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026 - Why you hate selling, and how to get over it.

Why do so many of us absolutely HATE selling and how do you get over it? Why do we have such a revulsion to selling ourselves? Being vegan, we’re not usually afraid to push a cause – but promoting ourselves or making money from the vegan sector seems to really make us feel uncomfortable. 

Your experience of ‘sales’ is probably someone trying to pressure you to buy something that you were not really sure you needed or even wanted – but that’s not sales, at the best that’s scamming people. If you genuinely believe that your product or business will improve someone’s life or solve a significant problem that they have, then it is your duty to help that person become a customer so you can solve their problem.

In this episode, David takes a look at how you can reframe ‘selling’ into ‘helping’, and how to develop your own confidence in your product and your pricing (did we mention that membership to Vegan Business Tribe is equivalent to buying a coffee a week from your local cafe?!). Because if you don’t overcome your aversion to selling then you will always be holding back, you will never be giving your business your best shot.

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Full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to episode twenty-six of The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast with myself David Pannell, co-founder of Vegan Business Tribe.  If you have a vegan business, or are thinking of starting one, then Vegan Business Tribe is here to support and inspire you not just to build a vegan business, but to build a SUCCESSFUL vegan business.
And if you want to go beyond the podcast and connect with our community of like-minded vegan entrepreneurs then head over to Vegan Business Tribe .com where you can attend our online meet-ups, get support with your vegan business, study our vegan marketing course, get access to both me and Lisa and just be part of a wonderful community of vegan business people just like you.  And we’re always really grateful to our members because they are the people who mean we can keep recording this podcast every week and putting out all our content and just generally doing everything we can to support vegan businesses.
Now, the eagle-eared amongst you might have realised that I’ve just been selling to you. You might have missed it, I do the intro to this podcast so often that sometimes I don’t even realise I’m selling to you – but one of the reasons we do a podcast is to make more people aware of Vegan Business Tribe and as part of you listening today, I also want you to go check out the website.  In fact, if you’re a regular listener and you haven’t signed up as a member on the website too then you’re actually missing out on all the best bits of what Vegan Business Tribe has to offer.
But, does this actually feel like I’m selling to you? It doesn’t to me, I just want to make sure that you get support with your vegan business so that YOU can help us move towards a vegan world.  But in that case, why do so many of us absolutely HATE selling?  Why do we have such a revulsion to it?  Why does it feel like we’re trying to force our business on someone and more importantly, how do you get over it?  Now, being vegan we’re not usually afraid to push a cause!  But anything regarding promoting ourselves or making money from the vegan sector, and especially making money from our fellow vegans, makes us feel uneasy. 
But let me put this to you: do you genuinely believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that your product or business will improve your customer’s life or solve a significant problem that they have? Because if the answer is yes, then it is your duty to help that person become aware of your business.  You will find success and get everything you need by simply helping everyone else get what they need. And if someone has a problem that your product or services solves, and even better it solves it in a cruelty-free way, is it better to convince that person that your company can help or would you rather just leave them to fend for themselves? 
And this is one of the big reasons that people don’t like selling – because selling is rarely viewed in this way.  Your experience of sales is probably someone trying to pressure you to buy something that you were not really sure you needed or even wanted.  But think back to when you last did your weekly food shop, did you feel like you were being sold to – or did you actually quite enjoy the experience?   And after you handed your money over at the till, did you feel that you’d been forced into buying the things in your basket?  No, because you needed them and buying them made the outlook for your next week a whole lot better. What about the last time you saw a doctor or went to a pharmacist with some niggle or rash you had?  You told them your problem, they told you how to fix it – and as part of solving that maybe you had to buy a cream or some medicine.  You had to part with money to get the solution to your problem but did you feel like you were being sold to, or was someone just signposting you to the answer?
So, we KNOW that buying things you need, or things that are going to solve a problem for you is not inherently bad – in fact when we have a problem, we welcome someone giving us the answer.  For example, would you pay someone £35 to go on a jog with you around your local park – probably not, you can go on a jog yourself and that would be quite a hard sell. But would you pay £500 over three months to buy ‘more confidence’ because you were happier with your weight? Or to buy ‘more energy’ so you could be more active with your children or grandchildren. £500 for that is quite a bargain, but if you’re a fitness instructor, what is actually being sold is the same thing – a weekly fitness session in your local park – but the first is trying to sell a product, the second is trying to solve someone’s problem.
