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Can you grow a business without sales?

The obvious answer to this is no; but is that really true? It is amazing how some companies have grown with have no idea on how to sell at all, but have just got lucky. If you ever watch Dragon`s Den then you will know that the key for most Dragons is to show a track record, even if short term, or have a product that can`t easily be replicated and is an industry changer.

If you are a business owner then should you be able to be production, sales, accounting, HR and all the hats you need to wear, of course not, but too many business owners do try to be that. In the early days of a business of course you need to juggle and wear all the hats, however even then you look for external help. How many business owners have used friends and family to help them in the early stages of their business?

Sales is the life blood of a business; it is the oxygen that a business survives on. In this article we look at some of the key sales areas a business owner can look at and have in place to gain sales.

Know your products FFB – Fact, Feature & Benefit of your goods, product, or service.

You need to understand the facts about your product, the features, and the benefits of your product there will be many more than you think. As an example, think of a wastepaper bin and now look at it differently. The bin is an object, it is (fact) a children’s basketball hoop, (feature) you can catch a ball in it and (benefit) the ball does not fall out and hit a child on the head!

Now think of your product/service and think of some fact, feature and benefit. People are used to being sold to in a way of using FFB, watch any advert on the television and you are being benefit sold to, simple FFB statements. Do you have the best product, lets look at a brick hod (fact), that is made of titanium (feature) and is lightweight, meaning easier to carry (benefit).

Know your customer’s needs.

It is very easy to think we know what our customers want, however you need to completely understand what they want or what they already use your product for. The word market research sounds a big thing, but even a few people can help you understand either what your product does for them or what they want out of your product or a similar product.

To be able to sell, you need to focus on the needs of your customer and match your product/service to those needs. If a customer wants a brush with a long handle for sweeping up leaves, you would not sell them a tooth brush. It might sound simple, but it is true – you need to find out the problem or challenge that your customer or potential customer has and help to solve it.

Know your competitors’ products better than yours.

Selling is as much about your product and those of your competitors. A golden rule of selling is never rubbish your competitors, you can leave it to them to do that themselves. Potential customers will most of the time look at a competitor for a price or quality comparison and it is key to know your competitors; find out what they charge, find out about the features and benefits of their product and compare yours against it.

If a potential customer asks about XYZ you should be able to answer that, you should be able to acknowledge the competitor and counter it with your product`s feature and benefit on that particular item. If you know your competitors features and benefits, then you will be able to sell with confidence. There are many ways to find out the costs of your competitors, but it is very easy indeed to find out the features and benefits.

Have an engaging and informative website that is easy to navigate.

You do not need the biggest or best website in the World, but you do need a clean and crisp functional website. If you have the capability to design a website then there are numerous website template sites including Wordpress and Wix, but you do need a website and you do need it to be your business name URL.

If people hear about your business or you connect with them on LinkedIn or other places, they will look at your website, it is your shop window. Sometimes a one-page website will suffice with 3 or 4 anchors within the page such as About, Products and Contact. Ideally a website that is easy to navigate and easy to view what you do and is on brand and it is easy to contact you is what you need. You don’t need thousands to have a website professionally built, but it will cost you thousands if it is not right!

Have an up-to-date personal LinkedIn profile.

In today`s business world you really do need a LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn is the business directory for businesspeople across the globe. As LinkedIn is free then there is no reason to not be on LinkedIn especially as you can hide information and keep your profile as open or as closed as you want, but what you do need to do is have a profile.

Your customers and potential customers will search for you on LinkedIn, they will also search your sector using LinkedIn so you want to be found. Many people are daunted by LinkedIn and all the experts who say do this or do that, then another says the opposite. The most important thing is to have a profile, have a personalised URL, have an up-to-date professional headshot and your company information. From that make sure you post at least once a week and ideally three times a week.

Create a “suspect” list.

Time to get your pad of paper out and get writing. The best way to write a suspect list is to go through your phone, your emails, and your head. Think about anyone you know what would want your product or you think might want your product. A suspect is someone you suspect will need your product, but you are not sure. Once you start writing names it is amazing how the list grows and grows.

Any suspect list can be any person you may have worked with or know in the industry regardless of their position because you don`t know who they know or relate to. The saying it is not what you know, but who you know. The best way to write the list is name, position, and any company where you knew them from then from that you can start to move towards the Prospect list.

Create a “prospect” pipeline.

A pipeline is by definition a pipe carrying something that is moving and that is the same for any business owner, you need a prospect list. A prospect list is a list of people you believe would buy your product and unlike your suspect list these are the people who are decision makers or decision influencers. A person would migrate from a suspect list once you had qualified it or are added directly to the prospect list.

On the pipeline list you can then define how you want to contact someone. As a business owner then sales might not be your natural environment, by putting a list together then you can decide how you want to approach someone, and you can add this to your pipeline. You might connect firstly on LinkedIn, call someone on your list that you do know, use email where you have it, but most of all be adding to your pipeline and be active on it. If you hate using the phone for cold calls then send out 100 LinkedIn requests or messages, 100 of those is better than no phone calls!!

Develop an elevator pitch.

“So tell me about your business” how many times are you asked this, even by your friends and family. You don’t have to be a natural salesperson, but you do need to sell your business easily to anyone who asks. An elevator pitch is an old term and basically if you were in a lift with someone and they said what do you do you could easily tell someone, usually in 30 – 60 seconds.

A simple pitch statement is a way for someone to know what you do without boring them or then getting lost with what you say. A tip on this is to write down what you do and then Google it and see what others say or even definitions are common. “ABW are based in Manchester and we produce hydraulic widgets for the aviation industry, commonly used with landing systems on a variety of different airliners including the A300. Our clients choose us because we are reliable and have our own in-house NDT team”

Attend Networking events online or in person.

As a business owner you should be using networking to grow your reach and ultimately to gain new business. There are many networking groups around, but it is important to choose the right one for you and it takes a bit of time to find the one for you. There are plenty of local networking groups that are very generic, and this is good for some professions, then there are others that are much more sector specific, and you need to look at those too.

When networking it is important to speak with people, but it is also important not to thrust your business card into people’s hands and be seen in the wrong light. Networking is about building relationships through time, understand people`s businesses, ask questions and in time give referrals with confidence and people will do the same with you. Never just go looking for instant business as that does not work.

Have a big business mentality.

No matter what size of business you are you need to have a big business mentality. This is not a mentality of being the largest in the World, but a mentality of having the right things in place as if you were a big business, but in a much smaller scale as you grow. A business owner, by definition, is an entrepreneur and as such you could look to Gino Wickman and the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) program that has a system for growing a business.

The biggest challenge as a business owner when you are selling is to portray your business as credible and as professional as possible. If you are just you then you can say that, but sometimes you can always say we as a team, even if it is you and your other half.