Last week, we talked with Elizabeth Scherle, co-founder and president of Influenster, an online product discovery and review platform that has built up a membership of over 2.5 million in the seven years since they started, which is all the more impressive considering the company didn’t bring on investors until last year. Check out how Elizabeth and her team built Influenster based off a gap in the marketing marketplace, and what it’s been like to grow from a team of two working out of coffee shops to over 70 employees forging new innovative connections between companies and social media users. Below, Elizabeth—who never thought she’d be good at working in sales when she first started out—dishes her ten best tips on how to make the process of pitching a product organic and genuine, and how to forge authentic, long-lasting relationships with your clients:
Pre-suation is the new persuasion.
“Pre-suation,” a term coined by marketing expert Robert Cialdini in his book Pre-Suation: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, is all about the moments that happen before your key sales message is delivered. Start off your conversation with a question about why the person decided to meet you, take your call or learn about your business. By understanding why that client chose to speak with you and what about your company stands out to her or him, you’ll be able to shape your conversation from the very beginning to match that potential client’s goals and to show your company in a positive light before you even start your pitch.
Don’t talk at them; talk with them.
People like to talk about themselves, so ask potential clients questions—lots of questions. Ask what their objectives are and come up with solutions. Also, make your conversation fun! We are all people, after all. Everyone has a good life story to tell—you just need to find out what it is. Plus, you never know what could lead to a personal connection. Once, I casually mentioned a story about my old company and discovered the person I was selling to had interned there. Another time, I asked a potential client about her curly hair regimen and we discovered that we both knew the person who started the line of products that we both use. These types of encounters are great jumping-off points for more casual and intimate conversations. Bringing up hobbies also opens up opportunities to bond over shared experience. I have several close friends today who started out as my clients!
Know your audience.
Nuance is key. Learn to read your audience. Are they in a hurry? Bored? Only interested in one thing? Don’t come to the conversation with the same cookie cutter pitch for everyone. Be in tune with different personalities and needs. How does your audience absorb information? You may need to breeze through your presentation for some and take extra time to explain for others.
Keep it real.
Cut out all industry jargon and mumbo-jumbo talk. Make your message easy to understand, as if you were talking to a colleague or friend over coffee. By keeping it real, you’ll better be able to tell your business story and your audience is more likely to relate and listen.
Show, don’t tell.
Stop selling and let your product or service do the talking. What worked for others who used your product or service? Present real life examples: show why people decided to engage with your business and how they did so. After all, people trust other people more than they trust advertising. Hence, don’t be an ad. Bring in the case studies and testimonials and let them speak for themselves.
Believe in what you’re selling!
This is super important. I always thought I would not be suited for sales because I’m incapable of faking anything. However, when you’re working at a company you like and value the service your company brings, it’s easy to be passionate. And that shows in your work and storytelling. People will sense your confidence and start to feel the same way. Bottom line: if you’re not feeling it, you shouldn’t be selling it.
Honesty is the best policy.
If I think a particular service or offering won’t work for a potential client, I am upfront about it. This develops trust. I think of my job as a salesperson as making my potential client look good in front of his or her boss for choosing to do business with me. Therefore, I am honest with my opinions on what works and doesn’t work, even if that means I won’t make the sale. By instilling this mentality in my sales team, we make it our mission to give thoughtful and applicable advice—this has led clients to trust our opinions and come back for more.
You can sit at your desk all day emailing and cold-calling people or you can set up in-person meetings that lead to real connections and friendships. Going out and developing real relationships is not only fun, it also provides valuable insight for business—e.g. What else can I offer to my customers? What new leads sprung up? I’ve gained so much from taking potential and existing clients out to manicures, workout sessions and cocktail-making classes—bonding that can’t happen from a mere phone conversation.
Never burn a bridge.
One of my best strategies for developing long-term relationships with customers and clients is to leave things on friendly terms no matter the outcome of the deal. I always express my gratitude towards that person for being open to learning about my business, even if it didn’t close. And you know what? People appreciate that behavior and remember it down the road. Many people who have turned me down in the past are my clients today.
Keep in touch and make new connections.
After you close a deal, that’s just the beginning of a new chapter. Stay in touch and make sure to follow up about their experience. If you care about your client’s success, they will care about you, too. Also, leverage your relationships to make new ones. Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions to new contacts (once you’ve proven yourself, of course) to keep your momentum going.