Waiting for Sales?
“I’ve placed advertisements in all my local papers, got a website, printed awesome business cards and told everyone I know about my new business. For weeks now, I’ve been waiting and waiting and nothing has happened.”
Sound familiar? If it does, you need to keep on reading.
There is no such thing as waiting and waiting for sales. Your business will thrive if you have the correct attitude and approach to sales – but no successful salesperson worth their salt will advise you to wait patiently for your sales to happen. Selling requires action! It requires planning and a cycle of persistent, intelligent contact. Selling is one of those many aspects of your business that is a journey and not a destination. No business, regardless of how established it might be, can afford to take the view: There! Our sales are done! Your sales are never done.
Sales in a Nutshell
Here is a summary of the sales process, adapted from lessons I have learned, that will form an excellent foundation for attaining your first sales, increasing your existing sales and keeping those you have made in the past. Various aspects of the process will be discussed in more detail in later articles, but you’ll definitely get the idea below.
- There is great value in having an attractive website, professional business cards and a smart corporate image. This should only be your starting point and is definitely not where the matter ends. Trying to convince a prospect to buy your goods (or services, such as in the case of a plumber, accountant or anybody selling their time) is substantially easier when you feel confident. Remember how much effort you put in before going on a first date? If you don’t, then you should not really bother to read further because understanding the appropriateness of your appearance relative to the situation’s requirements is not a concern. If you do remember trying to look your best, this was because you inherently understood the importance of a first impression.
- Understand what you are selling. A lack of product knowledge will regularly be fatal to your sales efforts. Instead of diving in on day one, making a thousand calls to prospects and embarrassing yourself with your lack of information, rather spend time getting to know your product. This does not just mean knowing the summarized stuff in the brochure. Think about why somebody might want to buy what you are selling – their motivation in listening to your sales pitch. Is he buying trousers because he wants to look more modern or feel more comfortable? Is she buying an apartment for an investment or home? What makes your product superior to others on the market (price/ quality/ availability/ support)?
- Put together a plan of attack. Now that you understand your product, you can identify the potential customer base and the best way in which to approach them. Sales is always a numbers game to some degree, but the more accurately you are able to target prospects, the less time you will waste on impossibilities. If you are selling vehicle mechanical maintenance at a discounted price, you might have great success with flyers handed out to passing traffic. The same method will be less successful for a doctor because the methodology lacks credibility for somebody you will be entrusting your life to.
- Approach the prospects with a positive attitude and remember, no rarely means never, it should simply be converted to mean “not now”. Bosses change, customers change, suppliers change and needs change. The person who you approached to sell a group life insurance scheme for their business may have said no, but if you are able to secure the very small agreement that you will contact them again within three months, circumstances may have have changed. Remain positive even when it might seem that your prospects are bleak. If you adopt a negative approach and no longer believe that you can sell your product, others will perceive this and selling will only become more difficult. You then either need to revisit this entire process from scratch, or otherwise, revisit whether this really is the product you should be selling.
- My uncle often tells me “Out of sight, out of mind”. In the sales scenario, I like to think of this as meaning that if you are not competing in the game, you cannot be the winner. An example is: Make sure that when the business owner finally decides to change from ordinary lighting to the low-energy environmentally friendly lighting that you sell, the first person he thinks of is YOU. Remain consistent and relentless in your message. Follow up with your prospects and you will be surprised how that constant attention can eventually bring people around to your product. As I see it, you have by this stage already done all the hard work in identifying the potential customer, making contact and engaging with them on your product. Why not just stay in touch and watch those unexpected seeds bloom?
- The sale is never done. Once you have the customer’s buy-in to whatever you might be selling, deliver as agreed. An unethical approach is not sustainable and can only reap shorter term benefits. Once you have delivered, stay in touch. As seen in other articles, I am of the view that all relationships need ongoing work and input. You may find that while you are complacently ignoring customers whose money you have already taken, another salesperson is hard at work convincing them not to use your services or buy your products in the future. To a large degree, as a salesperson, your name is your brand and no business wants to devalue its brand.
The hapless businessman whose quotation features at the beginning of this article spent weeks of unproductive time waiting for sales to simply materialise. In a future article, I’ll write on the benefits of using spare time improving your skills and knowledge base. But for now, please consider that selling is about action and not about waiting. Go get them and stop waiting for sales!