Selling from Strength

I regularly check in with online selling discussion boards.  Oh, would that everyone posting there were happy and content, that all was abundance and success. The truth is, many sellers relate they are in despair, sales are down, the bills are piling up, the worry is pressing them down harder every day.  Being an online seller has unique challenges, and if you work alone, even your own family doesn’t always get it.  There is, however, a very common thread that I see in many of these posts.  It traces back to sellers operating from a position of weakness.  The money just isn’t coming in fast enough. Or money was steadily coming in but now things have slowed and the lack of sales creates a very painful and real problem. Some sellers relate fears they might have to close their online business and revert to a more typical work-for-someone-else job. 

If it hasn’t come across already, I feel genuine concern for these sellers. I know how hard they have worked, I’m right there with them getting up early to ship orders, staying up late to respond to problems or questions, constantly trying to find the right balance because there is no “off” button when you work from home.  I’m not here to point fingers and say it’s anyone’s fault, “If only they worked harder/smarter, had better product offerings, gave up sleeping to devote themselves fully to their business….”.   You could go on and on because every seller’s situation is unique, but I’m going to generalize and say laziness is not the issue, that’s not why many sellers are stressed and frustrated. Online sellers as a group are very hardworking and self-motivated to succeed. Listen friends, we don’t need to relegate ourselves to the ebb and flow of online sales and just anticipate that sometimes we will experience panic attacks from lack of sales. No thanks, that sounds like a lousy way to exist. There is an far more excellent way to work through these monetary inconsistencies, and I plan to make that apparent with a thorough review, but you do have to be willing to take a comprehensive look at how you view money and be willing to make changes where merited.  Your personal money mentality is the necessary starting point if you want to stop selling from a position of weakness and instead sell from strength, so let’s see how this can be achieved.  

First, let’s start high level.  Where do you spend your money?  If you are like most people, you use a credit or debit card.  Start there.  Look at each line item (and many credit cards will show you a nice pie chart of how your spending looks categorically).  You absolutely cannot skip this step, you actually have to login to your checking account or credit card statements, don’t try to guesstimate. Is most of your spending on housing?  On cars and related expenses?  On grocery shopping and/or dining out?  On clothing or travel?  Maybe you are heavily reinvesting in your business. If you are like I was, it might just be the aggregation of all these categories that somehow consumes every penny you make (and beyond).  Now stop. Ask yourself what you most value in life.  There has to be a long pause here.  Are you spending your money where you place the highest value or is there a disconnect? If you answered no (or some combination of yes and no), fundamental changes are necessary in your spending habits. Even if you answered yes and feel you only spend your money on what you truly value or what is necessary, you may be spending too generously on those values, and change is still required. You won’t be able to get out of the selling rut you find yourself dissatisfied in until you agree that you have been living in “money drift”, where you spend whimsically, with little or no consideration as to whether that spending is complementary to your values. One value at the top of your list should be having financial security. Don’t let that be crowded out by lesser (good but not as important) values, unless you really love living on the brink of financial ruin. If you feel compelled at this point to better understand how you spend money but feel overwhelmed by the process, read my post BOUNTIFUL BOUNDARIES (HOW TO START AND LOVE A BUDGET). That will give you a good foundation and the necessary understanding of your spending habits.

Once you have nailed down what you value spending money on, tell me, has there been an infiltration of frivolous spending? You now have the potential to chart a new path that will generate peace and resilience in your life and finances if you’ve done the above leg work and been honest with yourself. Crank out your first budget right now if you don’t have one and then come back and finish reading this. If you’re already a blissful budgeter, continue on fearless reader.  

Operating with a thoughtfully constructed budget is all-important if you want to sell from strength. Does that sound strange? Are you asking how a budget could possibly help you be a better seller? The truth is you have to put S P A C E between yourself and your need for sales. Wanting sales is one thing, we can agree as sellers that more sales is always preferable to less sales. But what if you really need those sales or the lights go off, medication subscriptions can’t be filled, the fridge stands eerily vacant and the core of your being starts to shake in debilitating fear? That was a bit melodramatic, sorry people, but the point is you don’t have the negotiating power on your side of the table when you’re operating like this. The buyer has an invisible stronghold over you and you are, in effect, at their mercy. The way to reverse this situation is by using your budget proficiently. There is an emergency fund built into your budget. After several months of being faithful to your budget, this fund will be growing steadily. Additionally, anything earned above the budget requirement should automatically be part of your saving/investment plan. Don’t underestimate how powerful saving money can be, I attest it dramatically changed my selling behaviors and practices.

Let’s imagine that now you have some savings that you didn’t have before. How does knowing you have 3 months, 6 months, 12 months of living expenses saved affect your selling mindset?

  • You aren’t afraid to source more inventory because you have enough saved in the event the next week (or weeks) are slower sales weeks. In the past you might have felt compelled to leave some good finds behind, but not now. More inventory usually leads to more sales, I call that a virtuous cycle. What else?
  • If you’re in the business of accepting offers from buyers (and if you’re in the clothing resale market like I am, I recommend you do), this is where it really gets interesting. If you don’t need the sale, you aren’t afraid to ask for more when the offers aren’t the turnaround you want. You will lose some sales, but you will overall be getting more for your items, and you don’t sweat the ones that don’t work out because they weren’t what you were looking for anyway. You learn to value your time above the money you could have earned from those low offers. It doesn’t stop there.
  • When you operate from strength, you can be the seller of buyers’ dreams when it comes to customer service. Need to refund a dissatisfied buyer? No problem, refund sent, moving on. Need to offer a partial refund to reconcile an issue? Again, no big deal. It’s my experience that it comes across to the buyer if you are frustrated at having to refund them or if you are more concerned with their experience. This is not carte blanch the buyer gets what they want, use your own wisdom here, but know that operating from strength will allow you put your customer first and the money second. I believe this is another virtuous cycle, as it will lead to repeat buyers, better reviews, and these reviews should generate even more buyers.
  • Considering the hierarchy of needs, if you feel confident your needs are covered, you won’t be mentally drained by worry. Your daily work will be more focused and productive. If you are getting more done, you are making more sales.

I hope this is a great help to you in your selling career. You don’t have to continue to feel defeated. Take control of your personal spending and savings and watch how the benefits flow into and multiply your business success. And let’s not be vague: the benefits are security, control, freedom, and release from fear. Be done with selling from weakness, take charge and sell from strength.

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