Nobody likes being sold to. In a way, you feel violated, like the person plugging their product during an otherwise normal conversation is invading your personal space.
The problem, of course, is we’re all, on some level, salespeople. Whether you’re selling your business, pitching your book, or angling yourself as a potential employee, sales are something you just have to do.
So the question for all of us, then, is: How do we sell without turning people off? The answer: Treat other people like human beings and focus on helping them–without any immediate expectations of getting something in return.
In other words, be generous–whether operating in the capacity of a founder, an employee, or simply as someone going through their everyday routine.
Here’s why being generous is so important, both for your life and your career.
In a sales context, genuinely helping potential clients is the best strategy there is
Sales can be uncomfortable. We know that. But here’s the truth: Sales becomes an infinitely more enjoyable and seamless experience if you’re offering a solution to someone who has a genuine need and interest in your product or service. It’s easier if you’re helping them as opposed to asking them to help you.
It was with this ethos that my team and I went about building VentureDevs, and it’s been a huge part of our success. Our intention wasn’t to “sell” or even to start a business, but rather a side effect of our establishing relationships, nurturing our network, and offering tech help to those friends who approached us seeking it. The more we helped our friends, the more they told their friends about us, and the more people outside of our immediate network began approaching us in search of solutions. At this point, we were the ones deciding whether or not we wanted to work with them, which was a much better position to be in.
Even now, we conceive of the work we do as helping people who come to us asking for assistance. All of our growth is organic, primarily referral-based, and ultimately a product of this simple fact: our customers just like working with us because we like helping them.
Of course, how one goes about helping folks to build a reliable network goes beyond having good intentions. You have to be good at what you do; the help you offer has to actually be helpful.
But, more so, as simple as it might seem, it really does boil down to just trying to be a good person. The “formula” is as simple as helping others when you can and, yes, offering that help without explicit expectations of receiving something in return. Many favors potential friends ask for take less than five minutes for you to complete. But the return for you on that time is worth so much more; people remember when you go above and beyond for them.
If you’re generous with your time and talent, people will be more willing to help you later on
Being generous is a smart business strategy, sure. But it also pays to operate altruistically even more generally speaking–as in, not just in explicit service of building a business.
This is something I abide by personally. But the benefits extend beyond ethics; creating this sort of “friendship capital” can prove instrumental in your career. Being generous carries lifetime value because it becomes part of your lifetime reputation. And you never know when that reputation might come in handy, nor who your future employer, partner, or client might be.
To clarify, I’m not suggesting you go out and start giving lofty referrals for people you don’t know, or that you dedicate hours of your time for someone who won’t appreciate it. Don’t overextend yourself. That’s not a smart investment of your time or capital.
But to be as generous as you’re feasibly able to very much is.
Win friends instead of quick sales
What I’m talking about here illuminates a certain dichotomy that tends to separate salespeople. Some salespeople don’t operate in an altruistic fashion and instead aim for capturing as many quick wins as they can through aggressive tactics.
But that’s ultimately a shortsighted strategy. It’s unsustainable. It’s better instead to take your time and seek to build a foundation of reliable friendships with people who will be lifelong partners. Because even if those partners don’t immediately become clients or give you their business, if you’re generous and kind, they’re more likely to refer you to people who will become clients—or, down the road, they may even go on to become clients themselves.
The bottom line is this: The more you help others, the more seeds of potential future collaboration you’ll sow.
At the end of the day, this is simply a smart mindset to adopt
Again, you shouldn’t put the goals of others before your own; you can’t overextend or distract yourself. And you shouldn’t go out of your way to help others when they prove over time incapable of reciprocating that generosity.
But, ultimately, it benefits you to be generous both professionally and personally. It allows you to invest more genuinely in relationships, which themselves will prove valuable to you down the line. Plus, a healthy reputation will, over time, win you more success and business than any aggressive sales tactic ever could.
What’s more? It’s easy to operate this way. Anybody can find five minutes in a day to help someone else out.