How many new business ideas come to naught because people have an unrealistic belief that an idea in and of itself will bring rewards? Self-appointed small business experts push the line that you just need a business idea and some hard income will magically appear. But the claims misleading if not downright irresponsible. Continue reading “Starting something of your own is hard work but it can be exciting and rewarding”
We hear a lot about techniques and systems to sell without selling. Some so-called sales gurus will lead you to believe that you don’t have to sell. Selling has always been seen as something almost distasteful especially to those who don’t want to sell. Perhaps it’s because of early experiences people have had with “pushy” salespeople.
Cold calling or prospecting is also something that most people find it difficult to do. Perhaps it’s not so much the difficulty but not having the right mindset for cold calling. I have come across two small business owners recently whose sales need a boost and have taken to cold calling. The one is a person it in his early 30s who has moved his computer business from a small town in the Free State to Johannesburg. He has to begin his computer consulting and repair business from scratch in the city. So he has begun a programme of cold calling in person, which is actually door-to-door selling, starting with industrial areas such as Strydom Park. He tells me he can’t venture out too far to other industrial parks because he needs customers to be relatively close so that he can serve them quickly and also keep his fuel bill down. Continue reading “Can you sell without selling?”
In the summer of 1993 a young man at the bottom pole of a company was supporting a young family with two toddlers. When he got back from a holiday at the coast, he was told by the human resources manager that he would be retrenched together with 100 fellow employees.
The CEO who was trying to make a name for himself among investors put the knife into his head office specialist function employees. Blood flowed every where. Employees who had been there for many years were booted out. Only the HR manager who had worked with this CEO at a previous company survived the massacre. Continue reading “How did you learn to sell?”
The other day I saw a notice in a Spar supermarket that caught my attention. It was a letter written by a young girl on an A4 sheet of line paper with the small cut out, tear-off strips at the bottom, you know the ones that you usually find on notice boards. Well, the young wrote a brief later explaining that her silk worms had hatched and now she had too many of them. Her dad had suggested to her that she earn some pocket money by selling them at 25 cents each. She noted that all you needed was a shoebox and some mulberry leaves that you could get from a tree in the park across from the shopping centre. She gave her dad’s contact details. Already one or two of the tear-off address details had been removed. Continue reading “What does selling “harder” really mean for your small business?”
When you take a new idea and turn it into a commercially viable product or service you may feel you have to be an expert at everything. This is a dangerous assumption because the reality is that you may really only have specialised knowledge of the product or service you’re developing and your potential users.
How are you going to package your product? What about your offer? People don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems. You have to put together an offer that is different to your competitors and better.
Where will you sell your product? Through what channels? Do you have a marketing plan to support your sales?
If you’ve been in sales, all is well and good. But if you don’t know how to sell, then what? Please, please don’t listen to these lazy excuses for sales people who say they sell by not selling. This is just self-protective rubbish that poor order-taking salespeople use to con themselves that they don’t need any training or justify their absence of professional sales training.
The product or service in your small business will not sell itself. You have to light a rocket under your product or service. If you don’t know how to do it yourself, you may want to think about getting someone else to do it for you. This doesn’t mean you need to hire a salesperson. That may be too costly for a start-up. Rather get someone to sell for you freelance.
But your next problem will be to select someone who knows how to sell and has a track record. People will bluff you that they can sell. That they have contacts when they don’t. That they see big potential in your product. They’re almost as bad as all the underemployed graphics designers out there who call themselves marketing experts and branding consultants.
When you do find the right person, negotiate hard. They will want a “fat” retainer with little or no sales performance. Make sure you politely decline these offers. If someone can sell, they won’t be frightened about working on commission. In fact, the best will grab at the opportunity.
An effective salesperson will free up your time to take care of your business but just make sure you’re not entirely dependent on him or her. Your salesperson should secure new or additional business for you, not sales you plan on getting anyway.
I recently spoke to Tamaryn Brown of Wildfire Consulting who has designed and developed packages to assist small business owners who don’t have their own sales team in place.
You can download the podcast here.
In this podcast you’ll,
- Learn about a new service that acts as a virtual sales function for your small business
- Find out about the biggest challenges small business owners face
- Understand the secret ingredient that draws customers to your business like a magnet
- Get advice on what to do before you start your own business
- Hear about the three biggest challenges that small business owners face in this economy with crushing regulations, an unprecedented crime wave and spiralling costs (no, it’s not these three) and how to tackle them head on without draining your bank account.
- Be startled by an unusual way of looking at the big mistakes small businesses make (it instantly wipes away any tinge of embarrassment you may feel after your biggest muck-ups). You’ll discover how to flaunt your shortcomings rather than trying to cover them up and hang your head in shame.
