A Q&A with Ron Cappello, CEO of Infinia

A business writer recently asked Ron Cappello the following:

What are the challenges that small business owners face in selling?

Breaking through the clutter: Breaking through the clutter of the market and what your competition is saying is hard. There are lots of channels to make connections, but few small business owners get the content simply and clearly enough that it resonates and makes the desired connections with potential customers or clients.

Creating an Experience: Fear of selling is a natural state for many. The fact is no one likes to be sold, but almost everyone loves to buy. So the challenge is to make buying an easy and pleasurable experience at every point of contact. Selling is everyone's job.

Getting Considered: Building awareness to get you to be considered takes time and effort. People are creatures of habit, and if they don't know you, they will not even consider buying you or from you. Learn what the criteria are for being put into buying consideration, and meet them time and time again.

How can creating a personal connection with a potential customer put them one step closer to closing a deal?

Clarity & Focus: Know what you're selling; meaning, know what problem you are solving for. You may think it's one issue, when in reality it's another.

Empathy & Understanding: Have empathy for those you're selling to. Do you understand them? Do you know their industry, their pain-points, their wants and needs?

Simplicity & Resonance: Keep it simple. That is hard to do, but it's important. The best way to keep it simple is to frame the selling process in a STORY -- a story that tells the buyer why they should listen to you and why should they care about what you're saying. Then, repeat, repeat, adjust and repeat. Selling is a numbers game, but you want to convert as much as you can with as few numbers (at bats) as possible.

Do you have any general step-by-step ways to offer to the readers on how to do this and why it works?

Life's A Pitch: The best pitches take the form of simple and clear stories that resonate and make an emotional connection with an audience. If you don't know what you want to say to a potential customer and client, they WILL sense it right away. Buyers smell fear and indecision, so do your homework and always be prepared.

Sell the Solution: Example: People go to a hardware store to buy a drill bit, but what they really want to buy is a HOLE. The bit is the means to get what they want. You have to know what problem you're solving for with your product or service. Figure it out and sell that.

Sell Yourself: Start at home by practicing saying what you want to say about your product or service to yourself. Say it out loud. When you hear it, do you believe it? Does it resonate? Doe it address all the expected questions? Would you buy what you're selling? Get comfortable with what works for you, not some formula. Know the basics and make them work for you and those you're trying to influence.

Harness the Power of Listening: Listening is the most powerful tool you'll ever have to leverage in your selling tool kit. Listening first-hand, or through some form of digital feedback mechanism will enable you to learn and make adjustments to your pitch, product or service. The fact is face-to-face and phone is the best way to really listen and connect. The digital world makes it easy to avoid 1:1 interactions, but you should avoid the easy track, and try to connect. Remember that empathy and understanding is the foundation to all conversations and relationships.

Focus Matters: People are busy. Habits die hard. Data is abundant, but insights are in short supply, so you need to maintain your focus on what's important and keep it there. Selling is a process; don't ever think of it as an event. The goal should be to form relationships that pay multiple times, over time. At the end of each day, make yourself make one more call, one more contact. The discipline will make you think through what you've done that day and plant another seed needed to get a sale. It's that simple and that hard.

Any other general points or advice that you'd like to give about this topic?

When you think about selling, keep it simple and think of "S E L L" standing for the following key ideas:

Story: People love and remember stories, not facts and figures, so frame your selling process in a credible story that connects and resonates.

Empathy: Empathy is often in short supply in the selling process. Remember, it's not about YOU it's about THEM, their buying process, their needs, their timing, their fears, their desires. Word of mouth is very important for the small business owner. The business is you, so help those who are in a position to help you with a referral understand why they should put their reputation on the line by referring you.

Listen: The more you listen the more you'll sell. Telling and talking clearly matters, but listening matters more. We live in an interconnected and transparent world, so the degree to which you can build your reputation as one who listens, will increase the chances that your selling will be experienced as a conversation, not a lecture. Everyone wins.

Learn: Selling is a dynamic process -- or it should be. If you have empathy and listen well, you'll be in a position to learn, adjust and adapt your selling process. It's true that a big percentage of success is showing up -- so show up everyday.

Ron Cappello is the founder and CEO of Infinia Group, a brand strategy and design firm based in New York City. He can be contacted at 212-463-5101 and rcappello@infiniagroup.com.