Congratulations on starting your own business. You are defying the odds and scoffing at the high failure rate of small businesses in their first three years. You offer a great product or service, and you know how to run a business — what could possibly go wrong? The answer, quite simply, is you. In order for your business to remain successful, especially if few barriers to entry exist in your industry, you need to make sure you never stop selling.
Creating a Pipeline
Having a strong sales pipeline helps ensure that you’re going to earn revenue tomorrow, but without the right tools and people to manage it, tomorrow may never come. As the face of your business, you should be in front of people as often as possible. You don’t get paid to process orders or manage people. If you find you’re spending too much time bogged down in the daily activities of running your business, consider hiring additional staff or an office manager and delegating those tasks. Successful companies use CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools such as Salesforce or GoldMine to help them manage their pipeline by identifying customer needs, discovering sales opportunities, and planning for what’s ahead.
The sales process doesn’t end with the delivery of a product or service. It continues by ensuring you consistently offer quality service to your customers. Your business model could include monthly e-mails, quarterly check-ins, or annual reviews. You may send out newsletters, host client appreciation events, and you may even send birthday and Christmas cards. CRM tools help you with those tasks, too. Not only do you need to make sure customers are satisfied with your product, you need to keep your business top of mind so that they aren’t lured away by a competitor.
Maintaining Your Pipeline
When your clients acquire your services, you promise that you will always be there for them. Keep that promise by staying in the business. Start by asking your existing clients if they know of anyone else who would appreciate your services. Referrals can be just as good as a sale and help keep your pipeline strong. They also reinforce your clients’ trust in you and will strengthen your ties with them. As you gain experience and understand your clients’ needs better, follow up with them and go after sales you may have overlooked. Industry changes bring new products, and your clients’ life changes present different needs. You owe it to yourself and your clients to remain aware of these changes, both of which lead to new sales opportunities for your existing client base. If you aren’t talking to them about new sales ideas, you can be sure somebody else is.
To keep selling, you also need to stay on top of your game. Attending industry conferences to learn about new products or sales techniques will sharpen your skills. Reading industry magazines or newsletters will raise your awareness. Touching base with the representatives of your favorite products could get you an inside scoop on the industry. You should never stop learning about the products you sell or the services you provide. If nothing else, you’ll pick up stories from others that you can use in your sales pitches. Stories sell.
Nobody said selling was easy. You have to constantly be on your game to make sure you stand out among the crowd. With competitors offering similar products or services, you need to figure out what makes you different and keep reminding your clients of that. Keep your business top of mind, or else you and your business will soon become another statistic.
Nicola Byrne works for Calverton Finance – a UK based invoice discounting company who work with businesses of all sizes.