1. You can’t sell to your friends.
2. A product or service will sell itself.
I’ve spent a majority of my career working full time for both large organizations and small businesses managing digital marketing or IT teams and throughout my career I’ve always had a side hustle. I’ve always created and built things using the web, and offered services. Up until the past few years I’ve let my Impostor Syndrome get the best of me. I would build something cool, or hesitate to offer my services to those I knew at an appropriate cost (most of the time volunteering for free) or expecting the world would just flock to my great idea. I had success in event promotion and running an independent hip hop label in Vancouver in the mid 2000’s but I always expected more with less hustle. Or I could talk about the time I built a website that probably could have gone viral if I had just put $1,000 advertising behind it at the time. It was a website that enabled reviews of specific products and I created it before any other brand or company had.
I had to fundamental issues with my approach to business, which I have since learned to correct. I’ll go through them in detail. Most of this relates to working in the digital space, but in my experience of working with clients and businesses this applies across the board and all verticals.
1. You shouldn’t sell things to your friends. That’s selfish and greedy.
This was an honest thought most of my business-life. Why would my friends or friends of friends want to PAY ME to do things? Using existing relationships and friendships to garner business couldn’t be a good idea. What if it didn’t work out, or what if they weren’t happy with what I provided? Would I lose the friend? Well, the first correction there is that you need to look inside and admit whether or not your services are providing real VALUE. If you are transparent and providing REAL VALUE even if objectives aren’t met you will see success. The second issue here is that I have learned that business is based on relationships. Even at it’s core, if you think about the purpose of Advertising holistically it is to create brand trust with the public. If you don’t have $50,000 to execute a PR and Ad strategy to convey your company’s purpose, you need to build relationships yourself.
Whether you are in school, some sort of sports league, or even your child’s PAC at school, there is always opportunity to network. Life is short, and everyone is on their hustle.
If your best friend needs your services, you can provide them. You can charge them as well. There’s nothing wrong with it. Sure, offer a slight discount if it works for your margin, but if you provide real value, you both will be happy with the relationship.
The truth is, if you are in a circle of those who’m are on their hustle and trying to create and have an impact, you will be able to mutually benefit each other.
Always LEAD WITH VALUE in every relationship you create. The best thing you can provide anyone to show them you genuinely care about the relationship with them is knowledge. If you have an expertise and are willing to spend some of your time explaining something to someone it will go a long way.
We spend our lives building meaningful relationships. There is absolutely NO REASON why building these meaningful relationships can’t include business. Business is based on trust, and trust is based on authenticity in a relationship.
You aren’t scamming anyone by being transparent and offering.
2. If you build it, or offer it, they will come.
For some reason, I spent the first 10 years of my career (now at 15 years in) thinking that if you built something, and put it out to the world those who know you and saw of it would flock to it, offer you support and it would explode.
The truth about selling a product or a service is that you need to nurture relationships. Sales will always be about psychology and it will always be about building relationships. People you are genuine with now, can end up connecting you with life changing business opportunities 10 years from now. That doesn’t mean that in every relationship in life you should be thinking about how you can benefit from someone, but rather know that having a great relationship with someone can lead to benefits in the future. Sometimes that benefit is simply knowing the person.
The truth about selling a product or service is that you have to get out there, you have to tap into your network and you have to hustle. The more and more we become connected via the internet, the more we seem to become disconnected in relationships. In a world of automated emails and chat bots, people are longing for authentic communication and relationships.
Cold calling will never go away. The strategies of cold calling can be dynamic and diverse, but outreach is critical. Don’t spam mailboxes or hire a firm overseas to automate spammy emails to every business in a sector, figure out a creative way to approach businesses but stay focused on consistently having an outbound strategy.
Networking is critical. Even if you are selling something globally and hoping for a bulk of your sales to be online and from another country across the world, you need to get out there and meet like minded individuals who could see an opportunity in building with you.
I’ve built over 75 websites between the ages of 18 and 30 (I’m now 36) that I had hoped would just go viral and make me millions. After looking back and now discussing the ideas with successful business people, they very much could have made me a lot of money. But I was too introverted to network get out there and push my ideas. That mindset needed a change.
When it comes to sales, you need to stick to the basic fundamentals that have been around for decades WHILE embracing what technology is bringing to the game.
Always set a goal for yourself. If you launch a website offering a service, commit to a goal of achieving a specific amount of sales manually (cold calling, networking, in person, connecting with your existing network, etc…) before you start worrying about online sales. Once you’ve sold your product or services a few times traditionally scale online.