There’s only one way for us, as a region or as single businesses, to survive this recession, and that is to sell more: to sell more product/services to existing customers and to find new customers. You see, it’s simply not enough to keep cutting or deferring costs, as many companies or indeed our government are doing, increases in the top line have far more impact short and long term.
I am no expert on sales and marketing, like many professionals I find it very difficult indeed however many training courses I go on, I keep reverting back to what I like doing most, what I am most comfortable at doing. And it’s the same for many small business owners out there, our businesses are held back by our reverting back to our own comfort zones. We may be able to get away with doing this when the economy is doing well, but as the Federal Reserve over in the USA finally recognised last week, this downturn is expected to be with us for at least another two years. That will make it 5 years! Just how many more customers/sales can you afford to lose in the next few years? Will you survive or thrive in the next two years?
The reality however is not all doom and gloom. Recessions always bring opportunities for those who are prepared to actively search them out and truly go for them. So, what are you doing to look for ‘new’ opportunities and truly go for ‘it’? (I’ll pick up in future tips what ‘new’ and ‘it’ may be).
Let’s start off with the obvious. Sales, unless you are one of the very few who are lucky enough to have a readily understandable product/service and well marketed niche, will not come your way by chance. You have to make it happen. Yet you probably have resource issues, if only in terms of not having a great deal of spare time, to search for new opportunities. Some businesses and their owners have major skills weaknesses, they may have relied on the product or service selling itself to a compact number of customers.
In tip 1, I suggested that people need to have the right balance, both in and outside of work, as regards what they do. In practice, few business owners are willing in these uncertain times to either spend their money or time developing their own sales and marketing plans and skills. Most put a sticking plaster on what they already do and hope it all comes right for them.
That is not a good way to act at this time – it says more about the sustainability of their business than anything, and many will fail, maybe not now but two years more of this is an awfully long time. Those businesses with foresight and a willingness to commit resources, are many more times likely to do best, that is provided they are focussed on doing the right things for this time.
The few really interested in taking control, in making it happen rather than just hope it does, could work with one of several sales and marketing experts I have got to know over time. Here’s an article by Julia Smith of Cre8 Sales Solutions on the 3 easily made mistakes of telemarketing written for those who want to do it themselves, whether with or without the support of experts. And no, none of us can avoid telemarketing however hard you try!
3 (easily made) mistakes of telemarketing
1. Not picking up the phone!
Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but this is the biggest and number 1 problem for small business owners. Even seasoned telemarketers will have days when they just don’t feel like doing it, and they are used to doing it day in, day out. Add this feeling to having a list as long as your arm of tasks that need doing urgently, or that are important to keeping business running smoothly and you can see why many businesses just aren’t making any sales calls at all. If this is your situation, try and set aside an amount of time each day to make a set number of calls – ideally the same time and same number of calls every day. Even if it is only 5 calls and 10 minutes at 10am – make it a discipline and when you start to see results it may encourage you to do more but at the very least you will see some results.
2. Who are you going to call?
The next problem is having not identified who you want to call. If you are sitting there ready to go at 10am but without a clue who you want to speak to, you’re going to give up pretty quickly, or resort to hastily made decisions that may see you making calls to companies who are unlikely to use your services or who won’t want to speak to you; fencing companies are pretty busy throughout the summer and cram in as much work as possible during this time – they aren’t that keen on sales calls around now – but try them in October / November and you could receive a totally different reception. Sit down and think about the types of businesses who will use your service – the best way to move from here is to use LinkedIn – search for people who work for those companies and try to connect with them, asking if you can call them. If you don’t use LinkedIn or you want to call a larger list of businesses, there are many sources of business data that are reliable and can target industry sectors, size of company/turnover, length of time trading etc. If you have your targets ready and planned it will make the process a lot easier.
3. I’ll get on the phone, but I have no idea what I want to achieve on the phone call.
Put the phone down! Don’t start making the calls until you have decided what you want. If you don’t know then you can’t communicate a desired outcome and the call, even if it starts well, could be wasted. When you pick up the phone you need two things at a minimum – some kind of hook that will get your prospect interested and listening, such as a special offer, or a key benefit of what you offer, and you need a compelling reason why they should………….why they should what? If you don’t know what this last bit is you won’t achieve it! You need a compelling reason why they should buy your product, agree to an appointment, give you an email address and read an email you will send, subscribe to your newsletter, give you their current price list and look at your comparisons, etc. Whatever the outcome is, if you are clear then the prospect will be, and if you’ve got your hook and compelling reason you’re in with a shout!
There will be more mistakes and tips coming soon from Julia. In the meantime, if you should like to contact her, here are her details: Julia Smith of Cre8sales, website www.cre8salessolutions.co.uk, tel 07591 109259, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, Paul Harris of Real Success is holding a half day workshop in Solihull on 14 September entitled ‘Boosting your business sales’. I have been to several of Paul’s workshops, and can recommend them. If you need to increase your sales but cannot spare half a day for Paul’s workshop, there really is something radically wrong with your business! To book, e-mail Paul at email@example.com .
My next topic – they are on random subjects – is on making it happen. In it I will address the fear of getting it wrong, the strategies for getting it right.