealing to someone’s needs for the client to make a purchasing decision that will lead to the client getting what they want and the person making the sale getting paid for their efforts.
Making sales is relational. It begins with an introduction and then a conversation about the other person and what the are seeking from us. Take someone we don’t know very well or someone we are meeting for the first time socially. We ask what they do, about their family, where they live, where they’re from, what they like to do, and so forth. This is conversation without anything more to it, but making a sale starts the same way.
Before long, we have an idea of their background and areas that we have in common with them. It’s not all one-sided either. It’s give-and-take. We learn about them, and they learn about us.
Sales is quite similar. There are certain types of questions we can’t ask until the foundation has been established, but it’s very similar.
Asking questions because we want to know the answers, because we are curious, because we need an explanation, and because we want a clarification to earlier statements they made or we are curious about something we observed in their home will guide us toward successful a sales presentation.
Along the way, we’ll learn what we need to focus on and the answers that our clients need to have in order to make an informed decision on our product or our proposed solution for them.
If we think that we aren’t that good at asking questions except in a light conversational way, we should start with that and grow it. Practice talking with people everywhere we go. After that, concentrate on really getting to know the people we are talking with – clients, potential clients, or ones that could purchase from us down the road. The questions to ask will begin coming because we are genuinely interested in helping people, and in knowing what they like, dislike, and need. This is how we can begin helping them.