Selling for Your Small Business Through Relationships

Being a small business owner or a “solopreneur” is an exciting journey. When you take the leap to work for yourself, there is rarely a dull moment. No matter what product or services you offer, the sales process is a very personal experience when you are the face of the company. Those who get disappointed or discouraged easily will have a rough road ahead. You will win some and lose some when you work for yourself.

If I could figure out the secret code to why clients select me over other speakers, trainers or consultants, it would make this “solopreneur life” much easier, but it would not be nearly as much fun. The human-to-human engagement of the sales cycle is exciting, regardless of whether or not I am selected as the solution. The experience of determining if I am the right fit for each company, law firm, association or other meeting is like a glorious puzzle.

I recently asked a friend for an introduction to an association where I would like to be a featured speaker at their annual event (and I am confident I would make a huge impact). The head of the organization did some homework and realized they had turned me down last year. He was worried about having me chat with his team, and he told my friend he “did not want to get my hopes up.” I still wanted to have the conversation because without a dialogue with a real person, there was no chance I could ever be considered. The meeting organizer and I had a delightful discussion, and we discussed ways to get the crowd more engaged with each other and the need to bust the cliquey atmosphere that can sometimes exist at these types of gatherings. In the end, the committee decided their meeting did not need the “Conference Catalyst,” but I was still extremely grateful for the chance to talk to this highly creative meeting professional. I am never disappointed when the answer is “No” because I recognize that I’m not always the right speaker for every event.

Each potential speaking engagement is different and what motivates the decision makers (event professional or committee) is always unique. The sharing of ideas I get to have with interesting people keeps me excited about being part of the meetings industry. Those professionals who are committed to creating interesting experiences are full of energy, artistic vision, optimism, experience, knowledge and the entrepreneurial spirit. Rarely will you find someone with a stronger work ethic than an event industry professional.

Delivering more than 50 presentations a year to a variety of types of audiences, I have discovered that no two clients are the same. Their underlying motivation for what they expect from the speakers who take their stage is always different. It is also true that “speaking” is an art, and some prefer a Monet to a Picasso. A speaker is not a commodity, and regardless of your industry, you are not a commodity either. Each client who buys what you sell has their own vision for what they need in the tapestry they are creating.

In the end it is sad to not be selected. Especially when know in your soul that you are the best vendor for that client. However, there is always next time. To the successful salesperson (and we are all salespeople), “no” translates to “not this time.” I’ve experienced many situations where prospects have gone a different direction, only to come back to me later.

When you create relationships with a prospect that goes beyond a single transaction, it makes it easy from him/her to return. That is the coolest part of dealing with people who you want as a friend, not just as a client. Always be polite to everyone and know that there is always a tomorrow.

You can simply not predict what will happen. As a small business owner or “solopreneur,” you have to be engaged in all aspects of your sales cycle (the good, the bad and the ugly). And don’t ever allow a single lost sale slow you down. If you are the business, you must own the sales cycle 100 percent.