Small Business Advice:
Sales skills are crucial, even for small businesses
"There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that which is lost by not trying." ~ Francis Bacon
I went to a luncheon event recently and sat next to a delightful man. As you might expect given what I do, I asked how his business was doing. His reply was that it was okay. Not knowing what he meant by “okay,” I asked a few more questions to get a better idea. He revealed that his sales were flat, and I asked why he thought that was. He replied that he did not feel comfortable selling and he was the firm’s one and only employee.
Another solo entrepreneur I knew was complaining about shrinking sales. She said that her sales used to be very good, but now they were falling. When I asked her what she had done when her sales were up, she said she used to network and go see former clients – something that she was no longer doing. Now that sales were dropping precipitously, she had become really concerned.
Being an entrepreneur mandates that you also become a sales person in so many ways. You are always having to sell yourself and your business to a whole range of people, not just customers. You have to get creditors to supply you with goods, to convince a bank to give you a loan and so much more.
In both of these cases, the entrepreneurs knew they needed to do more but had temporarily lost their way. In the first case, the entrepreneur lacked the confidence to go out and sell, and in the second case, the entrepreneur took her eyes off of the ball.
My advice to the first entrepreneur was to join Toastmasters, which teaches effective public speaking. I felt it would increase his confidence about selling.
Sure enough, after six months in Toastmasters, his confidence began to soar as did his sales. He told me that he now felt comfortable asking for the sale when he never did before.
My recommendation to the second entrepreneur was to join Business Networking International (BNI), a super powerful networking organization with a chapter in just about every city and most countries. Membership is really effective and reasonably priced.
After joining BNI, her sales started going through the roof as she now had all the BNI members in her chapter acting as her sales force by recommending her business.
In both of these cases, the entrepreneurs took their focus off their sales. Though they each had their own reasons for doing so, the outcome was the same. Their businesses began to suffer because sales have to be at the forefront of each and every entrepreneur’s daily activities. There is no doubt in my mind that both businesses would have failed had they continued on their former path.
These are two examples involving small entrepreneurs, but the lesson they demonstrate can be applied to any business. If you do not commit energy and effort to your sales, your business will struggle.
Now go out and make sure sales make up a significant part of your daily activities and encourage each of your staff members to do the same.
You can do this!
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Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.