Gaining Confidence: Women in Direct Sales
Cold calls, small talk, rejection. What do these three things have in common?
They are all pretty dreadful and they are all unavoidable elements of any Direct Sales process. The good news is – it is possible to maintain a successful direct sales strategy while keeping stress levels manageable and even having fun. It’s all about controlling the controllable.
One reason we dread cold calling so much is it puts us in a position where we feel unwanted. Nobody enjoys feeling like a nuisance or a burden. And unfortunately for us women, the intuition and sensitivity that make us who we are can be huge obstacles in overcoming that fear of rejection. So we can’t change the fact that cold calling is a necessary evil. But we can change the way we think about it by letting two of our strongest skills –empathy and education—work in our favor.
“Make a Customer, Not a Sale”
Psychological studies have shown that people love to spend money. It makes them feel accomplished and it’s exciting to discover and experience new things. So why do people hate receiving cold calls so much?
Imagine you are a single mother and you’ve had to leave work early to pick your son up from school because he was feeling ill. You’re stressed because you didn’t have a chance to finish everything you needed to do at the office and now you’re worried about your son on top of that. You’re stuck in traffic on your way to pick him up and your phone rings. It’s a salesperson calling to talk to you about their new line of cleaning products. How would you react?
Our ability as women to empathize can be hugely useful when strategizing a cold call. Imagining scenarios like the one above before making a cold call and reacting in a way that empathizes with the person on the other end of the phone will drastically change the outcome of your calls.
It will help you distinguish between reasonable objections (i.e. “this really isn’t a good time”) and blatant efforts to just get you off the phone (i.e. “I don’t use cleaning products”). And that will help you craft the kind of reasonable responses that frame you as an ally rather than an intruder: “I completely understand you weren’t expecting my call. Now seems like the wrong time but I do think you’ll benefit from a 5 minute conversation with me soon. What time of day is usually best for you?”
Stop Selling. Start Educating.
Another way to soften the blow of a cold call is to leave the sales aspect completely out of it. This might seem counterintuitive – after all, isn’t selling more products the only reason you’re suffering through these calls in the first place?
Ultimately, it is. But anyone with a background in direct sales knows a sales cycle has many steps. Whether it takes 10 minutes (i.e. someone browsing for a new lipstick at a department store) or many years (i.e. someone looking to buy a new house), every buyer goes through a process. But salespeople often overlook step one: education.
If a potential customer approaches you, they likely already have some knowledge of your products and/or services. But when making cold calls, it is important to always assume this person either has no prior knowledge or has a misperception of what kind of value you can offer them. When you incorporate education into your direct sales process, the first call (i.e. the cold call) is not so harsh. You’re not calling this person to push a new product on them or talk their ear off about something they couldn’t care less about. You’re just looking to spend 5-10 minutes educating them on the genuine value you can provide. As the expert in your field, you are providing consulting services to this person at absolutely no cost to them. You’re actually doing them a service! They should be grateful!
Change your tone and purpose of your cold call from “sell something” to “educate” and you’ll see a dramatic shift in how your prospects respond. They will likely still be on guard when they initially answer the call but if you craft an opening statement that clarifies the reason for your call, they’ll realize you’re not like the rest of those insensitive, pushy salespeople. And if they’re a fit for your product or service, they’ll then be ready to listen to what you have to say.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it
Women might not be built for the stereotypical wheeling and dealing of direct sales. But who wants that anyway? Use the skills you’ve got. Try throwing out the structure and scripts for once and channel your intuition to empathize and educate. If you believe in what you’re selling, chances are it won’t be tough. And I can guarantee it will be a lot more fun.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with the best current CD rates.