By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville

“People have said I have a great product, but I’m an introvert and not comfortable making sales calls. I can’t stand rejection and don’t like being pushy. Help!”

I understand and have felt the same way. However, selling your product, business, and yourself (as the business owner) is absolutely critical to your success. I talked to Pete Hendrix, one of our SCORE mentors, who specializes in selling to get an answer to your request.

Pete begins by suggesting that most people misunderstand sales.  Sadly, some bad apples have created the notion that sales people are pushy, manipulative, and only interested in separating a customer from their money.  Great sales people have an offering they believe in.  His or her goal is not to sell every prospective customer. People buy for one of two reasons: to fulfill a need or address some form of pain.  Develop questions that will allow you to assist the other party in discovering whether they have needs or pains your offering can address. Great sales people love to hear a “yes” but are almost as glad to get a “no.” Approaching sales in this way demonstrates integrity and is neither pushy nor manipulative.

Use these tactics to improve your selling skills.

Develop an “elevator pitch” and practice it. Practice in front of friends and family, and in front of the mirror. This is a 20-30 second story about your product or service. It is designed to elicit questions and interest.

Listen and observe more than you talk.

Set aside time each day for selling and stick to it. Don’t allow distractions. This is true for any activity you don’t enjoy whether it’s sales, bookkeeping, or other tasks.

Expect rejection. Don’t take it personally. Most people resist change, even if it is positive.  That is why it is so important to uncover needs or pain, as those are the issues that will motivate others to change.

Practice with smaller prospects. Don’t approach your largest potential customer until you have worked with others. You learn from your mistakes. This is the reason sports teams schedule scrimmages before the regular season.

People love stories.  Share short stories of how you have helped others, especially friends or acquaintances of your prospects, which builds your credibility

Networking is critical. The most effective networkers have a “give to get” attitude. Many networking events are available in metro Nashville. Remember, these are not “selling” events, but opportunities to share ideas and develop awareness.

Don’t forget to ask for the business. This is not pushy, but expected. If the person is not ready to do business immediately, suggest a future meeting where you can answer questions or offer alternative solutions.

Ed Rappuhn is a mentor, workshop facilitator, and the past-chair of SCORE Nashville. SCORE mentors guide entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses. Sign up for a free SCORE mentor, find out about our reasonably priced workshops and other services, or volunteer to become a SCORE member at Email questions about your business to and watch for the answers in future columns.