The art of sales is an important one to master if you want to really generate interest, support, and profit for your products or services. Marketing your business is an essential aspect of your campaign, but that’s another department entirely; you need to focus on the direction you want to move your sales planning in, and really start creating customers.
Every entrepreneur needs to establish an effective strategy that has a high chance of getting people interested in making purchases. There are many different ways to go about this – many professional sales trainers can advise you in thousands of different ways, giving you acronyms to memorize and mantras to recite – but what it boils down to is what you think works best for your business, and applying proven results accordingly.
I’ve had the privilege of creating (and selling) many businesses. While many of these had a strong online sales element requiring mainstream Internet marketing techniques (such as my site Realmenswallets.com), traditional sales techniques still form the backbone of all my enterprises.
Let’s run through some of the most common sales methods, and look at what works and what doesn’t.
The cold-hard truth about cold calling.
This is one of the most well-known tactics in sales, also known as “telemarketing”. The act of calling potential customers on the phone and attempting to run through a series of steps in order to get those potential customers to take a desired action. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most loathed practices of all, capable of making people’s skin crawl and their ears blow steam.
It’s very difficult to be successful at telemarketing in a market that’s so saturated it. In order to get clients interested in doing business with you, it’s very important to have a game plan way before you begin making calls. A major part of that game plan needs to be less focused on the product or service you’re pushing and more about what your customers need and how you can meet those needs.
Create a sales funnel.
A sales funnel is a visual representation of a strategy that will get you from marketing (i.e., creating awareness) all the way to the final sale and beyond. If this is something you haven’t worked on yet, now is the time to start. At the top of the sales funnel, you have your leads, which is a group of potential customers. From there, you work your way down, until you’ve winnowed out the people who probably won’t buy anything and kept a group of those that might.
But a sales funnel doesn’t need to end with the sale. In fact, once a sale is made, you will need another “funnel” based solely on taking care of existing customers. This is where you start to develop repeat customers; satisfied people that have the potential to come back for more. They’re people that you want to contact every now and then and ask how your products or services are working out for them, whether they have any comments or questions, and if there’s anything else they need.
Who are you calling?
When contacting potential customers, you must customize your sales strategy based on who you’re talking to. The sales funnel will help you determine who is most likely to be interested in your products and services, and whether or not they’re in a position to buy something from you. Are you calling a family decision maker at home? Are you calling business executives, directors, presidents? Are you calling to sell to an individual or to the whole of a company or household?
Other questions you need to ask yourself, before making that call, or sending that email, are: “Why would a potential customers benefit from your product or service? What do you have to offer that other companies don’t, or what makes your version of that offer better? Do you have any statistics to show your potential customers that you’ve done your homework and are confident that they’ll be satisfied from doing business with you?”
Change your demeanor.
Often times what really gets on people’s nerves is that bland, almost robotic tone of voice that all telemarketers seem to have. If customers can tell right away that you’re just another voice spewing lines from a generic message, they will shut down immediately. This is an outdated method of telemarketing that, for some reason, some business owners and managers still swear by. But it doesn’t work. Don’t fall into this trap; try a new approach.
You need to get on the customer’s level and realize that they’re people like you, not just statistics in a game of chance. The friendlier you are to them, the more likely they are to stick around and listen. If you have called at an opportune time, then you need avoid a sales pitch and just start talking. Ask questions. This is not going to go as smoothly as you’d like at first, but the more trial and error you get through, the better you’ll get at balancing informal conversation with explaining what your business wants to offer them.
Telemarketing is a difficult area to get a handle on, but for many it will do wonders to help boost sales. You need to determine the best strategy for your business by taking the tips that are most relevant to your services and engaging in trial and error until you begin to see success.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Simon Crompton is a freelance journalist and entrepreneur, who spends the majority of his time blogging about business startups and consulting on web development. He has launched multiple online companies. He is also a dedicated follower of fashion, and has written for the Financial Times and GQ. Connect with @PermanentStle on Twitter.
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