Do you feel clueless about the small business sales process? If so, you’re not alone. Most entrepreneurs that start businesses do not have sales experience.
During the early stages of your business, you’ll go through a process that is quite common for all entrepreneurs — finding a product-market fit. Essentially you’ll have to figure out how your product or service solves the pain point of a particular customer segment and if they are willing to pay you money for your solution.
This is a really tough stage of customer development for all entrepreneurs, because it engages ‘trial by fire’ approaches. Standing at a crossroads of what customer’s perceive about your business and what you think you know about them. What’s more confusing for entrepreneurs is the notion that sales and marketing are the same — they aren’t.
Could it be, you are marketing your business and not selling? Or are you selling, but not getting results because you haven’t marketed your company to the right people?
Marketing paves the way for a strong sales execution. One without the other can spell disaster. The better, and more targeted your marketing efforts, the easier it is to qualify customers, move them through your sales pipeline and close deals.
If sales is not necessarily you’re startup strong suit, here are five quick facts that can improve your sales efforts and help you close more deals.
1. Know thy customer
Ask yourself, “What specific people would benefit from the solution my company offers?” In other words, “What problem are we solving and for whom?”
It is really important to get a good grasp of who your customer is and their pain points that crave solutions. In theory, you should become your customer. In practical application this means you should engage them on social networks, read the trades they flock to for insight, and call a few of them to learn about their needs.
The goal of “knowing thy customer” is to gain intelligence — insight, knowledge and wisdom — that will help you create solutions that matter, differentiate yourself and make it hard for them to ignore you.
2. Practice makes ‘close to’ perfect
If you’re gun-shy about selling to customers, take a page from Virgin Group business magnate Richard Branson’s playbook and simply say, “Screw it! Let’s do it!” The more you act, the less hesitation you’ll have about the selling process.
The fact remains, you won’t get it right on your first, second or tenth call. But that’s not the point. The goal is to become comfortable and confident in your ability to deliver a solution that customers would be crazy not to want. You’ll only gain this newfound gumption by taking the first steps, hearing “No”, listening to sales excuses, and then finally hearing “Yes, send us the invoice!”
3. Show me, “What’s in it for me?”
Let’s be honest. Customer’s don’t care about how great you are they want to know how much you care. Always keep this perspective in mind when you reach out to new business prospects. Before you hit send on that sales email or leave a voice message, consider if you have effectively positioned your business to deliver on, “What’s in it for me?”
If you can’t tell me how I am going to look better, jump higher, or increase my bank account by using your products or services, you are wasting my time. Always appeal to the customer’s need for a solution, instead of your need for a sale.
4. Sow ‘sales’ seeds
Sales can be likened to the parable of a farmer sowing seeds. “As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. (Luke 8:5-8)”
When you make sales calls you are sowing seeds. Not every seed will take root — and not every call will yield a sale. Some seeds fall on good ground and multiply and others will fall to the wayside (i.e. we’re not interested). But if a farmer plants seeds, and certain conditions are met, he or she knows to expect a harvest.
Your sales activities are purposeful. You won’t always see immediate results, but eventually your efforts will pay off. Not to mention, the education you gain along the way is priceless. Consider how silly a farmer would be if he said, “I’m not going to plant seeds, because all of them won’t result in a harvest!” Looks to me as though that farmer would starve.
5. Start selling ASAP
Many businesses fail due to a lack of paying customers. It seems logical to build first then sell, but you’ll soon learn that early customer validation is a quicker route to success.
As you’re building your product or service, discover and validate your customers. Ideally, your customer development activities should run in step with your product or service development. This is where you’ll find your evangelists and your advocates. Early adopters that can help champion and build your business.
Bonus: Develop a sales process.
Create a simple sales process that can be easily taught, learned and duplicated. Define the decision makers, what it takes to make contact, the estimated length of engagement, sales cycle and the simplest way to create value and close the sale. Most importantly, make sure that your sales process delivers on your revenue model (i.e. how you monetize the value you create). Don’t put yourself out of business before you even begin.
How have you improved your company’s sales? Let me know in the comments section below.
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