- Discover how to make your selling a breeze without stepping one foot outside your business. It doesn’t matter whether you are a small food manufacturing business, online outfit in the cloud, dentist, chiropractor, accounting or tax preparation service, business coach, mom-and-pop bed-and-breakfast or self-catering accommodation business.
In this economy with people buying less than they did in the good times more people are on the phone making cold calls. Though cold calling is important if you don’t have a lead generation system, it’s not nearly as effective as asking customers who have bought your product or service in the past for referrals.
Larger companies have a marketing program for generating leads such as adverts in newspapers and consumer and trade magazines, on radio and the Internet. These leads still have to be qualified but at least the person who has called, filled in an online form or emailed the company has an interest in the product or service on offer. Continue reading “Increase your time asking for referrals”
Millions are made selling products and services via email. Are you using email to sell? And if you aren’t, should you give it a try?
Email has been tainted by companies that spam (sending the same message indiscriminately to large numbers of recipients on the Internet) prospects, alienating them. But by persuading prospects to opt in to your mailing list and sending them useful valuable information, you can build a relationship with them which can lead to opportunities for selling. Continue reading “Use email to sell your products or services”
For a young man who had spent his first seven years working as a reporter and magazine writer and the next seven years in public relations, selling cooking oil to a fish shop owner in the industrial area of Roodepoort was world’s apart.
The managing director of the food group
I was working for at the time tasked a colleague and me to start a distribution business to serve the general trade.
One Friday afternoon after calling on the fish shop owner – this had been about the third or fourth call – he ordered eight 20 l drums of cooking oil from me. My heart lept. At last I had made a sizeable order and a regular customer.
I went back to our distribution warehouse, loaded the van and delivered the drums of cooking oil that same afternoon. Continue reading “Are you capable of “motivating” prospects to buy?”
The owner of a small business who sells accounting services gives this advice: before you leave your job at a large company know your profession well, sharpen your skills and learn how to sell services to clients. If you can’t sell 1000 hours with the resources and reputation of an established company behind you, he says, you will probably fail to do so on your own.
This is good advice for any rookie start-up business owner who has taken their brilliant idea for a new product or service, developed and tested it and now wants to build a business from it. For a product business you may need to sell at least your first, for example, 100 units part-time or on the side before you take the leap and go out on your own. Continue reading “Before you leave your day job to build a business from your new product or service idea sharpen your skills and learn to sell”
In this economy selling is very important because each and every sale ensures the sustainability of your business. Just a few more extra sales could mean the difference between keeping your doors open or shutting them for good.
When you come up with your own product or service you need to know about selling because without sales you sadly won’t have a business. As the owner of a product or service, you will need to at least initially do the selling yourself because you know the most about your product or service.
Nothing happens in business until a sale is made. What this often repeated statement means is that a business can conceptualise a product or service, research, develop and trial it among prospects but the ultimate test of its success comes when a sale is made.
How are sales made? How does selling a loaf of bread different from selling a house, car or a large machine tool centre? How can you improve your personal selling no matter what you sell?
What is selling? You will come across many definitions of selling such as where a buyer exchanges cash for a seller’s product or service. The definition that makes the process clear and easy to understand is: personal selling is face-to-face selling in which a seller attempts to persuade a buyer to make a purchase.
This exchange satisfies a need, want or desire on the part of the buyer. A buying motive is the reason why a customer will purchase a product or service. Buying motives can be emotional or psychological such as the need for love and affection, curiosity, fashion, athletics, pride and prestige, sex and romance or fear. Rational buying motives could include economy (saving time or money), utility (usefulness), comfort and convenience, durability and security.
A problem-solving approach to personal selling views customers as having “problems” which they need to “solve”. This approach is effective because the sales person can adjust and individualise his or her presentation to the prospect’s specific problem. A problem-solving sales process is the basis of what is referred to as consultative selling. Using this approach, the salesperson helps the buyer reach a better decision.
Personal selling can be viewed as a process which has several definite steps:
- Prospecting (finding potential customers)
- Qualifying (are prospects likely to purchase and do they have the money?)
- Approaching the customer (for an appointment)
- Presentation (use of personal skills and demonstration to persuade the prospect)
- Closing the sale (leading the buyer to commit to a purchase).
For a large sale item such as a machine tool centre, computer system or jet, the sales process may take up to a year or longer. For lower value items such as stoves, outdoor leisure equipment and furniture, the sales process could take minutes.
Personal selling may have become more expensive because putting a salesperson on the road is costly but it remains vital to securing business in many markets.