FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

The Personal Touch

"If you look and act like a typical salesperson, people will treat you like a salesperson," says Kim Jones, a sales consultant with ProActive Training and Consulting, a West Palm Beach firm. In many customers' minds, the typical salesperson is a turnoff -- too pushy, hard driving and assertive.

CONNECTING: Take time to learn about each customer's needs, says sales consultant Kim Jones.
Jones, who has run several entrepreneurial ventures and also worked in sales for FPL and Burger King, says the key top effective selling today is taking time to learn about each customer's needs. That means asking questions and doing more listening than talking. It also means walking away when your product or service isn't the right fit for the customer. This low-key method of sales isn't just for businesses selling office supplies or IT consulting. It's increasingly being used by professionals such as CPAs, law firms and financial planners, says Jones.

The first step in selling is one of the old standbys, face-to-face networking. But Jones advises a new twist -- focusing on meeting just a few people. "Identify who you need to meet," she says. "Set a goal at the event to meet only two or three people." That means doing some homework ahead of time to find out who will attend the event or at least thinking about what type of contact would be most effective. The targeted approach is generally much more successful than the mad dash to collect a lot of business cards.

An effective sales strategy also includes focusing on existing customers. "Sit down and talk with customers on a regular basis," says Jones, adding that it's important to tap into changes going on in their businesses. Also, take any opportunity to thank loyal customers with something special, whether it's tickets to a baseball game, a news clipping on a topic of interest to the customer or a gift basket.

Finally, entrepreneurs shouldn't relinquish all sales duties to the sales team. It should be a companywide effort. Says Jones, "Everyone from the top down needs to be involved."

Get the Word Out

Selling your product or service effectively often begins with choosing the right place to advertise. Here are a few tips:

? Advertise during peak seasons for your business.

? Get a memorable phone number, such as 1-800-WIDGETS.

? Develop a memorable website name and e-mail address and include them on all marketing materials.

? Provide contact cards or phone stickers preprinted with your business information.

? Promote your business jointly with other professionals via cooperative direct mail.

? Advertise in a specialty directory or in the Yellow Pages.

? Write an ad in another language to reach a non-English-speaking market. Place the ad in a publication that market reads, such as Hispanic newspapers or magazines.

? Distribute advertising specialty products such as pens, mouse pads or mugs.

? Mail "bumps," photos, samples and other items to your prospect list. (A bump is simply anything that makes the mailing envelope bulge and makes the recipient curious about what's in the envelope.)

Source: National Women's Business Center

SALARY: Pay for Performance

Good sales representatives don't come cheap. Median base pay for a senior account representative ranges from $66,616 in Pensacola to $71,163 in Miami, according to Salary.com.

You can reach Barbara Miracle at bmiracle@floridatrend.com