Why is selling so difficult for small business owners? The ability to sell is necessary for every business yet it is often a neglected activity. To simplify the selling process, you need to build a sales approach into your marketing mix program. (Your marketing mix includes product, price, promotion and place – the sales activities belong in the promotion category.)
First, it is important to understand the marketing mix promotion category. Marketing promotion includes personal selling (face to face), direct mail marketing (one-to-one and via email or mail), and use of telemarketing campaigns (one-to-one and via telephone). Additionally, marketing promotion includes the advertising (for example, radio, newspapers, internet, magazines, storefront, and more), promotions (for example, trade shows, coupons, contests, point of purchase displays and more), and public relations (for example, press releases, community involvement, and more) activities.
Second, it is important to build a sales plan targeted to each product or service category, and also focused on each type of customer. If you are entering new markets, use sales contact management and sales leads software to focus your efforts. This software will also provide good sales service maintenance and follow-up support. Business process management tools help you to focus your sales activities and provide you with valuable time saving tactics. You can track and manage your activity and results for leads, prospects, and customers. You can also integrate your sales leads software with your sales management software to develop reports on customer purchases, service or product launches, price change impacts, service or product change impacts, and more.
Third, develop strong negotiating and closing skills. Always look for a win/win solution both for you and your customer. Make sure you focus on the unique value and benefits of your products and/or services and how that value will benefit your customer (solving their needs or problems). To negotiate a sale and to close a sale effectively requires a specific skill set. You need to be a very good listener and really hear what your customer is saying. You also need to be sincere – how many times have you heard pre-rehearsed closes that just turn you off? You can practice your close but when you are in front of a potential customer make sure that you can close based on what your customer just told you, what you heard, and what you believe you can deliver – in effect, how will you fulfill your customer’s needs more effectively than other suppliers?
To be successful in business, you need to either be successful at selling or be able to hire a great sales person because no matter what you have to sell (product, service, idea or something else), you will have to sell it to someone. Learning how to sell effectively is possible but you need to enjoy it. If you dread the idea of selling, don’t do it (your customers can perceive your discomfort and you will find it even harder to make the sale). Hire someone who loves to sell to do it for you (you can hire an employee, or sales agent, or contract worker, or broker but it is likely that employees will be most committed to you and your business). Customers and potential customers will resist buying from someone who isn’t comfortable with the sales process, and while you might get some orders, hiring someone who is good at selling will free you up to do what you’re good at… a much more effective use of your time and resources.
Overcome the challenge of developing small business sales skills:
- learn to focus on developing a marketing mix promotion that includes building service or product differentiation and positioning features and benefits that help you to increase sales successfully;
- learn to build an effective sales plan and use software and business process tools to help you manage the plan;
- make sure you develop strong negotiating and closing skills and
- learn how to manage your own efforts, or the efforts of others.
Learning how to sell effectively is of critical importance to your small business sales growth; and just as important is recognizing when to hire someone to do the selling for you.