I pity the small businesses that try to sell their products or services only through features and benefits. They think that hard sales tactics like cold calling or deep price discounting actually still work and are a solid way to build their business. They keep trying to sell to the same old prospects until they become so unresponsive that they are lost on how to find additional business.

Sales, in the traditional sense, is dead. In fact, trying to sell to prospects only breaks down our confidence and make us feel bad about our company. When a prospect says no to our product or service, we think they are saying no to us personally. We hate it. We feel the sting and it makes us reluctant to try it over and over again.

I learned a long time ago from Sander Selling Systems that the formula for people buying is actually very simple. Customers buy when:

1. They are in pain.

2. They have the money to solve that pain.

As a small business owner, the first task is to be able to describe the pain that your company solves and identify who has the money to solve that pain. In fact, this should be practiced as your “elevator speech."

The next step is to forget the “S” word. Now learn the “R” word: relationships. Relationships are the key to growing your company and can bring sales to you almost effortlessly. This is because we actually can’t sell anything to anyone. We just need to be there when people are ready to buy. This is why consistent marketing is so important. You need to continually remind people what you do and how you help others. When they have a problem you can solve (and the money to solve it), they will naturally buy from you. They may even know someone else that has the same pain and make a connection.

Don't waste your time by chasing the people that long ago decided not to buy from you. These are the same people that have stopped returning your phone calls or e-mail inquiries months ago. Remember, every prospect needs to continually qualify themselves for it to be worth your time in the sales process. As a result, the only way to grow your company over the long term is to keep investing in building trusted relationships. This is done by implementing a systematic method for "staying in touch" with people over a long period of time.

Three simple methods for doing this are:

  1. Use CRM software such as HighRise, Salesforce, or Goldmine to know when to periodically contact people (monthly or quarterly). Any simple reminder system that can capture information can be effective.
  2. Consistently reach out to people through phone, e-mail or snail mail. This is done not by selling them anything, but by giving them something of value they can use in their business. This can be a person they should meet, a lead, a resource article or a helpful website.
  3. Use social media to “Like” or “Retweet” their comments or content. They will think of you for an instant and remember the value you bring.

Vow never to sell again. Think building relationships. It works every time.

This post first appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum.

About the Author(s)

Barry Moltz

Barry is a nationally recognized speaker on small business who has given hundreds of presentations to audiences ranging in size from 20 to 20,000. 

Speaker, Consultant & Author