Hopeless at selling? Should you hand over your sales to someone else?

Wildfire has designed and developed packages to assist small business owners who don't have their own sales team in place.
Wildfire has designed and developed packages to assist small business owners who don’t have their own sales team in place.

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.

Tamaryn Brown, founder of Wildfire.
Tamaryn Brown, founder of Wildfire.

You can download the podcast here.

Idea Accelerator Podcast Wildfire

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.

What’s more important – sales or gross profit?

sale soldes uitverkoop
(Photo credit: Gerard Stolk (vers l’Avent))

Small business consultants and advisors are hammering home the message that sales are vital in this economy. You can still rescue your small business with that one crucial sale, they say. But is sales the most important thing for your business in this economy?

It might seem an almost stupid question to ask. Sales drive everything in a business. But a handful of real-world, hands-on consultants and advisors to new small businesses point out that gross profit has a more important role to play because it pays for your overheads. If your business has more gross profit it is easier for you to pay for your overheads and your net profit should be higher. It’s also true that small changes in gross profit can have a large impact on your profitability.

Continue reading “What’s more important – sales or gross profit?”

Use email to sell your products or services


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”

Before you leave your day job to build a business from your new product or service idea sharpen your skills and learn to sell

bunt, Farben, Geschäft, Verkauf, Ware, multico...
bunt, Farben, Geschäft, Verkauf, Ware, multicolored, colors, business, sales, commodity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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”

How do you up your personal selling game in this economy?

SALE (Photo credit: Gerard Stolk (vers l’Été ))

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.

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Chesney Bradshaw

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It all came down to a customer mailing list

An upmarket stationery business moved its location in a shopping mall for a smaller space because of the economy.

All well and good but business in the new location has been slow.

What’s happening, I asked.

I was told that the business was slow in the new location but they were hoping that things would pick up. After a few questions, I found out that the stationer had not informed its customers of the move, except for a sign on the outside entrance and word-of-mouth. That’s it. Oh, one other thing, they had developed a website to attract customers. How? Continue reading “It all came down to a customer mailing list”

Why you absolutely must innovate in a recession

Source: wikimedia commons
Source: wikimedia commons

What if I could write down a bunch of ideas for you on a piece of paper that would:

1) Get you more sales for your business in a recession
2) Increase your profits comfortably over your previous year
3) Cut the worry about your business you have most nights

Would you be interested?

Of course you would. And I’d be just as interested to see the look on your face.

But here’s the thing: Continue reading “Why you absolutely must innovate in a recession”

More ideas, better ideas – innovate now

Dealing with the challenges in your business has become increasingly urgent with the economy as it is. Yet we know that some business people thrive under any circumstances. These far-sighted business people take measures to innovate their business despite prevailing circumstances.

A business owner* who runs a media and website business was experiencing a gradual drop in his conversion rate from quotation to sales, which was leading to lower revenues. At ideaaccelerator.co.za we jump at such challenges and offered to help solve the problem using the idea-generation and ideation expertise we’ve developed over a number of years.

At first he was skeptical. “But how can creativity and new ideas work for my business when all I have is a sales conversion problem?” he asked. Our reply was, “Why not give it a try and see what happens. You haven’t come up with a solution now and who knows when you’ll stop the decline so using these idea generation techniques and processes could help you right now, wouldn’t they?”

Steps to produce amazing ideas

We started with a closer enquiry into the possible cause of the lower quotes to sales conversion. Next, we took the business owner through a series of steps to produce ideas that were imaginative and energizing. We tried to disturb the usual thinking patterns that keeps us stuck in familiar thinking ruts – the same tired ideas that get raised in brainstorm meetings that never seem to fire inspiration or let alone work.

He had an initial resistance to these new approaches but we guided him into the processes we have developed. We’ve found that it is often better to just get on with following the tools and processes and finding new solutions than to get into detailed, arcane explanations that will only really be understood once they are experienced when the results start flowing.

The tools and techniques used to assist this business person to generate ideas were suited to his temperament and natural curiosity. Knowing what works best with individual customers is important so that they remain motivated to complete the necessary steps.

 Astounded at the quality of ideas

The business owner was astounded by the number and quality of ideas produced. His problem became how to sort through all the ideas and prioritise them. We gave him a simple prioritization grid which quickly helped him select the best ideas with the fastest and biggest payback that he could action in his business right away.

 The result of the ideas produced and implemented was a 200% increase in quotes to sales conversion. All this was achieved through working on tangible and intangible parts of his service and increasing benefits for customers.

 “We increased our sales conversion by 200%”

“Using ideaaccelerator.co.za’s ideation process, we came up with new ideas for our business that helped us increase our sales conversation by 200%,” the business owner told us afterwards. “We generated so many ideas that it will take a year to implement them all. We’re already started on actioning just three and the results are amazing.”

 Leapfrog competitors

By generating more and better ideas small businesses can leapfrog their competitors through innovative ways to do business. Unless idea generation is purposeful and directed towards a clear, definite end goal the results will be less than spectacular. The idea generation facilitator needs to be experienced or very familiar with business and the success factors for small business because a high level of experience is required. While business is often considered a science by the business schools, it’s more of an art that requires a high level of judgement and ingenuity to activate the levers that will produce the best results.

Businesses faced with the challenges in the marketplace today with lower demand, varying customer buying patterns and price-sensitive customers have a choice to wait and do nothing until disaster strikes or innovate their businesses to produce stronger profits and stay ahead of their competition.

* Details of the business owner and managing director of this case study can be made on request to chesney@ideaaccelerator.co.za