Sales Skills for Small Business Owners

Selling is a very important aspect of any business and although many small business owners don’t like to consider themselves as ‘sales people’ per se in reality small business owners are actually key sales people who know their business and product or service offering better than anyone else in most instances. Let’s identify what some key sales skills are and discuss how they can be further developed.

In a nutshell the key ‘must have’ sales skills include:

  • Confidence
  • Relationship building skills
  • Listening
  • Persuasion
  • Product / service knowledge

Most of the skills listed above will be familiar to you, but I bet you are wondering, how can I apply this and learn to become a better sales person? The key is to identify any gaps you have in the skills outlined above and then develop your skills in these areas. It’s also important to understand what makes for a more natural sell which is centred around confidence. The truth is we all dislike the hard sell and pushy sales people so it’s about striking a balance, you want to be described as ‘confident’ and avoid being perceived as arrogant. So how does one achieve this?

Know your product or service

This is fundamental to your success. If you don’t know your product or service you won’t feel comfortable talking about it. If you need to develop your product knowledge, look for resources to help you do this, be it sales training, product or sales manuals, brochures and other materials, senior staff or technical staff with deep product or service knowledge.

Speak naturally

Speak naturally about what you do and the services you offer, a prospect that is interested in your offering is more likely to ask you questions and engage in a conversation with you about your offering. Sharing knowledge will help you build a relationship with a potential prospect.

Relationships develop leads better than any other form of lead generation. Word of mouth and relationships drive sales better than any other lead generation technique, even in today’s digital world! Think about your network and whether or not you are leveraging the opportunities that are being presented to you.

Believe in what you are selling

Passion and a genuine belief in your product or service will get more sales flowing.

Be clear, concise and articulate the benefits of your product or services to prospective customers or clients. Remember the golden rule. People are focused on what’s in it for them. Make sure you keep the customer and their needs at the centre of your conversation and explain how your product or service can benefit them.

Actively listen to your prospects / customers

Each one is different with unique requirements. Listen to any concerns or objections they have so that you can respond to these effectively. Be mindful not to interrupt when they are trying to express a concern.

Be patient

Be patient with your customers and be aware of body language and social cues. This applies to your own body language and tone of voice and that of your customers. It will help you to gauge interest/disinterest and read the situation, allowing you to know when it’s time to speak, seek clarification and when it’s necessary to listen or repeat what has been said to reinforce that you have been listening!

Sales is a complex subject area. I’d love to hear about any first hand sales experiences or tips you may have from your own sales history. What were some of the things that helped you close a sale? Is your network the main source of sales leads for your business? What are some of the areas within the sales process that you find difficult?

Building Marketing Momentum For Your Small Business

The success of your business depends on your ability to build marketing momentum. Without the ability to generate new sources of leads your capacity to sell will slump and the growth of your business will stagnate or shrink.

Unfortunately, many small business owners are at a loss when tasked with coming up with new ways to market while others are frustrated into stagnation by seeing consistently ineffective results from their marketing efforts. It doesn’t matter if your business is young or established. If your business is young you must market well simply to survive. On the other hand, if you have had marketing success with a method that does not increase your opportunity to generate new business your success will be stunted by your limited ability to find new sources of business.

Building marketing momentum is like kicking a ball down a hill that keeps getting steeper. Each time the hill becomes a little steeper the ball will roll faster and pick up momentum. In marketing, any tactic you add to attract attention to what you do is like making the hill a little steeper.

The other day I was talking to Ed who runs a successful metal shining business. I asked him how he went about generating new sales. He told me that 100% of his marketing effort is networking. I couldn’t help but wonder why. I realize that he is doing well with it but if he simply placed an ad in the yellow pages that generated just one sale a year he would cover the cost of the ad and be profitable!

Even though Ed’s networking efforts are successful he is limiting his ability to grow his business by only implementing one form of marketing. By simply trying something new in addition to networking Ed can benefit from developing a new way to generate leads and build his marketing momentum.

Is your marketing effort one dimensional or stagnant? Here are five tactics you can use to build marketing momentum.

Deliver a Great Marketing Message

A great marketing message will have the effect of generating interest in what you do. It never ceases to amaze me the number of small business owners that fail to use a compelling marketing message. How many times has someone described to you their business or what they do with a label like, “I’m an accountant” or “I’m in Communications”? Such answers are not likely to start interesting conversations and marketing opportunities are missed.

If you answer the “what do you do?” question with a savvy marketing message you will find that more people associate what you do with a need of their own or that of a friend, colleague or relative and you will win more referral business. Develop and use an outstanding, compelling marketing message and you will find that more people show interest in what you do. The result will be more better sales.

