Starting a business has always been hard. It’s even harder in tough economic times, and perhaps the biggest challenge of them all is landing enough sales to make your business self-sustaining. Here are 7 tips that can help you get your startup started and your sales humming.
Secret #1: Sell Benefits, not Features
This is a piece of basic sales advice that, unfortunately, many entrepreneurs forget, according to sales expert Brian Tracy. He points out that entrepreneurs have spent so much time designing their product and are so intimately aware of all its features, they naturally fall back on discussing them, rather than focusing on what the product can do for their customers. It’s comfortable to talk about what we know, but in this case you have to get out of your comfort zone to see things from a customer’s perspective.
Secret #2: Know Yourself, Especially Your Limitations
Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t know your weaknesses, you won’t know how much they’re handicapping your sales. If you don’t know your strengths, you can’t effectively utilize them to make sales. You need to develop three kinds of confidence:
- Confidence in your person
- Confidence in your product
- Confidence in your process
You need to have faith that you can sell, that your product can sell, and that your approach is the right one to get sales.
Secret #3: Don’t Outsource Sales
Many entrepreneurs don’t think of themselves as salespeople. Their natural temptation is to hire people who actually are salespeople to represent them. However, according to Gary Gaessler at tech startup Cloud Elements, this is a mistake. Everyone on the founders team should sell, because at this stage only you have the knowledge to make a sale, and only you have the authority to tinker with the process until it’s right. Once the process is right, then you can bring on salespeople who can be trained.
Secret #4: Plan for Sales Cycles
Some products sell quickly and at any time of year. Other products may take a long time investment to make a sale. And still others will vary by the season or the fiscal year. You need to understand how your product will sell, and plan for rush times, lean times, and long lead times. Sales consultant Louise Anderson recommends that you research your industry and your competitors to anticipate these cycles so you can better focus your sales efforts.
Secret #5: Meet in Person
Entrepreneurs, especially those who lack confidence in themselves as salespeople, may tend to use all the numerous communication methods technology offers in order to avoid face-to-face communication that may show their lack of confidence. However, both Tracy and Gaessler recommend that you try to meet with potential customers as close to a personal meeting as possible. If you can’t actually meet in person, try talking on the phone. Gaessler notes that people want to buy from friends, not strangers. And, speaking of friends, don’t forget your smile.
Secret #6: Show Customers There’s No “Free Lunch”
When you’re trying to sell someone your brand-new product, you have one huge obstacle to overcome: people see your product as an expense, and they can avoid that expense if they just don’t buy from you. However, if you show them the costs of not buying from you, you can even out the playing field considerably.
Secret #7: Focus on the Second Sale
Nearly 85% of sales are produced by word of mouth, often from a satisfied customer. Once you make your first sale, work hard to make that customer satisfied so they can bring on new business for you.
This also goes for unsuccessful sales, too. Even if you don’t manage to close a sale, treating a prospect with respect and class can keep your name and your product in their mind in case they come across someone
You Can’t Succeed If You Don’t Try
And, of course, this is the most essential secret of sales. If you’re not out there trying to make sales, you won’t make them. So take this advice and build up your business!
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Dr. Matthew B. Candelaria (PhD, U of Kansas 2006) has tried his hands at many kinds of sales, from hawking candy and cigarettes in a convenience store to pitching Internet security solutions online. He is also a freelance writer focused on a wide variety of subjects, including history, medicine, and technology.