Not Knowing How to Sell Can Kill Your Business: Annie P. Ruggles Can Save You From Yourself
Founder and Dean of The Non-Sleazy Sales Academy, Annie P. Ruggles has been helping the sales-adverse, sales-reluctant, and self-proclaimed sales-allergic for almost a decade. In this capacity she has seen every mistake, witnessed the vomit and the sleaze, and enthusiastically encouraged her clients to uncover the pain.
Ruggles, who is the featured Guest Czar on episode 15 of the Communications Czar Podcast, knows sales has a bad rap, yet she appreciates the importance of selling skills and has seen the power that sales avoidance has to kill otherwise promising businesses. Fortunately, Ruggles “grew up in an environment where entrepreneurship was a possibility and that also fostered in me a really big desire to use whatever assemblage of skills, tips, tricks, energetics that I have and apply them to helping other people,” she recalls.
“We do have this societal sort of resistance toward selling, but here’s the thing: that’s not anybody’s fault because that’s also constantly reinforced by how we are sold to. When we are sold to badly, we define selling as that act of however we were sold to,” Ruggles opines. To make matters worse, sales’ bad reputation is constantly reinforced by the media. “When you turn on the TV, when you turn on the news, when you turn on a movie, anything that has a character where there’s a salesman, 99 times out of 100 that character is not trustworthy, that character is a conman, that character is greedy,” she observes. “We’ve been taught with our own experience and by society that selling is this arm-twisting, manipulative thing spurned by greed and, you know, it’s either the buyer or the seller who’s going to win. Only one can win,” she says.
Sales is in need of a good spin doctor. Ruggles goes so far as to suggest a “Kardashian level PR campaign, like completely redo it.”
She thinks the time has come for sales to be “put back out there as this whole thing that’s shiny and new because it really is totally misunderstood, just entirely and completely misunderstood. The sad thing is the unwillingness for people to step into sales capacities just creates more and more of the problem because the greedy people, the sleazy people, the dog-eat-dog people are like, ‘Oh cool, I’ll just go into sales,’ because they’re also being fed that that’s the right environment for them,” she observes. “Meanwhile, there are customers out there with real needs who are only being actively sold to by sleazy people. That simply has to change, and the only way to change it is for good people to learn how to sell in keeping with their ethics and their morals,” Ruggles proposes.
Fortunately, Ruggles is an empath, so she feels the pain and understands the myriad reasons many otherwise intelligent professionals consider “sales” to be a four-letter word. She generously shares her expert insights into the world of sales and offers the following advice for you to level up your willingness and ability to sell:
Don’t be discouraged if you’re scared in the beginning.
Not loving sales at first is nothing to be embarrassed about. “If selling situations scare you, great! It means you care about the person on the other end of the transaction, and you don’t want to hurt them or mislead them,” assures Ruggles.
Do acknowledge your sales baggage.
“I think the first thing you have to do is realize all the negative ways you’ve been sold to are not requirements for sales behavior,” she proclaims.
“So if you’ve been strong-armed, if you been talked down to or belittled, if your objections have been argued, if you’ve been told you’re cheap or stupid if you pass something up, if you’ve been overpromised and then under delivered to, or any combination of the above, that is a horrible thing that’s happened to you; I’m sorry it happened, but that is not the required state of selling!” Ruggles preaches.
Whether what you’re selling is non-profit, for profit, or from B to B or B to C, it doesn’t matter. “If you can approach selling in a way where you can say, ‘I am helping someone by providing this,’” that mindset will enable you to have a conversation and anticipate a positive outcome. Ruggles shares the example of one of the sales professionals she worked with who would get on sales calls and, without even realizing it, offer a string of apologies. She’d say things like, “Thank you so much for your time today, I know how incredibly busy you are and how annoying it is to be sold to…” Ruggles offers a more positive and effective approach to the very same call, suggesting something along the lines of, “Hey, I’m so glad we could find a time in both of our busy schedules to get together and discover if we are the right fit for each other. We have half an hour, and here’s what we need to do. I’ve got a bunch of questions about you, and you’ve got a bunch of questions about me, so let’s see if we’re a good fit.”
“The most powerful tool I can share is two words: Shut Up!…SHUT!…UP!”
When we get uncomfortable, especially when we are discussing pricing, we tend to babble. “I call it sales vomit,” Ruggles says. Instead of vomiting on your prospect, highlight the features and benefits of your product or service, answer their questions, tell them how they can proceed and how much it will cost, and then be quiet. “Stick the landing like a gymnast,“ Ruggles advises. “Name the price, flip the tables back on them, and give them space and time to think about it by shutting your beautiful mouth up so they can hear themselves think.”
Do identify your client’s pain — and the relief that you can provide.
You have to dig in and acknowledge the struggle your client is facing so you can show them how you can help them.
“We buy solutions, but we can’t sell a solution or have someone buy that solution if we’re not willing to say, ‘let’s look at your problem together and see if this is the right solution for you,’” says Ruggles.
Don’t make yourself the hero.
“If I tell you, ‘hey, your business is failing, and you’re sales-avoidant, and you need to get it together or you’re going to kill your business, and by the way my program is not that expensive so maybe you should just stop drinking coffee,’ what’s happening is I’ve made myself the hero in the story. I’ve also made you, in your own story, the villain, like, ‘hey, idiot, be better about your money.’” If you make the client the problem and make them think you are the only one who can save them from themselves, you are both going to leave feeling bad about yourselves.
Do be the Dumbledore (Not the Harry Potter.)
In order to motivate your prospect, you need to be their trusted advisor.
“You’re not Harry Potter. They have to be the hero of their own story from start to finish. Even in their struggle, the villain is who is causing the struggle, and your role in that is to provide the items, the methods, the solutions that will help them get out of the struggle,” Ruggles teaches.
By making your client the hero, you will “put them in a place where they’re much more willing to buy because it’s a hopeful, productive place, as opposed to a desperate, knockdown, ‘guess I have to do this’ place,” she states.
Don’t go into a sales situation expecting to get a no.
“Do not bring that energy onto your call! If you are providing something of value, if you are providing something they want or need, the number one thing to remember is nothing you’re doing is inherently sleazy if you’re working with someone to solve a problem,” Ruggles states.
Do put your client in the driver’s seat.
If you are on autopilot, cramming too much information down your prospect’s throat, you’re doing the driving. People don’t like that approach. Instead, focus on connecting with your prospect and letting them drive the conversation. Ruggles suggests saying, “Hey, listen, you’re in charge of this conversation. You’re the client, you’re the prospect, and I’m the provider. I want to make sure this conversation goes wherever it needs to go for your questions to be answered, so if I say something that doesn’t make sense, or you want to interrupt me, please do so. That way I can make sure we end this conversation with no loose ends, or at least we know what questions we still have to answer.” This approach, she advises, “empowers the buyer to lead the conversation. These are the small shifts that make such huge, profound differences in my clients’ calls. It’s like night and day.”
Roseann Galvan is the host of the Communications Czar Podcast, available on Apple, Audible, Spotify or www.CommunicationsCzar.com. Listen to the entire interview with Annie P. Ruggles on the Communications Czar Podcast, episode 15 will be released on March 16, 2021.