3 Easy Ways to Nuke Your Solopreneur Business

Let’s face it! When you start your own business, as a solopreneur, you have to wear many hats. All of them are worth wearing, but since no business survives without “sales”, your sales hat is the one that should probably get the most wear & tear as you start your new venture.

But have you ever wondered why you’re not selling more, or why some of your competitors have more sales than you? The truth is you may be your worst enemy, and the only thing standing between you and more (sales)success is you.

To go from terrible to terrific, you must get out of your own way first, and not torpedo your solopreneur career (and your business!) by committing any of the deadliest sales sins that exist. While there are quite a few, here’s my list of the top three.

1. No Plan, No Goals, No Tracking

Some business owners seem to believe they can run their business without a plan, without specific goals, and without a system that tracks their progress. Why they believe this is beyond me though.

If this is you, well, then you probably won’t be around for too long – unless you either are a genius or get very, very lucky!

As a matter of fact, only very few people can do this successfully. As a rough guesstimate, probably only five percent of all people who start any business without a plan, specific goals, and a monitoring system will even make it through the first two or three years.

The thing is you need goals to know where you’re going and when you have arrived. You need a plan to show you the way. And you need a monitoring system to show you where you are vs. where you should be.

And no – you can’t do it all in your head. You need to write it down and develop your daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly to-do lists from there to stay on track.

It has always amazed me how meticulous people can be and how much time and effort they can spend on planning a two-week vacation trip. They plan their destination, which roads they take to get there, where to stay, and what sights to see along the way. They plan well in advance and when they finally get into the car, they rely on their GPS for guidance. All that for a two-week road trip!

Yet, when it comes to running their business – on which their long-term livelihood may depend – they believe it’s perfectly OK to just give it their best shot every day. They don’t see the need for any planning and monitoring at all. Amazing, don’t you think?

2. Paralysis of Analysis

Caution! Great danger lurks here. This is a common, yet almost imperceptible but nonetheless lethal mistake. A real business killer.

Unfortunately, people who make it are usually not even aware they’re doing it. It’s somewhat similar to the quicksand you don’t see until it’s too late and you’re being sucked in.

Or like the dreamer with the big ideas who ends up with nothing, because he never takes any action to turn his ideas into reality.

It’s the story of Buridan’s ass, placed between two stacks of hay but eventually starving, because it couldn’t decide from which stack to eat.

OK, you get the idea. Here is one unmistakable symptom to watch out for in your business: You are constantly preoccupied and actively doing “something” that is not directly related to sales.

Perhaps you confuse activity with productivity, or you are facing the same dilemma as Rodin’s eternal “Thinker” (I’m thinking… I’m thinking… still thinking… ) and you never get around to actually DOING anything productive (like making that sale).

Face it; you may be stuck in preparation hell. There’s always just one more thing to do for your business, before you take that step and DO business.

If you think this may be you, do take that step now. You can always make improvements later. If you keep procrastinating, you’ll end up as the eternal bench-warmer – present at each game, but with no opportunity to bat, let alone hit a home run.

3. Good Ole’ Selling

I know… I know! You probably think I’m a few fries short of a Happy Meal now. How can “selling” possibly nuke your solopreneur career and your business, when “selling” is exactly what business is all about, right? Wrong!

This view is so 19th and 20th century. It may have had a place in the business world from maybe the times of the industrial revolution through to the late 1970s.

So, why then, you might ask, is “sales” still a full-fledged department in all companies, and why are people still employed as sales reps, sales managers, or directors of sales?

Let me explain. Of course, products and services still need to find their way to the buyer by means of “sales”. But what I’m talking about is that the roles and required skill-sets of the sales people have changed dramatically.

Instead of the silver-tongued magicians of the early days, good sales people nowadays serve as “the initial points of contact” provided by the seller to the buyer. Their main function is to facilitate the buying process and to build relationships between the selling and the buying party.

For example, when was the last time a “salesman” knocked on your door to demonstrate the benefits of a vacuum cleaner, and wouldn’t leave until you let him vacuum your carpet?

Or think about your typical reaction to the modern-day version of the traveling salesmen – the telemarketers? Don’t you just want to get rid of them as soon as they start praising the benefits of whatever they peddle without even knowing whether you actually need or want their product?

And that is exactly the type of “selling” I’m talking about that in today’s world doesn’t cut it anymore. That type of “selling” will blow up your solopreneur career faster than George W can say “nuclear“.

In fact, trying to convince a prospect or talking him/her into a particular product – just because it happens to be the product you “sell” – is counter-productive. In today’s environment, no one wants to be “sold” to anymore. And I mean no one!

Your “sales” job should only be investigative, analytical, educational, and consultative in nature.

First, you should gather pertinent information on your prospect’s situation and true needs. Secondly, you should analyze this information and come up with realistic options and potential solutions that meet those needs. Of course, if the only “solution” you sell is a hammer, you had better only sell to prospects whose needs look like nails!

You then need to discuss your analysis and the options with your prospect. Remember, your prospect may not know these options and/or all of their pros and cons very well. Therefore, you must educate him thoroughly and develop the “best solution” together with him/her, so – based on your advice – he/she can make a better-informed decision. End of story. No “selling”.

Trust me, most buyers today seem to be direct descendents of our old pal Joe Friday. All they truly want from you are “just the facts, ma’am, just the facts“. No embellishment and definitely no sales pitch!

My recommendation for greater success in sales: Instead of trying to improve your silver-tongued sales spiel, aim to perfect the following skills:

  • Targeting
  • Fact-finding
  • Active Listening
  • Analytical
  • Consulting

Such structured and consultative approaches have long found their way into today’s best sales training programs.

And if that’s what people mean when they say you need to “sell to succeed“, they actually make a point with which I agree wholeheartedly.

As you can imagine, there are a lot more than just three mistakes that can kill your business, for example:

  • going too broad (being a jack-of-all-trades but master of none)
  • not committing enough time to your business
  • having no marketing strategies at all and/or poor executions
  • lacking the professional competence within your area of “expertise” (not knowing your stuff)
  • not knowing who your “ideal customers” are

Just to name a few.

Of course, the more mistakes you make, the sooner your solopreneur career might be over. The good news: Knowing the most deadly “sales” sins will hopefully help you recognize mistakes before you make them. Better sales strategies and improved skills will yield more sales, which, in turn will provide more fuel for your business and let you go farther.

But remember, too, whatever mistakes you do make eventually, the most important thing is to show up and play when it’s game time. The only sure way of not winning is not playing at all.