Most small business owners realize that having the ability to sell is vital to the success of any business. The problem is that most small business owners wear so many hats that the “selling” hat tends to be overlooked and in many cases under utilized. Many small business owners dread selling and even have a fear of getting in front of potential customers. Many think of selling as a “necessary evil”, something that they have to do rather than want to do. If selling is a weakness for you rather than strength, then maybe it is time to re-think your definition of the word “selling”.
When most people hear the word “selling” they immediately think of words like manipulation, persuading, inducing, strong-arming, stretching the truth, or even lying. For many small business owners selling is defined as getting someone buy something they didn’t really want or need. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be further from the truth. Those words are not in my definition and selling is definitely NOT coercing people to buy something they don’t want! My definition of selling is really very simple. Selling is presenting to a potential customer, products or services that meet his or her needs, for a fair and honest price.
In the selling classes I teach at Dakota County Technical College I try to make the selling process to new and future business owners as easy as possible. Just to be clear, when I talk about selling, I am not talking about marketing (getting your information in front of potential customers) or prospecting (finding qualified customers to get in front of). Selling takes place when you are in direct communication with a customer or potential customer. Selling can take place by phone, e-mail, letter, video conference, or preferably in a face to face meeting. I teach five simple steps in the selling process. They are:
1) Become an expert in whatever products or services you are selling
2) Identify the needs and wants of the people you are dealing with
3) Present your products or services as a way of meeting the needs and wants of the potential customer
4) Ask for the business
5) Follow up to make sure the customer is happy, satisfied, and feels good about the purchase he or she made.
Let’s look at these five steps a little more in depth:
Step 1: Become an Expert
When a person is known as an expert in any area they immediately gain the trust of the potential customer and in many cases can charge more for their products or services. Every small business owner should become known as an expert. You can become an expert in fixing cars, fixing houses, cleaning stains, catering events, taking pictures, programming computes, and even grooming dogs! The list goes on and on, but as you look closely at the marketplace, the “experts” are the ones that are getting known, getting found, and making the most money. Every time you meet a potential customer you should establish your credibility up front and let them know you are the best at what you do.
Step #2: Uncover needs
Whenever you meet with a potential customer you must always understand the wants or needs of that customer. This step requires you to ask really good open ended questions and then listen to the answers. Notice there are two parts to this step; asking great questions, and listening for the answers. This may be really simple, but the best open ended questions almost always start with the words who, what, where, when, why and how. Learning to ask open ended questions versus closed ended questions (questions that can be answered with one word) is your biggest asset in learning the wants and needs of your customers.
Step #3: Present your product or service
In the third step you present your products or services to the customer as a way of meeting his or her needs. The presentation of your products or services should also include proof that your product or service will do the job. You might want to have examples of satisfied customers and testimonials of how pleased customers are with you and what you do. I cannot emphasize enough how important proof is. In today’s economy only those companies that can provide proof will get business. Money is tight for everyone right now. If people are going to spend their money they need proof that the products or services will meet their needs. It is in this step is where pricing is presented. My best advice for how to price your products or services is to go back to the definition if selling. Are your prices fair and honest? If you have a really good feeling and calm about your prices, then just stick to them. Never drop your prices at the first negative look by your potential customer! Every new business owner needs to develop an “attitude” about the prices they present!
Step #4: Asking for the business
The fourth step involves closing. Closing to me is nothing more that asking a simple yes or no question that tells you if the customer is ready to buy? If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, don’t just blindly accept the answer. Always respond with another open ended question to get the prospect to tell you why they are not buying.
Step #5: Follow up.
Once the sale is done, the products delivered or the service completed the business owner might think their job is over. For successful business owners the job is still going on and just starting a new phase. Follow up with a customer on a regular basis is vital to long term success because you making a customer a lifetime happy customer and happy customers give you the proof your business requires. In addition happy customers can provide you with positive word of mouth and, of course, referrals
For the business owner that wears many hats, selling it key to building a business, so let’s keep selling simple. The two big words in my definition are FAIR and HONEST. Become known as FAIR and HONEST business owner and selling will be easy, and success will be yours! For more information on classes that teach “Fair and Honest” selling, contact Bob Voss at firstname.lastname@example.org.