By BOB POOR
November 11, 2012
Q: No one in our small business has had any sales experience, and our slumping sales are proving to be a dilemma. Any helpful thoughts from SCORE to encourage us and grow our sales?
A: Among the many titles you take on when owning a small business is chief salesperson. Your business literally cannot live without sales growth, and it is up to you to start — and keep — customers coming.
Some people understandably have doubts about their ability to generate sales. They might worry that they simple are not “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, build 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 those and other considerations, the more realistically you can project short- and long-term sales volume necessary to meet obligations and generate profit.
You also must develop a true competitive advantage that differentiates your business from your competition, and know how to explain it clearly to others.
Write out your “pitch” and then practice with friends or others who have sales experience. Ask for their impressions and suggestions for things you can improve.
Listen to what the prospective customer/client is saying. Many times, we can be so wrapped up in making the sales presentation that we pay little attention to how the prospect responds.
It also is helpful to have examples of what your business does readily available to show off your business skills.
For example, an interior designer would want to have samples of interior finishes or pictures of finished work for review.
Always have an insatiable desire to continually improve your products and services. For example, how is your website doing? Are you up on using social media for building your sales?
Many people think that once they have achieved a certain sales plateau, the business always will operate at that level or higher. In truth, customers will come and go for a variety of reasons, so plan your sales accordingly.
One of the best things you can do for your small business is to obtain a mentor — an experienced businessperson who will work with you to help it grow. SCORE will provide you one, free of charge.
Call 301-766-2043 to arrange to meet a mentor. You also may visit SCORE’s website at www.score.org.
Robert A. “Bob” Poor is a local small-business owner/operator. He is a small-business mentor and a regular contributor to the Ask SCORE column. Questions may be emailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by mail in care of The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741, ATTN: Ask SCORE column.
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