Nearly five million of us are now self-employed (roughly 15% of the working population), with the fastest expansion seen among the 45 to 64 old age group (ONS 2017).
David Mellor, a former banker, was one of them. He left a senior role in his 40s to set up his own consultancy in West Sussex and quickly found his status had evaporated along with the pay packet.
“People outside of the banking industry didn’t have a clue who David Mellor was, and it suddenly occurred to me that of the many skills I’d acquired over a lifetime in banking, selling ‘me’ wasn’t one of them,” he says.
“If you’ve ascended a conventional career ladder, chances are the only big-ticket items you’ve had to persuade someone to buy from you are a house and a car. Selling your expertise or convincing someone of the benefit of buying your product in a face-to-face pitch is way out of most people’s comfort zone… it certainly was mine.”
But more than a decade on, his business is thriving – and now he’s sharing the Adaptive Selling technique he developed with other ‘olderpreneurs’ via a new e-learning course.
“The desire to get a lot better at it drove me to investigate the neuroscience behind this so-called art of persuasion; which turns out, in fact, not to be an art at all, but rather a learned behaviour based on the premise that people buy from people they like or at least people who are on their wavelength. What I’ve learned, I now pass on,” says David.
The course was quickly taken up by Marshall E-Learning Consultancy, one of the most successful online agencies in the UK. Split into three components, it explores self-awareness, the sales process and finally Adaptive Selling itself, a technique that draws on the sales process advice and neuroscience to help win new customers and retain existing ones.
“We are all wired up to have different behaviour preferences. It’s therefore logical that not everyone you come across will want to be communicated with in your own preferred style.
“If you can learn to read those signals and adapt your pitch to suit them, every potential sales encounter becomes a lot less scary and a lot more likely to succeed,” says David.
Failure to communicate effectively with customers is one of the top reasons why businesses crash and burn within the first 18 months of life.
“As entrepreneurs it’s crucial we crack that nut,” says David. “It’s just a matter of learning how to enter the client’s world for a few crucial minutes rather than attempt to drag them into yours.”