Being honest with yourself how much effort actually goes into your sales? Few people really enjoy the process of sales it’s arduous and tedious at the best of time and involves a lot of rejection. I think where a lot of business owners have complained to me about a lack of sales, were I to strap them to a lie detector would confess that they haven’t been giving it enough time and dedication. People are all so ready to hide behind their email and hope that a monthly newsletter will somehow result in getting them some sales. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in.
What works for one person may not work for another. Some contacts I have swear by networking, others cold calls. Although one particular form of sales might be more effective for your business it’s important that you don’t just discount all other mediums. You should be utilising a range of different mediums to get your message out there and try to gain new customers. If you’re sending out a lot of emails, try sending some physical mail. If you’re doing a lot of cold calling, attend a trade show. It’s better to have a range of options so should one form dry up you have something else to fall on.
For any number of good reasons your product may not be that easy to sell. It might be something that is only reviewed periodically meaning you may have to wait a whole year before you have a chance to bid for future work. It may be something that is evaluated purely on cost and as a small business you’ll never be able to beat the price of your competitor. It’s important that you try and find out the real reason you may not be making sales, and where possible try and make corrections. Some common things I’ve seen would include: relatively new businesses trying to chase huge contracts/customers that realistically they aren’t ever going to be able to serve. The same can be said of young freelancers trying to charge ‘industry rates’ without much of a portfolio to back it up. Also anything technical or that requires a level of explanation will always be harder to sell.
Always good to review your sales efforts from the buyer’s point of view. What scenario would occur where they would look to employ someone like yourself? Who exactly are you trying to sell to? Why would someone actually choose you over someone else?
To give you an example: I have a contact who does Marketing Consultancy and would phone prospects asking who looked after marketing and if he could send them some details. His reasoning being that if they didn’t have a marketing person they were more likely to hire him. First of all, this severely restricted the companies he could work with. Any company with a marketing person was quite likely to get his details and throw them away for the simple reason that it would be stupid for them to hire someone who could replace them. That meant that by in large the remaining companies were quite small and therefore could not afford a marketing person (even on a consultancy basis) or were simply making enough money without one that they wouldn’t care. If and when he did get a lead, it meant a big pitch which usually involved him writing a marketing plan for free before he won any work.
We looked at through his sales notes and made two small changes. The first was rather than calling about marketing, he focused on PR. Where some companies did have a marketing function few had a dedicated PR person and this meant he wasn’t thrown away by any existing staff. By focusing on one area instead of a full marketing mix, he was able to focus his own pitch significantly. Once people had spent a small amount of money with him, they were more likely to ask for a marketing plan which he then charged for adding a layer of disqualification and enabling him to verify their budget. He won A LOT more work with this small change.
Something I’ve said throughout this series is that sales does take time. Momentum is a big factor in any business and just because something hasn’t worked for 4 weeks give it some time. I would expect any sales effort will realistically need 3 months to start seeing some sort of return.