Lots of small business owners like to give themselves the job title of “CEO” or “President,” but the truth is, as a small business owner, your first job title at your company needs to be “sales person.” If you don’t feel comfortable doing sales, it’s hard to really get your business off the ground. Making sales is the most important thing your company does, and it’s crucial for entrepreneurs and founders to take an active role in the sales process. Even if you don’t have prior sales experience, it’s not too late to learn.
Here are a few key tips for small business owners and startup founders for how to be better “sales people” for your company:
Create a formal sales process
Put a rigorous, methodical, repeatable process in place for how to work with clients at every stage of the buying process – from the first phone call to the first conversation to the final deal closing. Map out your sales process in a way that’s relevant to what you sell. What are the steps involved? And at each step of the sales process, what is the “next step” that you need to ask your buyer to agree to?
Here is a simplified example of what your sales process might look like:
1. Initial contact with prospect (inbound, where the prospect contacts you – email, phone inquiry, PPC response; or outbound, where you contact the prospect – cold call, trade show, referral) – ask the prospect to agree to set up an initial sales presentation or product demo.
2. Initial presentation/product demo (online or in person) – demo the product, then ask to meet with other stakeholders/decision-makers at the prospect’s company.
3. Stakeholder meeting – show your solution to other people within the company who help with the purchase decision – other departments, teams, etc. Ask the prospect to agree to an ROI demonstration.
4. ROI demonstration – create a document to show the prospect how much Return on Investment they can expect from buying your solution. Ask for a final sales presentation.
5. Final sales presentation: Sum up the ROI information, answer questions, discuss implementation timeline, and ask to close the sale.
Not every sale will go through every step – some customers are more immediately ready to buy than others, while other customers need time and nurturing to build a relationship before they’re ready to buy – but it’s good to have a road map for what to expect so you can work through the steps with your clients. Every individual sale can be unpredictable – some deals might fall through with no real reason given; some opportunities will materialize when you least expect it. But by creating a formal sales process, you are helping to impose some consistency and structure on the overall work of building relationships with new prospective customers. You’re helping to control more of what’s within your control -
Write an elevator pitch
Every sales person needs a concise “elevator pitch” that can articulate the key selling points of your product or company within the short timeframe of a single elevator ride. Unfortunately, many small business owners struggle with this – you might not have a clear enough idea of what your company’s key selling points really are. Too many small business owners want their businesses to be all things to all people, but you really need to focus and differentiate. What do you do best – better than any of your competitors? Can you clearly, concisely explain what your company does and why it’s important? Can you say all of it in 30 seconds or less in a way that makes people want to learn more? If not, chances are your customers are feeling confused by your sales pitch. You need a tight, focused value proposition. Spend time writing, editing, and rehearsing in front of the bathroom mirror if needed. Practice with a friend. Ruthlessly edit – make sure you’re clear in your own mind about why people should buy from you, and then it will become clearer in your customers’ minds as well.
Cultivate a sales mentality
The best sales people have a certain energy about them that is uniquely focused on building relationships and closing sales. They’re great at working with customers and solving problems and establishing trust. And this sales mentality permeates everything that they do – you can often tell that the best sales people work in sales before you even see their business card. Even if you consider yourself to be more of a “technology” person who understands the nuts and bolts of your solution, or more of an “executive” who sees the big picture of your company, or more of an “artisan” who relishes the details of creating new products, you need to put “sales person” at the top of your list of roles as a business owner.
Sales cannot be an afterthought. Sales needs to be at the center of everything that happens at your company. If you get more comfortable and proficient at selling your product, your business will grow much faster. Even when your business grows to the point that you start hiring full-time sales staff, it’s still a good idea to stay in touch with the daily work of selling – because that will keep you in touch with the fundamentals of what makes your company succeed.