Small Business Owner Sales Tips
By Jim Degerstrom
Small business owners may find selling awkward or difficult at best. Here are some tips and sales techniques to help understand the process.
Sales is not a dirty word. People seek answers to problems and if you provide a quality solution at a fair price, delivered on time and willingness to service after the sale, the buyer and seller each win. This is key to making repeat sales.
A sale is identifying a need (problem) and offering a suitable product or service (solution), yet there's more.
You know the value of what you offer, so how do you convince a prospective customer? Understanding the psychology of what happens during the sales process requires empathy. You need to know what the prospect is thinking. Here are a few sales tips with answers to that part of the mystery.
People buy based on emotion more often than reason. They purchase what they want, not necessarily what they need. First impressions are crucial, so your initial approach must establish a professional image. You have 5 seconds.
People will buy from someone they trust. Your credibility must be evident, and how you open after those critical first 5 seconds will often determine your success. Do not try a hard sell up front. Avoid talking about the weather, current events, or the latest joke. It is time to listen. A brief introduction is usually enough which gives the prospect a chance to explain their business and situation.
People are not looking just at you. What you have, what it does, and how it will help doesn't matter until you understand fully what they want. If you start out with an open ended question, you show respect for the buyer's time, and a willingness to listen. Any question that may be answered "yes" or "no" won't work. Open ended means you begin by asking or stating something like "Please take a moment to explain your business and a few details about what you need."
People will open up if given a chance. Do not dominate the conversation until you understand what they want. Be prepared to paraphrase what you hear, and then offer your solution. Your message needs to be direct and to the point to establish the benefits of what you offer. Anything that you can do to create a mental image of your solution and the benefits to the customer shows you care more about them than the sale.
People are usually sold before you ask for the order. Many are presold in those first 5 seconds explained in Tip #1. If you listen first, restate what they have said, and then explain your solution in terms of the benefits, it's time to ask for the order. A small business owner may not be comfortable here. My advice is simply state "I want to do business with you. From what I have learned, I'm ready to help, so let's get started today."
People will forgive mistakes if you remain honest. Establish trust, and openly admit errors if mistakes are made, and your customers are more likely to remain loyal. Have a plan when things go wrong. React quickly and state what happened, what you are doing to resolve any problems, and how long it will take. How you handle mistakes will be remembered by your customers a lot longer than what went wrong.
People will not forgive a dishonest salesperson. A sale is not about tricking someone into something they don't want or need. This is an important and tough rule: Be prepared to refuse an order if you realize your solution just won't work. In any sales situation if you perceive an opportunity to sell, but doubt the results of your product or service, consider your long term reputation. Credibility lost is nearly impossible to regain, so give your customers the truth up front.
In conclusion, the value of placing what your customer wants, or needs, ahead of your sales quota or personal interests will help you succeed. Repeat sales depend on a business relationship where you care about your customers. Adapt your thinking to solving problems instead of selling something. The best salespersons are still those who are good listeners.
About the Author
Jim Degerstrom offers small business advice based on 30 years in management, sales, and marketing, including President or General Manager of small companies in 5 states. He is proficient in website and graphic art design, and runs his online Small Business Resource Center at http://www.jimdegerstrom.com from Kissimmee FL USA.
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