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.

Business opportunities abound even in a recession

Dan Miller makes a great point in Whack-a-Mole:

When one business lags, another explodes. If your business is suffering, what is the counterpart that is thriving? Can you benefit from that? If appliances aren’t selling, then you can be sure appliance repair is up. If new car sales are in the tank, used cars are thriving.

Small business owners are certainly feeling the pinch of the recession. Consumers are holding on to their money more tightly; unemployment remains high. Those that are buying expect better deals.

Even in tough economic times, opportunities abound. They may not be as easy to spot or exploit, but they still exist. The trick is to spot them, and then act. It might mean expanding your product line to include budget products or offering a new service.

Rather than allow a competitor to capture the market when consumer tastes shift, identify what you can do to meet the new market demands. Business success doesn’t come easily, and sometimes it means finding hidden opportunities.

Pre-customer retention marketing

The power of retention marketing–marketing to past customers–is a well documented fact. It is far less expensive to retain a customer than to attract a new one. But what about pre-customer retention marketing?

Like its more popular cousin, pre-customer retention marketing involves staying in front of the consumer. It means reminding him what you have to offer and that you want his business.

Many consumers begin shopping for a product or service long before they are ready to buy. They want to learn about their options, the possible costs, and which companies might best meet their needs. The Internet has made this increasingly easy.

Let’s say that Bob plans to buy a new widget in about six months and hops on the Internet to do some research. He comes across your web site, finds your information useful, and intends to contact you when he is ready to buy. But will he? He could easily forget about your company in the meantime.

But what if you offered Bob a free report that provided Bob with an abundance of information about your product and company? And what if you then emailed him once a month with more useful information and tips. Do you think that he would forget about you when it comes time to buy?

Technology makes this very easy and inexpensive to do. In exchange for your free report Bob must give you his email address. You then use auto-responders to send him an email once a month. You can use a service like AWeber to automate the entire process. The result is that you are marketing to Bob before he has ever called you or bought from you.

This very targeted marketing. The low cost and ease of set up means that very few sales must result for it to be profitable. And that’s a good thing.

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