And this is the problem people have when trying to sell, we focus on the actual physical thing we are selling (if you are selling a product) or we try to justify the actual time someone gets with you if you’re selling an in-person service.  And you rationalise it this way to yourself, you focus on someone paying that one off £35 to go for a jog around their park and how expensive that seems, instead of realising that someone paying £500 over three months to completely change their life is actually a bargain. If you hate selling then you are probably trying to sell the product, not the positive outcome.  You are not focusing on the thing that the customer ACTUALLY wants to buy, you are focusing on flogging a product instead of solving someone’s problem.
And I will say it again, if your product genuinely has a potentially positive impact on someone’s life, then it is your duty to introduce that person to it.  That’s why I’m so comfortable telling you at the start of each one of these episodes to go take a look at the Vegan Business Tribe website. When Lisa and I meet someone who is wanting to grow a vegan business, we don’t get scared of selling Vegan Business Tribe to this person – we get EXCITED!  I know that if you engage with Lisa and I, and you come to all the events and if you study the vegan marketing course and book in for a business clinic with us that your vegan business will be more likely to succeed because of it.  And I say that with confidence because I’ve got a whole page of testimonials from people who have told me what a difference Vegan Business Tribe has made to their businesses.  So when we meet someone new who needs help, it becomes our duty to this person to get them to sign up as a member.  Because we know what a positive difference it will make to them and potentially their lives.
SO – you know what question I’m going to ask now: is this how YOU feel when you’re trying to introduce people to what YOU sell?  Well, if you’ve joined me for a podcast about not feeling comfortable selling … then I’m guessing not!  And if you are NOT comfortable selling your business, then either: 1. you’ve not yet worked out the thing that someone actually wants to buy yet or 2. you don’t have confidence yourself in what you are selling.
So let’s take a look at both those points because it’s important that you solve both if you are ever going to get comfortable with selling your business. And working out what it is that people actually want to buy is extremely important, because far too often we think we are selling the product in our hand. If you ARE a fitness instructor then you think you are selling fitness classes.  If you are a vegan web designer you think you are selling websites. If you are a vegan takeaway you think you are selling a meal.  Well let me put this to you:  If you are a fitness instructor, your customers are not wanting to buy fitness classes, they are wanting to buy confidence, or more energy or they are wanting to drop a clothing size.  If you are a web designer people are not coming to you for a new website, they are looking to get more customers.  If you sell vegan takeaway, then if you think you are just selling a meal then you are putting yourself in competition with every other way that person could feed themselves that day.  What you are actually doing is letting someone buy back time and energy of not having to cook themselves after a busy day.  You need to understand the actual problem that people are looking to solve that your problem is a perfect solution for.  Because I guarantee, that in the vast majority of cases people do not want to buy your product!  They want to solve their problem and if they could just pay to solve that problem without buying your product then they would.  So, if you are heading out there trying to sell your PRODUCT, you are instantly putting yourself into a potential conflict situation.  And we’re vegan, we hate conflict. If instead you put yourself in the situation where you are actively helping someone to solve a problem that is really causing them issues, then that’s where us vegans thrive.  We’re compassionate folk, we want to make the world a better fairer place.  I’ve met plant-based nutritionists who specialise in fixing some really complicated medical problems but hate the idea of trying to sell their services to people.  Why?  Would you rather those people kept living with those debilitating problems, or would you rather they came to you so you could vastly improve their lives?
And that leads us to the second point you need to address – you actually HAVE to believe that your product or your service will solve someone’s problem.  You need to have confidence in what you are selling. Now, I’m assuming that you have a great product – so save the nice emails you get from customers, set up a scrapbook with all the things your business has achieved for people, even copy and paste the positive social media comments into a file and go back and read them every now and again to realise what your product means to people.  And maybe this is hitting home with you, maybe this gets to the route of your own problem with selling.  You need to have confidence in what you are selling to be comfortable selling it.  Because if you don’t have full confidence in what you do, then you are always going to find yourself agreeing with your potential customer’s objections to buying.
If you think your product is a bit expensive, then you are never going to be able to overcome a potential customer’s objection to price.  I’ve heard really talented vegan artisans describe how long their hand-made product takes to make, how it’s made from the very finest vegan, cruelty-free materials, how it’s made unique for every order – and then when someone asks them how much, they apologise for how expensive it is before telling them the price.  Well, whatever price comes out of your mouth after apologising doesn’t matter, because you’ve just told your customer not to buy it because it’s too expensive.  You’ve just told your customer you don’t believe that the time, materials and effort that you put into your products is worth it, they should just go order a mass-produced item from the Amazon website.
