Be a rainmaker: Develop the mindset that keeps business coming in the door

What is the most difficult position to fill in a small business? Many business owners say that finding and keeping effective sales staff is one of their biggest challenges. This is especially true when the product or service for sale is complex or is a hard sell for whatever reason, and the potential buyers are smart, discriminating and perhaps even (dare we say) dubious about buying.

Many small business owners are so reluctant to hire someone who may not generate sales sufficient to justify the position that they remain the chief generator of sales – the rainmaker. But problems arise when the business owner does not love selling.

Does that sound like you?

If so, I’d like to share a few strategies and a mindset I’ve developed during nearly three decades of bootstrapping my business-to-business company, in large part through my own sales efforts

1.    As a business owner, you are in the position to make sure you believe in what you are selling. If you do not believe in your offerings, tweak them until you do. There is little worse than selling products in which you have no faith.

2.    Sorry, no one cares that you need the sale. Your mission is to find out what your prospect does care about. Find out what she worries about or needs to accomplish but hasn’t. How can you help her? She wants to access that help. (Selling life insurance is a classic example. Hardly anyone wakes up in the morning and says, “You know what I’d like to buy today and then pay for over the next 20 years? Life insurance!” The life insurance agent has to monetize the powerful desire to take care of your family even if you die young. He has to highlight the scary fact that, if you were to become ill, it would likely be too late to buy life insurance. The agent is playing on love and fear. What inspires your prospects?

3.    Be consultative. You have a product or service of value, and are offering to provide it to people who need it. You are an expert with information or assets at hand. Hold your head high and proceed confidently.

4.    The concepts that “no one answers the phone” and “no one reads emails from strangers” do not constitute reasons not to use these basic sales tools. In my company’s sales outreach to prospective business clients, we often receive responses to emails we’ve sent and to voicemails we’ve left. Use the phone and email, perhaps in combination, to ask for a very brief discussion with your prospect. Take small steps toward building your prospect’s awareness and trust.

5.    Don’t badger. There is a not-so-fine line between persistence and being a pain. Determine the frequency of contact attempts that works in your business, and the number of touch points it typically takes to get to that required next step (meeting, request for proposal, etc.).

6.    Learn to hear “no” and move on. Some people make clear that they are not interested and never will be. Many more waffle and put you off, and off… and off. It’s okay to keep lightly in touch with undecided prospects, but don’t spend too much time repeatedly calling people who are always happy to talk but never progress to buying.

7.   Devote time during most workdays to sales. Once you have achieved your goals for the day (perhaps the number of calls you make or emails you send, or the number of new meetings you set up) stop. Take a walk, have a coffee or give yourself some other minor reward, and move on to other projects.

8.    Get a thicker skin. Most sales rejection is not about you. In contrast, most sales successes are at least in part about you.

Perhaps sales will get into your blood and become a favorite part of your day. Perhaps the adrenalin rush of making sales will make the slog worthwhile. Or perhaps the sales process will remain simply a necessity. In any case, becoming proficient at sales is an achievement that can take a lifetime. Doing it well is an art.


Michelle van Schouwen is president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC, a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. The company is known for vSALaunch™, its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, as well as its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B. Contact Michelle at

© 2014 Michelle van Schouwen

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