Make Cold Calling a Hot Source of Sales

Many small business owners hate to make cold calls. Their derision is understandable. By making cold calls they are setting themselves up for rejection. No one likes being rejected. However, rejection is part of the game when making phone calls. Once you realize that it’s not your fault when someone says no during a cold call you can move passed your barrier and add cold calling to your marketing arsenal.

The fact is that by regularly picking up the phone and reaching out to potential clients small business owners increase their chance of finding new business. A percentage of the people you speak with will become clients when you make cold calls, especially if you are targeting your market well and are offering something they need. What’s more you can work to improve your phone skills to increase your ability to make sales. Add cold calling to your marketing strategy and you will increase your opportunity to generate new business.

Use Your Web Site as An Effective Marketing Tool

Many companies have web sites that fail as effective marketing tools. Does your web site consistently generate leads and sales? It should. And it can. The World Wide Web is a continuously open marketplace that reaches hundreds of millions of consumers every moment of every day and allows you to easily and accurately target those who buy your products or services. A company without a web site as part of its marketing team is missing a fantastic opportunity to increase its revenue stream. Deliver a web site that functions as an effective marketing tool and you will consistently add to your marketing momentum.

Develop Your Network

Another great tool to use to build marketing momentum is networking. Networking is a highly effective means of generating referral business (which is some of the easiest business to get, once you get a referral). A person who is willing to take someone else’s advice to contact you about your product or service will transfer the trust he has in his friend or colleague making the referral to you. Making it easier for clients to trust you removes one of the barriers to making a sale. By developing a robust network you will increase your ability to find new prospects and do more business.

So then, just how should you go about building your network?

Ed, from our previous example, is able to successfully operate his business with networking alone. That’s because Ed networks the right way. Many small business owners and executives don’t realize what networking truly is. Unfortunately, all too often people think they are networking by reaching out only to the people they know when what they should be doing is taking steps to continually expand their network. Ed regularly attends networking events and is involved with multiple networking groups. He ads new people to his network all the time and has a successful business to show for it (though he could be even more successful if he added another tool to his marketing toolbox).

Measure Your Results

No matter what tactics you adapt to market yourself or your business be sure to measure your results. By measuring your marketing results you will be able to move away from or correct what does not work and stick with and reinforce what does. By diligently measuring your results you will improve your ability to ad to your marketing momentum and grow your business and success.

By measuring my results and trying new things I have been able to develop an ad that enjoys a 20% response rate. The ad is so successful I only need to run it occasionally to generate enough calls to keep me very busy. Not only does this great ad do a fantastic job of generating interest in my marketing services it saves me money on my advertising costs because I can meet my goals by running fewer ads.

You too can develop highly effective ads by measuring your results.

Move Your Marketing Forward

If your marketing efforts aren’t helping you reach your goals you can improve your results by implementing any one of the tactics outlined above. Choose the one you feel most comfortable with and take small measured steps toward realistic goals and you will see a beneficial transformation in your marketing results.

5 Common Small Business Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

1. Technology: Everyone in small businesses understands the need for technology but don’t truly understand what really makes it valuable to your business. Valuable technology has really only two purposes: to make you money and to save you money, period. Although that sounds rather generic, the truth is technology’s primary function is recording data; therefore, the data your systems are using should increase client retention or decrease the time spent on your staff or product fulfillment. Finally, don’t undervalue your technology; don’t pinch pennies here because the right technology is the foundation of your business.

Essentials for technology:
A. Website for lead generation
B. Contact management system for recording clients’ sales history
C. Secured network for growth, sharing, and remote employees (sales team)
D. Technical consultant for helping you determine the best and most cost-effective software and hardware for your company
E. Powerful e-mail marketing system
F. Good accounting software

2. Marketing: Many small businesses don’t think much of marketing until their sales are slumping or they are not generating enough customers (or enough revenue). To compensate for this error, we begin panic promotions, which usually will not lead to greater sales or more clients.

Essentials for marketing:
A. Marketing is essential for business growth and should be implemented before the doors open and continue throughout the business life cycle.
B. Marketing and sales are not the same thing (marketing generates sales leads).
C. Develop a marketing plan and stick to it for a minimum of 90 days.
D. Review and refine your marketing plan consistently; what works for the grand opening may not work next year.
E. Develop a marketing budget and stick to it; marketing is a business cost and should be treated as importantly as your rent (if not more so).
F. Remember “If you open, they will come” is a myth; only marketing will get clients to your business.

