This month Neil continues with his advice on Starting a Business in 2021with possibly one of the most critical aspects of making a business successful – sales.
Having the right sales strategy can make or break your startup and even established businesses can fall off the rails when it comes down to keeping the focus firmly on sales…and then turning those sales into ready cash.
So many salespeople lead with sales pitches that dive in and ramble on about the features and benefits of their product and/or service, their latest promotions and even worse, trying to persuade their customers by imposing hard deadlines relating to those same offers in an attempt to get a signature of commitment.
There is no empathy for the customers position and from what I experience, it is becoming more common as companies are adopting this approach out of desperation. I receive so many requests to attend what I term “pitching events” from cold outreach strategies, for anything from how to generate more sales leads on social media, to the latest software as a service (SaaS) solution. It is clear that none of these so-called sales people have at any time tried to understand exactly what I do, or even just tried to “open the door” and start a simple conversation.
Instead, I receive an instruction to pick a time on their calendar (which is always busy until a week later) and have a “discovery call,” for them to take up my precious time for something I am more than likely going to say “no” to!
Whether you are sending cold emails or making cold calls, you must do so from having a deep understanding of the industry you operate in, the dynamics of the market and knowing your target customers inside out.
Then, it is a matter of connecting with those customers in a natural way that always gives your customer the opportunity to opt out of further discussions or interaction with you at any stage.
There is no “closing” the sale…ever, and having been through what was termed “structured sales training” in my early sales and business career, I soon learned that it was the wrong way to go. Starting my own business gave me the opportunity to do things my way and over the years I have tried, tested and proved my methods both off and online. I have trained hundreds of successful salespeople around the globe and from all walks of life, with the best of them having very little or no previous sales experience.
Selling the right way is effortless and anyone can do it.
Turning sales into hard cash
It’s a sad fact of business life that many companies fail in their first year of operation, simply because they run out of cash.
Controlling expenses (cash outflow) is one side of the coin and collecting revenues from customers is the other (cash inflow).
Even profitable companies can fail, simply because they are unable to collect those profits.
Profit is an accounting concept, but cash is real and just because you collect your cash in advance, as is the case with many online businesses, it doesn’t mean you can celebrate – you have to factor in refunds, disputes and make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of third-party service providers, who have the power to stop you trading in a heartbeat, depending on how your business model works.
In this article I am going to share with you some of my big-picture views and thoughts on sales and cash flow management. I can only really scratch the surface, so please spend time conducting your own research and make sure you get specialist professional advice when it comes to financial or legal matters.
Building a sales strategy
It is important to know your customer avatar and then to understand your customer implicitly.
It all starts with research, and that means getting a handle on the dynamics of your industry, your specific niche if you have one and then drilling down deep to understand the business of your customer…and it doesn’t matter if you are selling gluten-free bakery products, or the latest high-tech software, you absolutely must do your homework.
You also have to work pro-actively if you want to get ahead of your competition and that means learning how to understand and predict, current and future trends.
You have to immerse yourself in your custom-ers culture as well as their business.
Once you have this understanding, you need to work out exactly the problems that you solve for your customer, and what outcome your customer can expect – this is much more important than going into the specific details and you will have plenty of time to do that once you have built a degree of trust.
It is all about creating a compelling “no brainer” value proposition.
Make sure you have priced your services correctly, worked out your exact sales margins and have prepared a realistic sales forecast. Your goal is to build a solid sales pipeline that will convert into a consistent revenue stream, and that means a lot of hard work and effort in the early stages, that will pay dividends later on.
Here are some key points:
- Make sure you target the right people – you need to aim high and reach decision makers, and if you are selling to the public, make sure you target a specific person and don’t be too generic.
- Make sure your website is functional – it should be your hardest working salesperson and here is where you can provide all of the support information you need to influence your customer. Clearly articulate your value proposition, what’s in it for your customers, explain your story, how and why you got started, answer common questions that your customers will ask and don’t be afraid to tackle difficult ones. Use your site to engage, educate and capture your visitors. And most importantly, make sure your customers can buy directly from your site!
- Connect with your target customers by giving something first – this is the most important component of outreach.
- Create an “elevator pitch” that shows an understanding of your customers situation, your expertise and how you solve their problems.
- Use stories to communicate your message – we are all conditioned to hear and read stories and they are extremely effective.
- Be honest and talk about any risks of using your services – there is no opportunity without risk and every buyer is aware of it.
- Be natural in any engagement and stay true to who you are, because you cannot be anyone else. So, don’t try to emulate your sales guru or business hero.
- Make time for sales activities and stay focused, plus follow up on all activity.
- Network – you never know who your customer could be connected to.
- Keep a sense of urgency.
There is so much more to cover on the subject, and I go into much greater detail in an article that you can search for on Google:
“Sales training: The ultimate guide to help you become a key influencer.” Take a look!
Next month – Cash flow