Integrity in the small business sales process

Dan Miller has a very good blog post on selling. Everyone, and especially the owners of small businesses, is (or should be) adept at selling. Even when you are interviewing for a job with another company, you are selling yourself and your skills. As Dan puts it:

If you are going to be successful in any way you have to learn to sell, and do it well.

Dan references George Foreman, who initially gained fame as an Olympic and professional boxer. George has subsequently become even more famous for his line of cooking products. Success Magazine has a story on George that is both informative and inspiring. George emphasizes the importance of selling:

If you learn to sell, it’s worth more than a degree. It’s worth more than the heavyweight championship of the world. It’s even more important than having a million dollars in the bank. Learn to sell and you’ll never starve.

But it isn’t all about selling. George also emphasizes the role of integrity:

You don’t want to lie about anything. And it’s something that people will be happy about once they get to know you. Because people count on you.

There are a lot of guys who are successful, they make a lot of big money, I mean millions overnight with a contract, and they don’t understand the evaporation. It evaporates. You’re always back to square one. I found that out, so integrity is how I do business. That’s my main asset.

As I have said many times, sales isn’t about manipulation or deceit. It is about education—learning the customer’s needs and wants—and then educating the customer how your company can meet those values. When you act with integrity you will naturally develop the trust and confidence necessary to make the sale.

Properly analyze your small business marketing

Even though I have heard this for years, it still amazes me that small business owners make broad generalized statements like: “The yellow pages never works.” I have heard similar statements about door hangers, yard signs, newspaper ads, and nearly every other form of advertising.

Having worked with and spoken to hundreds of small business owners, I have a pretty good sense of what motivates such comments. Typically, a contractor tries some form of advertising, gets poor results, and puts all of the blame on that particular media. Such analysis is superficial, erroneous, and a waste of time.

Many, many factors determine how effective a particular ad will be. Certainly on is the media used. But the ad itself is often to blame, yet few contractors stop to consider this fact. They blame the media, not their ad.

Consider an ad that states: “Lowest prices in town.” This is going to appeal to a certain type of person—the price shopper. The text in the ad will have a large impact on the types of calls—if any—that you get.

On the other hand, an ad that states: “The best value in town” is going to appeal to a much different clientele. Everything else about the ad could be the same, except for the headline, and you could experience dramatically different results.

Another factor that contributes to such hasty generalizations is the fact that very few small business owners properly track their leads. If you don’t know where your leads are coming from, it is impossible to properly analyze the ad’s effectiveness. And when I say know, I don’t mean guesses—I mean actual concrete numbers.

And that leads to the final error many small business owners make—they don’t compute their return on investment (ROI) for each ad. They go on “gut feeling”, which can be wildly inaccurate. Personally, when I get a “gut feeling” I usually take an antacid.

Before anyone can say that a particular media doesn’t work, he must compute his ROI accurately. Even then, all it tells him is that that particular ad did or did not work. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater—a bad ad won’t draw well, and that isn’t the fault of the media.

False alternatives can harm your small business

In business, and in life, we can sometimes present ourselves with false alternatives. For example, on a business forum that I frequent, a member asked if he should stress the quality of his product or the quality of his service. But why does it need to be one or the other?

Certainly you want our marketing to be focused and consistent. If you claim that you have the highest quality and the lowest prices your message will be confusing. The two seldom go together. But a quality product and quality service do.

The member wondered how many people would be attracted to a quality product and how many would be attracted to quality service. He wanted to develop his marketing accordingly. But it isn’t either/ or–the two options are not mutually exclusive.

If he stresses the quality of his product, those who value quality service may not be interested. If he stresses the quality of his service, those who value a quality product may not be interested. But if he stresses both, he has covered his bases.

Certainly we shouldn’t try to be all things to all people. That isn’t the case here. Those who value a quality product generally also value quality service. A great product with horrible service does not make for a great experience. Nor does a horrible product with great service.

If you find yourself struggling between two choices, consider whether those truly are your only choices. Sometimes when we think that we must choose between A and B, we really have another choice.

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