3. Know or learn your customers (market research): In my opinion, it is better to know who your customer is before you open the doors, but for the young entrepreneur, this is seldom the case. The good news is if you have done steps 1 and 2, this step will be a little easier because you will have the data to help you see who your true customer is.

Essentials for market research:
A. Know what your best and worst selling items are.
B. Determine the clients’ gender, race, and socioeconomic status.
C. Send out surveys (including some form of incentive).
D. Determine the clients’ buying patterns (every month, week, or year).
E. Include new information in the marketing plan.

4. DIY (do it yourself): Of the entire group of successful entrepreneurs I have met, they all had one thing in common: they did what they were good at and delegated the rest. We all have strengths and weaknesses; as a small business owner, you don’t have the time to correct your weaknesses, so focus on making them irrelevant to your success instead.

Essentials for business management:
A. Delegate effectively.
B. Use technology.
C. Prioritize your strengths.
D. Delegate all weaknesses.
E. Use outside talent when necessary.
F. Hire based on the company’s weaknesses.

5. Being too nice: Most small business owners develop a peculiar bond with their employees and a fear of their clients, which develops to this unique situation. The employees tend to feel that they can do what they want in the company as opposed to what they are told; your business is not a democracy. As for the client side, many new small business owners are afraid to charge what they should or believe they should be cheaper than the competition; nothing could be further from the truth. You charge what your value proposition supports, period.

Essentials for employee and client relations:
Employees
A. Hire slow; fire fast.
B. Business is not a democracy (you are king/queen).
C. Personal feelings have no place in business.
D. Hire to fill a company void.
E. Develop an employee handbook.

Clients
A. Prices are not negotiable.
B. Friends and family are still clients (if they are friends, they would understand that this is your livelihood).
C. You can’t be “all things to all people.”
D. Don’t be afraid to say no.
E. Apologize as well as stand your ground when necessary.

Best wishes,
Darrin Jackson

Hire A Consultant To Find the Right JV Marketing Partners For A Small Business

Small businesses can attain incredible rates of growth with the addition of the perfect joint venture partner however this can take a considerable amount of time and internal resources to pursue new partner opportunities. Small business owners may want to leverage hiring an expert business development consultant to do the research and the “meet and greets” required in developing a new potential business relationships. Make sure the consultant working with your business is in tune with the dynamics of your company and all your core business processes so they may serve your interests to the best of their ability. It may not be easy to hand over these responsibilities during the early stages of developing a joint venture business partner, but for many small business owners using outside support allows them to focus on continuing to service their existing customers, focus on proven lead generating channels and existing marketing activities. This way when the time is right you can meet with vetted businesses that are also seeking new partners and joint venture opportunities.

Finding the Right Partners

If an outside consultant is going to be successful in finding the right joint venture marketing partner for your small business it is critical that they really understand your business. This goes much further than just reading the website, reviewing product spec documents, and having a meeting or two with the executive team. It is best that they spend a day or two in your facility and meet with all of the team members that impact a successful business transaction as well as the individuals that are responsible for providing customer service. For a small business this can be handled in a day or two with several meetings. Not only will your outside consultant be fully prepared to represent your company to potential partners they should have a good understanding of the company culture and include that in their assessment of who might be the right partner for the business.

The biggest reason most businesses even larger firms reach out to professional business development consultants is there existing list of contacts. It is wise to hire a consultant that has recent work experience in your industry or desired geographical region. Having someone that can meet with your team and quickly start making calls to set up preliminary meetings to discuss a business opportunity that they think will fit well for both companies will lead to quickly closing a partnership and moving forward with the implementation phase of a new joint venture marketing partnership.

Compensating Business Development Consultants

Compensation for business development consultants will vary from person to person and what skills they bring to the table. Financial compensation for a consultant with high level business contacts at a specific company will differ greatly than a deal that is put together for a consultant to do research and additional legwork to identify and approach the right partners. The former may want to see a much higher revenue share for the deals that they close whereas the latter may be more inclined to be paid an hourly or on a fixed monthly rate with a smaller bonus for each closed deal. Each business is different and so it is highly recommended that before moving forward with a consultant for business development that the person in charge of the company’s finances, run some basic projections and financial numbers to determine what can be offered to a consultant that can quickly close new deals.

Business consultants can assist a small business grow quickly through establishing joint venture marketing partnerships with the right partners that fit the company culture and can deliver to their existing customer base. Most small business owners need to focus their time and energy on servicing existing business and marketing campaigns thus hiring an outside consultant for joint venture support is a great way to not add additional stress on a sales and executive team. Consider using outside business development support the next time your small business is looking to grow into a new market or geographical region and hire individuals that already know the area and can quickly put together a list of hot leads for potential partners.