If you think your product is too expensive then you will feel that you’re ripping someone off, that you’re scamming someone. And that will go against your nature so you will simply not feel comfortable selling it.  The thing about price though, is in my experience, often a company can raise their prices by 10 or 20 per cent without it making any real difference to their sales.  In some cases doing so actually increases sales. So you need to become confident that your product is worth what you are charging for it.  Map out the real benefits that someone gets from your product, and then realise how much that would be worth to them – like I said earlier, a lot of people would happily pay £500 to give them more energy and confidence, but not pay £35 for someone to jog around the park with them.
Or work out how much it would cost someone to solve their problem in any other way.  Maybe you’re a bookkeeper – how many hours would it take someone to do and submit their end of year accounts themselves and how much does that compare to what YOU charge?  If they paid themselves what you charge for the service, they might find they would be paying themselves below minimum wage per hour AND they haven’t got the added security of someone with all your years of experience to make sure it’s done right.
Or perhaps you are selling plant-based meals in a box to people who don’t have time to make food to take to work with them every day.  Compare that to how much someone might spend a week buying from their local high-street sandwich shop every lunchtime, where they also have to put up with the same single vegan option every day.  Don’t judge the selling price of your unique, customised product to high-volume manufactured products if there’s no comparison.  Make sure you are comparing beans with beans.  Don’t compare how much you charge for a bespoke, custom service to a generic ‘one-size-fits-all’ service offered by someone else if yours uniquely solves someone’s problem better than the generic one could ever solve it.
Or maybe realise that, actually, the cost of what you’re selling isn’t that big a thing to the people you are selling it to.  If you’re selling to the general public, work out what the cost is similar to so that you can rationalise it in your own head.  Is it the same as having a Netflix subscription? Is it the same as buying a new pair of shoes – and how much deliberation do you think your customer does before doing that?  You might think that your product is expensive, but in reality, especially to the people you have defined as your target market, most of the time it’s not really. Vegan Business Tribe membership is about the same as buying a cup of coffee a week from your local cafe, and we keep that in mind whenever we’re telling someone how much it costs to join – because we know that in the big scheme of things, for many people that’s hardly anything but the benefits they get in return are huge.  And we can say that with confidence because Lisa HAS saved all the feedback, social media comments and amazing emails we get from our members in a big file which we go back and read any time we have doubts.
But you might also say to me, that you know that your product solves a problem, that you’ve got some amazing testimonials, that you’ve got some amazing customer feedback, and you KNOW that in the big scheme of things, it’s not actually that expensive to your customers – but you still feel bad about selling because you don’t like making money from helping other people.  You’d much rather help people and charge as little as you can, or even give it away for free.
Well, if you are a millionaire, and you are doing this as your way of giving back then amazing.  But do you know how many people I’ve met, in the vegan sphere, doing amazing things to help people, to help the animals and move the vegan cause forwards, but they have hit burn-out.  Or they have been unable to keep doing the amazing things they are doing because it didn’t give them a standard of life that was comfortable enough to maintain over the long term – they couldn’t give their kids the holidays they wanted or afford a decent computer to run their business.  And you might say these things are not important, that the best holidays are those that don’t cost a lot of money or you don’t need the latest tech – but it gnaws away at you.  When your car breaks down and the garage bill is your food budget for two months, or when you work out the hours you are working compared to the money you are earning and realise you would get more with a bar job. You cannot keep doing the great work you are doing if it’s not financially sustainable. You cannot help to move the vegan cause forwards with your business, or replace an animal product on a shelf if you cannot give yourself a comfortable enough wage to live on.  And maybe you need to save up for your retirement, or you have to support others in your family, or maybe you employ staff and want to give them a good standard of living too – there is no problem in furthering the vegan cause with your business and earning a comfortable wage at the same time – in fact it’s unlikely that you will be able to keep doing what you are doing if you are not.  A mantra we have at Vegan Business Tribe, which I want to make your mantra too, is that you can do far more good in the world with a profit than you will ever do with a loss.
So once you know that you are selling something that people actually want to buy, once you know that them being introduced to your business will really make a positive difference in their lives and you’ve got full confidence in your product – and then finally, you’ve convinced yourself that it’s OK to charge realistically for what you do, else you just can’t keep doing it, then there’s ONE MORE thing you need to do to get over your aversion to selling. And that is: just take the pressure off.
