Entrepreneurship and sales go hand in hand. Even if you’re not on the front lines of your business’s sales team, if you’re an entrepreneur, developing sales skills is critical to the success of your business.

Selling is about a lot more than getting people to buy products — it can help you build relationships with your clients, get your business featured in the media, expand your audience, or even sign a strategic partnership with another company.

If you’re interested in developing your sales skills, here are five secret methods to keep in your back pocket for the next time you need to turn a hesitant “no” into a confident “yes!”

1. Overcome Your Fear With Knowledge

Does the thought of chatting with a potential customer on the phone make you sweat? Does the prospect of pitching your idea to an audience of potential investors or partners give you stage fright?

There’s a trick to overcoming fear. Keith Yackey, who teaches Real Estate investors how to raise private money, says that “the one thing that holds us back for sure more than anything is fear. Fear is from the unknown, and I believe that fear ultimately stems from not knowing. The way to overcome fear in its entirety is through knowledge, is through understanding. That’s how you conquer fear.”

Arming yourself with knowledge can really help make your next phone call with a hot lead or presentation for important decision-makers feel a lot less intimidating. Do your homework before the call. Know the product you’re selling inside and out; research the company your lead works for; familiarize yourself with your customers’ most common pain points. The more you know, the less you’ll have to be afraid of when you’re on the spot.

2. Build Your Audience

Once you have the confidence to talk to your customers, it is important to continuously expand your audience. Indeed, the more people you have in your CRM, the more sales you will make.Referral marketing expert Michael Griffiths says, “Sales is easy when you have a hungry audience that wants what it is that you solve. Using your wider networks and partnerships is a very cost-effective way to build your audience.” Your existing audience can refer people they know to your business, helping you increase your audience size with ease.

3.  Create Referral Relationships

When it comes to building referral relationships, Griffiths breaks it down into four simple steps:

  • Identify the possible referral partners in your network.
  • Ask if they are open to creating a referral relationship.
  • Have a conversation to make sure there is a good fit and you can actually help one another.
  • Create an action plan to start doing things for one another and creating new opportunities for each other.

It’s important to reach out to as many people as possible, including those outside your industry’s usual demographic, in an attempt to have a vast number of referral relationships. Practice makes perfect; as you reach out to more and more people, you will be able to optimize your referral relationship process and tailor it to your company’s needs.

4. Choose the Right Moment, Then Ask for Permission to Help

Do you worry that you’re being overly pushy when talking to potential customers? It turns out, there’s actually a great way you can avoid that – get their permission to make your pitch.

It’s easier than you’d think. Startup founder and digital strategist Nathalie Lussier suggests this tactic: “Ask if they’d like to know how you can help. This is the magic question, because it allows you to talk about what you offer without it feeling like a sleazy sales pitch. If they say yes, you can talk about how you can help and how they can work with you. Otherwise, no problem, you can end the conversation.”

Want to say goodbye for good to that icky feeling associated with sales? Get the timing right, then ask them if they want to know what you bring to the table.

5. Be Prepared to Handle Objections

Nothing kills a deal faster than flubbing your response when a potential buyer brings up an objection for which you don’t have an answer. To avoid the awkwardness of this situation, start getting familiar with the most common objections out there, and practice answering them.

Here’s Nathalie Lussier’s method for handling objections: “After you tell someone your price or ask for the sale, you might hear, “Yes, but…” The trick to handling objections is to be prepared. Most people have the same objections: time, money, and is it going to work for me? Come up with answers for these common objections, and write down any new ones you uncover.”

About Megan Monroe
Associate Editor Megan Monroe is a graduate of Santa Barbara’s Westmont College where she studied Philosophy and Communications. After working for several local small businesses (where she gained firsthand experience with the frustration of manual segmentation and follow-up), Megan joined the Ontraport Growth Team. When she isn’t writing marketing copy, social media posts or educational guides for entrepreneurs, she enjoys taking advantage of the Central Coast's amazing wineries and cooking without following a recipe.