I’m not a sales person per-se, but inevitably in every job I’ve had (and indeed, in my role of ‘master of all trades’, e.g. being self-employed), sales and the capacity to sell well has played a central role. Selling is an art which has to be carefully, gently mastered and it is different for every type of product or service. As a large percentage of my clients are service businesses, and predominantly, we work on the key elements of strategy and communications in business – sales figure in this matrix strongly and sales processes often require definition and redefinition over time. Rule # 1. Know your product, know your customer I would argue (well, I would, wouldn’t I?) that without a strategy behind any action in business it’s a waste of time. I’m sure many would share this view, and probably as many won’t, but arguably without having a defined level of clarity surrounding targeting a particular client, segment or market, for example, could be a little bit thoughtless (and moreover, a big waste of time). I’ve made a pitch for clarity many times on my blog, and this comes from some simple homework any business-person can tackle: some of it is instinctual; some of it is observational; some of it is scientific. However, getting to know your customer, their habits and needs (remember NOSE?) makes closing sales a lot more straightforward. Why? Well consider the round-peg-into-square-hole issue – most sales professionals would tell you they can sell to anyone… the reality for the SME? They need to sell to those who want to buy. This means an effective, clarified sales process should be to the fore of how they do business. Rule # 2. Mind your message Keep your message clear. Yes, it aligns firmly with Rule #1, and here’s why… communication is critical in the selling process; in fact, selling is all about communicating. So understand your proposition and in non-industry terms (keeping it simple) what it’s value is to the customer. Rule # 3. Keep it simple and strategic Have a straightforward, tried-and-tested sales process which works. Don’t spend hours and hours, or days, aiming to convert sales that just won’t close. Why? Do you really need me to tell you? Develop a systematic approach to how leads are dealt with, which will quickly (though not abruptly or impolitely) stream them into the right category of client and / or product offering (remember productisation?). Have the ‘cost of customer acquisition’ in mind – e.g. what it is costing you to acquire the customer. Avoid losing valuable, productive time on a lead which will not be right for your offering – this is where your process is critical. Rule # 4. Stay focused and manage your leads! Finally, keep your leads in check… for many start-ups and SMEs, collection of potential, ongoing and closed leads is something that is managed on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis. Which often translates into ‘not managed at all’. Keeping tabs on where leads are ‘at’, categorising them and clarifying their position is key to positive sales management, and indeed, building and maintaining a pipeline. It may seem obvious, however this is a critical issue many businesses forget or, as I said, manage badly!