Not only can achieving sufficient sales be challenging for many small business owners, but the very process is further confused by the often contradictory counsel you’ll get from a myriad of sales experts.
The fact that various experts advise you to take what seem like completely different approaches doesn’t necessarily mean that somebody is dead wrong – although, in some cases, “experts” are simply peddling their own seminars and consulting services to you.
Generally, finding which advice works best for you comes down to weighing factors including what you are selling (business services or jams), to what types of people you should be selling, your own style and tolerance for specific sales approaches, and the amount of effort you are willing to devote to sales.
My own guidance as provided here is an amalgam of what I, too, have sifted from expert advice, tested by three (long!) decades of selling and supervising others who sell for my company.
Let’s examine some common and somewhat conflicting sales advice:
A- Focus on A-list prospects or B- Work with a big network of contacts
B! Sure, you’ll focus and follow up where you see potential, but I’ve learned that even “sure things” can dissolve faster than sugar cubes in hot tea. You’ll be less crushed when this happens – not to mention more prosperous in the long term – if you “play the field” in sales, keeping a lot of conversations going at all times.
A-People buy when they are ready or B- Always be closing – and if they won’t close, forget them
A and B. Keep lightly in touch with prospects who you sense may become customers someday. Don’t call or email them constantly, or you will become an annoyance (yes, you). But, in my experience, prospects call with a need at unexpected times. By keeping lightly in touch, you help assure they remember to call you instead of someone else.
A- People buy from experts or B- People buy from people they like
Mostly A. Customers prefer to buy from people they like, but in the end they typically buy based on need and perceived value. Generally, clearly superior expertise or offerings will trump the old boy/old girl network, although we can all cite exceptions. “I was always well-liked,” claimed Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” Was he? Without proving himself valuable, whatever charm he might actually have had didn’t amount to much. That said, being nice and expert is really nice.
A- Sales is dead; social media and inbound marketing are the answer or B- Sales has never been more important
It depends on what you have for sale. It’s a marriage of A and B in many cases. Marketing opens the door, sales closes the deal. Experiment on how the two work hand-in-hand for your company.
A- If you want loyalty buy a dog or B- Don’t burn your bridges
B! Unless you have a scheme that involves changing your identity, nothing serves you better than a good reputation. That includes having former clients, employees, vendors, and associates consider you a fair and decent person. The worst salespeople are the sleazy characters who no one trusts, refers or wants to see again.
A- You must make your numbers each month or B- It’s a long-term game
B. I’m with Warren Buffett on this. If you are in business for the long term, learn to accommodate sales cycles, seasonal variations and economic ups and downs. Watch your numbers, but don’t fire yourself when there’s a dip for which you understand the reason.
It really pays to develop a sales philosophy that suits both you and your company, and to evolve the resulting sales system based on your needs and experience. You will find what works for you, and then the next task is to sell, sell and repeat.
Wishing you great sales results. I’d enjoy hearing your perspective.
Michelle van Schouwen is president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. The company is known for vSALaunch, its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, as well as its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B. Sales and marketing work together for vSA and its customers, too. Contact Michelle at email@example.com.