Hate to Sell? Try This (Part One)

Most TaxCoach members didn’t become tax professionals because they wanted to “sell.” Then they got out in the real world and discovered that selling is an essential part of building your business and building your brand. But deep down, many still feel uncomfortable with the very concept of “selling” and the need to sell themselves, their services, and their value.

The good news here is that the problem really is all in your head. If you don’t like to “sell,” fine. Don’t sell. For this week and next, we’re going to work on developing a system to fill your practice with clients without having to engage in any of the high-pressure tactics that those of us who hate selling associate with that activity. And if you are comfortable with selling, and you even like it, read on anyway – you’ll still learn a thing or two.

Today we’ll cover reasons why so many TaxCoach members feel uncomfortable selling and work towards dismantling those mental barriers. Next week, we’ll discuss two alternative strategies for filling your office with grateful clients.

So . . . why do so many of us hate to sell? And what can we do to become more comfortable with it?

If you ask ten random people to tell you the first thing that comes to mind when you say the word “salesman,” odds are good that most of them will respond with “used cars.” That’s not a great image to associate with what really can be an honorable profession. But here we are, stuck with the stereotype. Is that part of the reason you hate selling, because you don’t want to be associated with that image? Well, let’s unpack that perception point by point and to see how far we can take the selling that we do out of that realm:

Nobody Really Wants to Buy a Used Car

That’s not true, of course. Lots of people looking for high-end vehicles know it can be smart to buy them when they’re two or three years old, after the initial buyer or lessor has taken the initial depreciation hit.

But when we think “used car salesman,” we’re not picturing the guy wearing a Mens’ Wearhouse suit selling certified pre-owned Lexuses or Mercedes. We’re picturing the sleazy little hustler peddling a “great deal” on a gently-dented 12-year-old Hyundai at a buy-here, pay-here lot in a sketchy part of town.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Are you excited to put your limited budget down on that clunker? Of course not! You’d rather buy new, or at least newer. You’re cruising that lot, hoping nobody drives by and recognizes you, because you have to, not because you want to.

Now let’s move our attention to our services. We’re not selling 12-year-old cars, are we? Of course not. We’re selling something people really want. Tax savings! Free money from the government! If prospects knew that was what we’re selling, they’d be lining up outside our doors like Black Friday shoppers outside Best Buy!

Part of the reason so many of us recoil from the thought of selling is because we associate it with pushing things that people don’t really want, or even things that are objectively bad for them. (The folks who run the cigarette companies’ marketing departments really are going to hell.) But we really are different. We’re selling something people really want. (They may not think we can deliver; they make think that some of our strategies are too good to be true; they may need to check with their spouse or business partner before they can cut a check for the engagement – but those are all different issues.)

If part of the reason you hate selling is because you associate it with pushing something people don’t want, then you need to break that association. The used-car salesman pushing that 12-year-old Hyundai really ought to be ashamed of himself. (He’s looked under the hood, and he knows exactly how far you’ll get from lot before you wind up pulled over on the side of the road calling AAA.) But you’re selling something you can be proud to represent.

Nobody Wants the Pressure Involved in Closing

Here’s the second reason many of us hate selling – we associate it with confrontational, high-pressure “closing” tactics.

Let’s return to our hopeful Hyundai salesman, eyeing us on the lot like a shark eyeing a bucket of warm chum. (Ick.) If we decide we want that car, with a $3995 sticker price, the game is on. We both know that we’re not going to pay $3995. We’ve got a price we won’t go above; he’s got a price he won’t go below. If we can find a price that meets both of those needs, we’ve got a deal. But even then, arriving at the final price is truly a zero-sum game. Every dollar we manage to keep through hardball negotiation goes out of his pocket and into ours.

Now, that’s a pretty miserable scenario, especially for buyers. They usually assume the seller is going to get the upper hand, simply because buyers shy away from that situation while sellers do it literally every day. And they’re usually right!

And if that’s what you picture when you think of “selling,” naturally you’re going to hate it!

But think about your business for a minute. How much of that sort of zero-sum back-and-forth negotiation do you engage in? Probably none at all. When you sit down with a prospect to sell a tax-planning engagement, you’re not just moving a finite quantity of money from his pocket into yours. You’re effectively creating newmoney – in the form of tax savings – and asking for a piece of those savings for yourself. That’s a very different proposition than the tug-of-war over every dollar that you see in the finance office of the used-car lot.

I can certainly understand why you would hate having to fight over every last dollar like our hungry Hyundai salesman. But if part of the reason you hate selling is because you don’t like that sort of high-pressure, zero-sum conflict, then you need to break that association.

Next week, we’ll talk about two alternatives to selling that can help fill your office with happy clients, without ever having to resort to uncomfortable “pitches” or “closes.”