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.
Estimate the sales volume and value that is relevant for your business. But remember what Brian Tracy calls the “Two times, three times rule”. Everything costs twice as much as you have budgeted for and takes three times as long.
At very least you need to test your product or service idea by taking it to about 10 prospective customers and finding out how many would buy it. This is a first step to test the viability of your idea. Your next step is to work out how you will sell in larger quantities.
Gain a clear understanding of what selling is required for your products or service. This will depend on the nature of your product and customer. Will word-of-mouth marketing be effective? Are you good at networking and gaining referrals? Do you need to make presentations or participate in seminars to grow your customer base? Are there professionals and other business people you need to develop relationships with to sell your services?
If you believe you have the personality, basic skills and ability to easily connect with people, you will want to come up with a sales training plan for yourself. Effective salespeople are not born that way; everyone needs to learn how to sell. You may want to learn to speak in public which will increase your confidence in selling. The Dale Carnegie course or Toastmasters will help you to overcome your fears and present effectively. Select the sales training course that will work for you or try one-on-one coaching with a sales professional.
After some self-reflection, you may decide that you will do the basic selling in your business – deals with agents or larger accounts – but you need someone to do the bulk of your selling because you want to get your business up and running quickly.
Here are some ways you can bridge your gap in selling skills:
1 Get someone to sell part-time for you in your start-up phase
2 Hire an experienced sales professional once your business takes off
3 Find a third party or independent sales agent who can sell on your behalf. You will need a tight agreement on exactly what they’ll do for you. It’s easy for an independent to take on your business and then neglect you because they spend more time serving their larger and more demanding customers
4 Work with an independent distributor who wants your product to complement their existing range
Whatever method you decide to use, make sure that you forecast your sales as accurately as possible otherwise you could sit with costs too heavy for your business to handle. The journey from kitchen table to a successful business requires careful planning. Selling must feature large in your plan.