People think that a sale happens in a single moment, that it’s a ‘buy now or forever don’t’ kind of scenario.  But think about how you buy things yourself. Do you see something and just buy it straight away, or is it usually an extended process?  Sometimes a problem is instant – something breaks and you need to go buy a new one to replace it.  But usually, people don’t just buy this way, instead they follow a buying timeline. They slowly become aware of a need, they slowly start to notice you and your product.  So don’t try and force a buy now or never situation. Be a grower, not a hunter.  Gather people who you know have a problem you can solve and spend time getting to know them, let them get to know you or your brand.  Don’t build a business where the sale is a point of conflict, where it’s a battle to see who can come out top – you’re not selling used cars. Make it so that when the sale happens the person is already on board with you and your product and all they need is to be given an easy prompt to make the arrangement into a commercial one.
So, to wrap up.  I get it, I really do. When people think about selling, they think about trying to convince someone to buy something that they don’t really need or want.  But that’s not sales, that is at best scamming.  And that’s NOT what you’re here to do with your business.  Think about a product or a business which really made a positive impact on your life, that you couldn’t now live without.  Aren’t you glad that someone ‘sold’ that product to you?  And you might say that you just bought it online, but trust me – there are plenty of real people behind every sale of every product.  There were people who believed in what they were selling else it would have never got in front of you.  And that’s the point.  If you don’t get over feeling uncomfortable selling then you are always going to be holding back.  You’re not going to send out that extra email campaign.  You’re not going to do that vegan fair.  You’re not going to get that new webpage built.  You’re not going to make that call or ask that satisfied customer for a referral.  And if you don’t do all that, you won’t be able to build a successful vegan business and you won’t be able to help us move the vegan business scene forward.
OK, so let’s have a recap of what we’ve gone over today with a bullet point list of why you hate selling, and how to get over it.
  1. If by becoming your customer, someone is going to have a huge problem solved which will have a significant positive impact on their life or business, then it is your DUTY to help that person become your customer.
  2. If you are not comfortable selling, then either: 1. you’ve not yet worked out the reason someone is buying or 2. you don’t have confidence in what you are selling.
  3. Don’t focus on the actual thing you are selling, focus on what problem your product or service solves for the customer.  You might not pay a personal trainer to take you on a run, but if someone said they could sell you more confidence for a few hundred pounds, that would be a bargain right?  Someone might not want to pay £3,000 to have a new website built, but they might twice as much as that to generate more enquiries online.
  4. You HAVE to believe in your product or service if you’re going to be able to sell it. Keep a record of all the positive feedback you get and realise what a difference you are making for your customers. 
  5. Understand and be confident in your value.  If you believe your product is too expensive, no matter what the price, no one will ever buy it. Compare your product to what else your customers might buy.  Vegan Business Tribe membership costs the same as buying a coffee once a week in your local cafe – just saying.
  6. You need to have a financially sustainable business to keep doing what you are doing.  You need to live a comfortable standard of life and provide for your family else you will just burn out.  Remember that you can do far more good in the world with a profit than you will ever do with a loss.
  7. Take the pressure off sales.  Yes, we all need new customers but high-pressure sales are for used car salespeople.  Don’t try and force a ‘buy now or never’ situation. Be a grower, not a hunter.
  8. If you don’t get over your aversion to selling, then you will always be holding back. You will never be giving your business your best shot.
So, I actually really enjoyed this one – of course I really enjoy all our chats together because it’s where we really get to know each other – but this is something that I know will help a lot of people.  I’ve always found the best way to build a business is by focusing on helping other people solve their problems.  So when I end each of these sessions and ask you to go check out the Vegan Business Tribe website – when I remind you that you can get access to a full vegan business community, you can get access to myself and Lisa at our business clinics, you can meet other vegan business owners at our networking meetups, you can study our vegan marketing course – all for the price of a cup of coffee from your local cafe a week – then I don’t really feel like I’m selling to you.  I know that it’s got the potential to really solve some of your problems.  And that’s when you can become REALLY comfortable selling your business.
OK, so thank you for much for listening, I always appreciate you giving up your time to listen – especially those who listen right to the end.  And I know that people do because they come find me on LinkedIn or send me emails to tell me.  But if I could ask you to do me one last favour before we finish, if you HAVE really found this episode useful, can I ask you to forward it on to any other vegan business you know that you think might find it useful too.  That’s what we’re here to do, to help people build better VEGAN businesses to move the cause forward.  So the more vegan business owners you can help me get this information to, the quicker we all move towards that vegan world.  And if you’re struggling with sharing an episode on your phone, then you can also share episodes direct from the website too.
Thank you for listening, and I will see you on the next one.

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