I have been a sales professional for over 18 years and almost 5 years ago I started The Last Hurdle, with no financial backing and in the middle of a recession. Today we have offices on Moulton Park in Northampton, I employ a small team of experts and have started to duplicate the business success by licensing the franchise model.
My name is Jules White and I am a sales professional, that sounds like I should be in some sort of therapy group doesn’t it?
Effective Sales Techniques for Small Business Owners
Each of us whether we are conscious of it or not are sales people. Every time we meet someone new; when we ensure we are making the right first impression, or when we are persuading our children to eat their veg, these are all sales practices employed in a natural way. Now take that natural approach and apply it to your business offering – in my mind, that is all a successful sales person does. Forget everything you have ever heard or witnessed about unscrupulous sales people, you are not that person and are highly unlikely to turn into that person just because you are going to sell or market your products or services. Yes you may need to expand your comfort zone and yes we are British so we have that cultural disease to overcome where one simply must not toot ones own horn, but utilising effective sales techniques doesn’t require you to give up your own morals or ethics – quite the contrary!
Now I feel like I am in really good company, we have ascertained that we are all sales people. I think we are ready to talk about Effective Sales Techniques for Small Business Owners and I can share with you my passion and the elements of sales that have helped me to become successful:
- Be yourself – people buy from people, not faceless corporations. You have to be yourself, everyone else has been taken! Relax, be yourself and enjoy the moment. If you are not being yourself, then on a sub conscious level the person you are communicating with will realise that something is not quite right, they won’t know what isn’t quite right, but it can be enough to put the prospect off.
- Very high on my priority list, find out what your potential customer wants! This is sometimes called a needs analysis. It may sound elementary, but you would be surprised how little thought is given to finding out exactly what a new customer wants, even the NVQ board doesn’t seem to understand this very basic principle! Sales NVQ level 2, I have read through the course… it teaches people, to overcome objectives, tells them how to highlight features and benefits… and all the other important sales processes, but doesn’t teach how to find out what a potential customer wants in the first place! If our nationally recognised qualifications doesn’t teach sales delegates to find out exactly what a potential customer wants, is it any wonder sales and especially cold sales calls receives such a negative response? A classic case of people being sold at.
- Listening and communication is key – are you communicating effectively with your customers, do all your customers know all the products and services you offer? I am not proposing you call each one up and talk to them until you are satisfied they know all your offerings inside and out, but I am suggesting you may want to drip feed into your marketing, educational messages encouraging your target market to think about the whole of your offering. By the same token, do you really listen – really? Try for one week in all of your communications to listen at least twice as much as you speak, really listen to what the other person is saying rather than simply awaiting your turn to talk.
- Spotting the potentials and identifying new target market – if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got. Are there new emerging markets out there that need your services or products? An example of this we seem to be enjoying a boom in the cottage industry type of home run businesses. There are a lot of small home run cottage industries, all needing an accountant, IT assistance, print, software, health and safety, business advice, websites, training etc etc. Not your target market? Who is? Profile your ideal client, what industry are they in, who is the company run by, what problems/issues are they likely to have that you can solve? How would you reach them? You need to know who you are selling to as well as what you are selling.
- Follow up! Always follow-up on quotes and proposals, people will surprise you, even if you are absolutely certain this person will not go ahead, follow-up anyway! Don’t presume, try not to fall into that trap of presuming the worst – it’s not over until you get a no! So many times I have been convinced that a prospect will not go ahead – only to be pleasantly surprised when I follow-up.
- Watch your language! Try to avoid negative language. Here’s a good example, commenting ‘ I am so pleased it has stopped raining’ the focus here is that I am pleased but it is also triggering the annoyance and nuisance that the rain conjours, how about I say instead ‘I am so pleased it’s dry’ the focus is entirely positive.
- Never under-estimate the power of silence. Once you have put forward your pitch or proposal and have asked for the business, keep quiet. This is very important otherwise the tendency is to keep talking and justifying your prospect, if you keep silent the other person will fill the gap and usually fill it with their thoughts about the proposal.
- Is there anyone who likes to be sold to? And yet we have just discovered we are all sales people! So if we don’t like to be sold to why do we think it’s ok to use the same technique on others. Rather than talking at people, let’s make our offering educational, we have found out want they want, now we need to educate them, give them all the knowledge they need to be able to decide upon the right product or service for them. Find a way to engage with your prospects.
- Don’t argue with the customer. There is a vast difference to handling their objections and arguing with them. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t challenge a misconception, but rather than argue which may sound like you are saying “you’re wrong”. Educate instead; “this is what I have found to be the case” or “yes someone else we worked with felt like that, this is what we did…” the object is not to alienate your prospect – keep the focus on educating them. If they were experts in your field they would know what you know and they wouldn’t need you!
- Don’t Sit back and wait for sales to happen, patience is a virtue but it won’t bring you new business. Activity is the only way to bring in new business. Make sure you are doing the right kinds of activity, consistently and productively.
- Ask for recommendations, these are the most valuable leads, third-party referrals are key to building your sales pipeline. Do you ask for recommendations and referrals?
- Don’t blag it. If you don’t know, say so, people will have a lot of respect and empathy for you if you are honest. Tell them I have never encountered that before, let me find out and I’ll come straight back to you.
- Remember to smile, if you are face to face or on the phone a smile will make the difference to your whole demeanor and even your tone of voice, even the tone of your writing!
None of these points have been earth shattering insights! They are all simple but effective sales techniques and yet when applied have a profound affect on your bottom line. For the professionals reading this I hope these points have served as a reminder, I don’t know about you, I grab every opportunity to hone my skills and combat bad habits to stop them from forming. And for those who are new to sales I hope found some assistance from the advice in this article. If you require further advice and support on pushing your business to the next level then contact The Last Hurdle on 01604 654545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for your complimentary Business Development consultation.
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