Among the many titles you take on when owning a small business, one that will be your most important is Chief Salesperson. Your business literally cannot live without sales growth, and it’s up to you to start—and keep—those customers coming.
“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” -Mary Kay Ash
Some people understandably have doubts about their ability to generate sales. They may worry that they simply aren’t “sales savvy,” or associate selling with negative stereotypes often seen on television. The truth is that selling is easier and less onerous than you think. The key is to plan, develop your skills, and practice—much like every other facet of becoming a small business owner.
Sales begin with setting realistic goals as part of your business plan. Learn everything you can about your target market: Who and where they are, how you can reach them, etc. The more information you gather on these and other considerations, the more realistically you can project short—and—long-term sales volume necessary to meet obligations and generate profit.
To determine whether or not you will succeed at reaching the goals you set in sales, you must also develop a true “competitive advantage” that differentiates your business from your competition, and know how to explain it to others, (customers), that is effective and impactful with meaning. “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete” says Peter Drucker. Think about this: Why would you start any business without knowing your competitive edge?
At some point prior to launching your business or any business for that matter, you had to have written down a few of those advantages you discovered, and convinced yourself why this was a good business idea, right? Well, now it is time to form it in a pitch that will demonstrate your dedicated desire to succeed for your small business and pitch it to people you know that have sales experience. Ask for impressions and suggestions for things you can improve upon.
The old expression about never having a second chance to make a first impression still holds true. Whether you’re making a sales pitch in-person, over the phone, or online make sure to be polite, be courteous, and listen to what prospective customers are saying.
“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” says Damon Richards. Often times the difference between winning and losing in sales is the ability to listen. We get so wrapped up in making the sales presentation that we pay no attention to how the customer responds to what we believe will make a difference in the customers’ life that we end up losing out on the sale. As a small business owner, when you take the time to listen, care, and empathize with the customer, that is when you close the deal.
That leads to another must-have ingredient for sales growth: a good reputation. Satisfied customers are usually willing to refer your business to others, especially when you’ve exceeded their expectations. Just make sure doing so doesn’t compromise your profit or time commitments. Customers may expect price breaks or fast turnarounds every time.
As a small business owner, you always need to have the insatiable desire to continually improve your products and services. Many small businesses begin to fail when they reach that certain sales plateau, and likewise, a small business owner fails when they get complacent with their sales strategies. Truth is, customers will come and go for a variety of reasons, just as businesses do, but the small business owner who is going the extra mile to improve and grow in sales will be the one who succeeds in all matter.