As a small business owner, your success is primarily determined by the quality of your sales pipeline. The more sales you generate over time, the stronger your brand will become. However, the art of closing a sale is not an easy one.
Whether you succeed or fail with a sale depends on many factors, from the quality of your sales pitch to your out-reach strategy, and your customer care model. Many small business owners get overwhelmed with the complexity of the task, so they end up using more familiar, but less effective sales methods.
This kind of approach can work for a while, but ultimately you will succumb to competitors that are willing to face this complexity head-on. Fortunately, there is nothing stopping you from attempting to do the same except a lack of knowledge, and this can be amended.
To learn more about how you can improve your small business, check out our compilation of expert advice below.
Polish Your Sales Pitch
Having a convincing pitch is the key to closing a sale. An effective sales pitch is one that will intrigue your prospect right out of the gate, keeping their attention focused while you steer the conversation towards your ultimate goal. However, keep in mind that a sales pitch is not a product showcase, nor an advert for your company. Don’t try to turn a sales pitch into a narrative. Instead, focus on delivering essential information in a concise, easy to understand format.
Entrepreneur Robert Herjavec puts it in the following way. Your pitch should be no longer than a minute or two. Use this allotted time to get your point across in a persuasive manner. Don’t focus on facts and figures, and be sure to exude an aura of confidence and expertise. Show your prospect that you understand the challenges they’re facing and explain how your product can help you solve them.
Focus on Niche Markets
Equally important to your sales pitch is who you’re trying to pitch to. If you try to appeal to everyone you will have to dilute your approach to the point where it will convince no one. So, instead of reaching out to every prospect you come across, focus your attention on a specific market niche. This will allow you to fine-tune your sales pitch for maximum effectiveness in a given context.
According to Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, choosing a niche upfront will allow you to specialise early in the game. He argues that while this kind of move has its own risks (i.e. choosing the wrong niche by mistake), ultimately it is still better than taking a broad approach, especially for a small business. What matters is cultivating an attitude of specialisation. And once you do find a niche perfectly suited for your company, you will find it much easier to sell to them effectively.
Listen to Customer Feedback
Many small businesses make the mistake of treating sales as a one-way process. In reality, the process of selling is always a back-and-forth between you and your prospect. During this interaction, your prospect will often express their opinions about your offer and your company. They will make comments about the price, request particular features, or even mention competitor products. You should listen carefully to what your prospects are telling you. Consider this as another form of customer data which you can feed into your CRM system.
Vanessa Van Edwards, an author on behavioural psychology, argues that being flexible and responding to feedback is crucial for closing a sale. Selling according to a predefined plan can limit your success and prevent you from reaching prospects that would otherwise be interested in your offer. Bear in mind that listening to feedback doesn’t mean you should go about implementing it blindly. A common mistake many small businesses make is basing all their sales decisions on suggestions and requests.
Become a Problem Solver
If your sales strategy is too focused on shifting your product, you will alienate a significant portion of your audience. This is because most people don’t like being sold to, which means they will see little value in what you’re trying to do. In order to get on the customer’s good side, you need to provide some value upfront by attempting to solve a problem they have. This can take the form of providing educational content, researching their problems in advance, or offering creative solutions.
SaaS purveyor Hiten Shah provides some insight on how sales ought to function. He rightly points out that helping each other out is something humans always try to do, and something they always appreciate. If you endeavour to build a meaningful relationship with your customers first, you will have a much easier time when you attempt to sell them something. Think of yourself as a problem solver, rather than a salesman, and people will offer to buy from you on their own.
Create a Sense of Urgency
Most customers will defer their buying decision until the very last moment. This can create a bottleneck in your sales pipeline, or even stop your sales strategy dead in its tracks. The solution to this problem is to create a sense of urgency in your prospects. You need to explain to them why they need your product right away, or they might end up postponing their decision indefinitely.
Business coach Tara McMullin has outlined a way in which small businesses can go about generating urgency. She argues that creating urgency is about helping prospects realise they need to take action right away. It is a matter of convincing them that your product will have an immediate impact on their livelihood. To do this, you need to help them articulate a problem they are having, and then offer your solution. You can take this approach a step further by pointing out that you have a limited supply of your product, or that you plan on increasing its price in the future, to give them an extra nudge.
Be Persistent Until You Get a Response
Sales are all about definitive answers. If you have a couple of promising sales calls with a prospect only to let them disappear into the ether will spell doom for your sales strategy. When selling, you need to keep following up until you get a definitive answer. Otherwise, you will be left with a perpetual maybe, which will distract you from pursuing other prospects. Then, if you run into one too many maybe, your entire sales strategy will start to collapse.
To avoid this outcome, Steli Efti recommends pursuing your prospects relentlessly until you get a definitive answer. You should follow up as many times as necessary until you get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This may require multiple reschedules, but as long as the prospect is willing to communicate, there is a sale to be made. Stop only if the prospect stops all communication, or if they explicitly say they’re not interested.
Your sales strategy is something you should constantly be reviewing and improving to get the best results. A key part of this process is learning about new sales tactics, such as the ones we have outlined above. At the end of the day, however, the best way to increase sales is through first-hand experience. Try to learn as much as you can from every sale interaction and work towards developing an understanding which gets each of your prospect to buy.