As a home-based business owner, you are your own strategic planner, accountant, marketing expert, and ugh … the company salesperson. One basic business truth is that you have to sell if you want to stay in business. If you run your business solo, you have no choice but to do the selling yourself.
Many home business owners dread the thought of going out or talking to people selling their products or services. They don’t feel confident enough or fear the thought of someone banging the phone on them or closing the door on their faces. Valid concerns, of course, but a business owner must overcome these fears and turn these negative thoughts to something positive. After all, it’s only a “no”! But the sale begins when the customer says “no.”
It is much better to be aggressive in getting new accounts at the start of your business. As your business grows, you will have less time soliciting new business, as your time will be occupied with servicing your existing client base.
Whether you are cold calling a potential client or making a person-to-person presentation, here are some tips to make sure that you close the deal:
1. Know your product or service.
You must not only have the ability to articulate what your business does, but you need to understand how your business can help the customer. Before making your sales pitch, sit down for a moment, get a sheet of paper, and prepare what I call the “3-Column Approach.” On the first column, write down all the benefits your product or service can bring. Next to each benefit on the second column, list down the customer needs or problems that it solves. In the third column, enumerate all the possible questions you will ask your potential customer to determine if the problem existed. If you speak from a list of prepared questions, you will have more confidence in your presentation and will help you direct the conversation in a fairly organized manner.
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This strategy will prepare you for all possible scenarios that you may encounter when making a sales call. By thinking through every possibility, you will be better prepared in determining how best to approach a client and handling objections.
2. Practice your presentation well.
You may have a great product that the customer needs, but if you fumble in your presentation, chances are that account will slip past through your fingers. In the same way, when making a speech, prepare your script and practice presenting your piece out loud in front of the mirror. Do you look confident enough? Do you look credible? Do you sound authoritative?
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Dress professionally and practice good grooming. Whether you like it or not, people will judge you with the way you look and first impressions can make or break a sale. If you are a financial consultant, for example, you should look conservative and project the image of a successful person who knows how to manage finances. A web designer can look hip and cool. Also, be sure to bring your marketing materials and other documents (e.g. calling cards, testimonials, etc.) that will bolster your sales pitch.
3. Create the Need.
After introducing your business to your prospect, the next step should be to determine if there is a fit between your service and his or her needs. You can achieve this with probing questions to learn more about what your prospect wants and how you can fulfill his or her business needs.
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If you are selling merchant services such as credit card processing, you need to ask your potential client if they’re concerned with their merchant rates with numerous built-in fees and would like to learn ways they could save money. You need to get them to talk about their experience with their current product or service provider (if any) and what they are looking for — whether they want lower rates, lesser charges, fast response, cheaper equipment rental or lease, etc. This way, you find out the concerns of your prospect rather than simply telling him or her all about your product and how wonderful it is.
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People appreciate it when you listen to them. Understand what they are saying then ask relevant follow-up questions, whether you are clarifying something or simply acknowledging their statements. Remember: your ability to close a sale will greatly depend on your skill to make your prospect feel that you have the product or service which is designed for his sole benefit.
4. Think of your objection handling strategy.
You need to thank your lucky stars if your prospects buy your product or service without any questions asked. More likely, people will give you reasons why they shouldn’t buy from you, if not try all tactics in the book to get rid of you quickly. But remember this. Prospective customers say “No” as an automatic mechanism to get rid of the salesman. Their objections are spur of the moment questions. As part of your preparation, you need to think as many possible objections your prospect may have, then have ready answers to counter these objections.
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In our merchant account provider example above, be ready to discuss hidden charges and rates if the prospect counters that they already have a low discount rate. He or she may enjoy a low rate of 1.6% rate for every credit card payment transaction their business accepts, but a host of different charges from telecommunication fees, bank statement fees, and others may be levied on their account without them understanding it. To get the business, you need to be able to inform the prospect about the cost structure, and then offer ways to save them money.
5. Review what went right or wrong after your sales calls.
A sale is a continuous process. And every prospect you face or call is different. After every sales call or presentation, think about the things that went right or wrong. What techniques did you use to finally convince the prospect to accept your offer? How did you present your business? How did you get the customer to talk about his or her business needs? What are the needs of the customer that you need to bear in mind when servicing the account? Incorporate all the positive things that you did to your next presentation in order to improve your sales technique.
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If the sales call or meeting was a failure, then ask yourself why. Were you trying to penetrate a 3-feet thick wall that you didn’t stand a chance right from the very beginning? Did you talk too much? Or, too little? Why weren’t you able to communicate how your business can help him or her? Honestly, accept your mistakes and strive to avoid them in the future. Think of ways how you can improve your sales presentation– maybe you need to dress better, or maybe you need to improve your objection handling techniques, among other things.
6. Learn to accept “No” for an answer.
The fear of rejection strikes in the heart of most people. A lot of people freeze at the mere thought of presenting their business to a prospect only to be told, “No, we’re not interested.” One fact of life is that not everyone will be interested in what your business offers, even if you think it is the greatest product in the world. Some may be very satisfied with their current service provider or product; while others do not see its need. The key is not to take rejection personally and just proceed to the next call. The more sales call you make, the higher your success rate will be. As the Nike ad says, “Just do it.”
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If you are ready to get that sale, take a deep breath and relax. As long as you are prepared and understand what you are doing, you will do just fine.
Recommended Books on Increasing Sales:
- The 25 Sales Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople
- Sales 101: The ReadyAimSell 10-Step System for Successful Selling
- Secrets of Closing the Sale
- 42 Rules to Increase Sales Effectiveness: A Practical Guidebook for Sales Reps, Sales Managers and Anyone Looking to Improve their Selling Skills
- 151 Quick Ideas to Increase Sales