Friday, December 11, 2009

Sales Tips for Small Business Startups.

by Lorna Donovan

You have a dream and you are transforming it into reality by starting a business. You have a great product or service and a small but mighty staff. You worked day, night, and weekends to get the business up and running. Now what? As a sales consultant and small business owner, I’m often asked to suggest what the small business startup should focus on most. My answer? Focus on becoming profitable as quickly as possible and sustaining that position, not to mention your sanity, through consistent business development practices. Here are three sales tips I wish I’d known years and years ago. Good luck and super selling!

Sales Tip #1: Nothing Is More Important Than Sales!

To highlight the importance of sales, let me provide two hypothetical examples:

A bright man with a history of business success takes everything he has learned and folds it into a self development program he believes is the breakthrough idea missing from the market. He writes and self publishes a book, creates a couple of audio products, and has a great training template. He creates a jazzy logo, puts together an impressive web site, and has a host of freebies to lure potential customers. He even hires a public relations firm. All told, he spends over $100,000, which is a sizable chunk of the savings he has amassed, thanks to his previous success working for a well known firm. He stays abreast of all the newest marketing ideas, but after four years and countless hours of work, his breakthrough idea has not become the blockbuster he had envisioned. Sound familiar?

The second start-up is a modest venture begun by a working mother. Her product, forged from the complexities of her everyday life, is a product aimed at making life simpler for working mothers like her, a tool to make traveling with small children easier. She has only $1000 to invest, but she also has a great deal of commitment. With her product and child in tow, she travels far and wide, demonstrating her product and getting orders. She gradually builds a word-of-mouth business. For months, she puts all of her income back into her business. She spends nothing on office space, has no fancy giveaways, and has only a modest web site she created herself. She spends her time selling and selling, learning and improving her sales technique as she does. Four years later, she has a multi-million dollar company, a growing workforce, and her product in countries on 4 continents.

What is the difference between these two businesses? It is Sales Tip #1: Nothing is more important than sales. You may have a great idea and a great product, but if your attention is not on getting it out the door, you won’t have the success for which you dream.

Business plans, product revisions, and customer-service programs are all important, but for a new business, nothing is more important than sales.

It may be the single most common mistake in starting a new business: spending precious capital on secondary considerations. What is secondary? My list would include real estate, office equipment, stationery, business cards, employees, software, and sometimes even the product itself.

What is primary? The first and most important consideration of any new business is the fundamental selling proposition. Can you really sell your product or service the way you want at the price you want? What’s your answer?

Sales Tip #2: Plan Your Next Half-Year!

Gearing up for the rest of the selling year just might be your top priority right now.But getting focused on what is really important in developing your plan may be tricky. Writing goals, making activity plans, and keeping score is a start; but figuring out your personal motivators or ‘what keeps your head in the game’ is vital.

Consider these sales self-care questions as you plan the next six months.

In the first half of the year, did I care more for my clients than for myself? Was I too unselfish in setting my priorities? Did I over-commit to others?

If you answered “yes” to all three self-check questions, you may want to revisit your selling purpose.While there is nothing wrong with taking care of others, including your prospects and clients, you may want to consider self-preservation by way of caring for them, rather than taking care of them. Care taking others can be to the detriment of your personal motivation.The first business person you need to care for is you!

If you fail to focus foremost on your own goals, you may be prone to taking on someone else’s goals instead, which can build resentment.You may find yourself avoiding people or defending yourself against their daily bombardment of phone calls and emails.You may become cynical and burned-out.Of course, there is a problem with this. If you are in avoidance mode, you are also keeping at bay the nurturing business relationships, people and activities you need.

Take time to focus on your personal motivators and work on your plan in meaningful and fulfilling ways, so you don’t miss out on sales!You will create a selling community, and a business climate ripe in your own nourishment is bound for growth. Care for yourself—first—and set your next half-year plan in motion.

Sales Tip #3: Develop a Sales Support System!

Waking up or becoming conscious is something we often associate with personal development and not with growing a business.But becoming a sales-savvy business owner is more about consciously aligning yourself with what you want than almost any profession I can think of.It is the one career path that both presents formidable personal challenges while, at the same time, immediately rewarding your individual performance. It is a daily balancing act!So how do you keep from becoming out of balance, that is, being disconnected and losing your focus or hiding your power and settling for less?

A fundamental way to self improvement is connecting, on a regular basis, with someone you trust to talk about both of your selling lives.That’s right, just talk it out!Creating a support system or “sales community” is a big part of the professional equation. For some, it is the missing link in their business development plans.

In today’s marketplace, the answers lay not so much in self help as community help. Similar to keeping a weekly journal, a support group allows you to frequently revisit your specific goals. You can reflect on both your group’s selling activities and your own achievements.This discipline creates a tighter bond between your overarching intentions and your actions, too. Coincidentally, working with others also helps you develop a stronger relationship with yourself.

In small business, we need to shift away from a survival mentality – in which we perceive our peers as our competitors – and instead instill the roots of abundance. The best person to help you develop inner awareness, overcome your weaknesses, and exploit your strengths may be working right beside you!Have you reached out to any colleagues recently? If not, why not?

With these three sales tips, your small business startup has a better chance of surviving and thriving long beyond the startup phase . . . and you have a chance to thrive and enjoy the process along the way.

Lorna Donovan is President of Boulder based Leader Trends, Inc., specializing in business development and reinforcement sales training. She can be reached by telephone at 720-406-8289.
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Reprinted from “The FORUM Newsletter,” a publication of Renaissance Executive Forums, Inc. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated copyright is held by the author. Please contact the author directly for permission to reprint or republish this article.

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