Many business owners don’t think of themselves as salespeople, but the truth is that if you own a business, sales is your #1 job. No sales, no business. The CEO needs to be the chief salesperson, not only during the early startup stage, but even once the business has grown to the point where you might have a small sales staff. The business owner needs to be in tune with customers and be up-to-date on the latest sales challenges. And unless your company has grown to the point that you have a full-time sales director, the business owner still needs to know how to get in the room with decision makers and close deals.
Here are some tips for how any business owner can improve your sales skills and get better sales results for your company:
1. Make consistent efforts. Every day, no matter how busy you are running your company, no matter what else is on your calendar, you need to do something to market and sell your products/services. Dedicate a certain block of time for calling new customers. Set a daily goal for the number of calls you want to make, or the number of business prospects you want to contact, whether it’s by email, by phone, or by in-person networking. By doing a few simple things each day, you will make major progress toward your sales goals.
2. Sell to your existing customers. Repeat sales are the lifeblood of every business. If people bought from you before, chances are they’ll buy from you again. Don’t overlook the opportunity from your existing base of customers. It costs a lot more to acquire a new customer than it costs to stay in touch with an existing customer and keep them interested in buying from you.
3. Listen more than you talk. In every sales conversation, look for ways to help your customer and listen to the “unspoken needs” that your customer is concerned about. Ask good questions to draw out your customer’s deeper challenges. Look for opportunities to add value. Every sales conversation is not about “you,” it’s about “them.”
4. Keep good records. Many small companies make the mistake of not having a well-organized system for handling their sales leads. It doesn’t have to be a fancy Customer Relationship Management system, but you should at the very least have a well-organized and currently updated spreadsheet with names, contact phone numbers, and detailed notes about each sales conversation. Keep track of which prospects sounded interested, and which ones asked to be removed from the calling list. Rank your prospects in order of priority, and then work back through your lists as time goes by.
5. Be a problem solver. Remember that your business exists to solve a problem for your customers. Sales is ultimately about problem solving. It’s not about “forcing” things on people or getting people to buy something they don’t need, it’s about aligning your company’s offerings with the problems that your customers are most urgently trying to solve. The best salespeople operate with a spirit of service and eagerness to make a difference for their customers.