Small business owners are notorious for wearing multiple hats: they can be managers, bookkeepers, impromptu IT “experts,” and marketers, among other titles. But what ever roles you find yourself taking on as the owner of a small business, there is one that is inescapable- that of the salesman. What you may not realize, however, is that this role will remain with you even if you have a dedicated sales staff on hand.
You Are Not Just Selling to Your Customers
With so much emphasis on customer service these days, it can be easy to think of selling as a customer-centric task. But often, the overlooked truth is that you are really selling to anyone who will be “buying into” your business. This includes your key stakeholders: your investors, your employees, and your business partnerships. Why? Because to the extent that these groups of people truly understand and believe in the value of what your business has to offer, then typically to that same extent will they invest themselves in your business.
Taken a step further, you are also “selling” to anyone in the public at large, even to those who will not become your customers in the short-term. Why? Because the opinion of the community at large in which your business operates (whether online or in a physical location) can easily make or break a business. Your reputation is an asset! The more you can generate positive feelings and associations with your business, the better.
And a final word: For those who are solo-preneurs or sole proprietors and for those small business owners whose core business and brand revolves around their own name, skills, and/or expertise, realize you as a person are an ambassador for your business. Your personal character and behavior within the community can very easily affect how people will view your business as a whole.
Why So Many Small Business Owners Fail At Sales
There are three main reasons why small business owners are unable to properly convey the value of their products and services to their intended audience:
1. Selling yourself short. You either do not believe in the inherent value of your product or service or you’re not in touch with it. This happens all the time, especially among new small business owners, and often there is a realization of this fact after the business has been in operation for some time. It’s like there’s a click, an eureka moment when it all comes together and you realize that, yes, you have something of value to sell (which is often followed by heart-wrenching shock when you come to grips with how little you’ve been charging for it).
To minimize this effect, make sure you research what your closest competitors are offering, what the quality of the product or experience is like, and how much they are charging for it.
2. Not in touch with the needs of your audience. You could have the best product or service in the world, but if you are out of touch with your target audience’s core needs, and if you are unaware of what they are need to hear from you, then you will not get very far.
So, for example, if many of your customers are struggling to pay their bills, you may need to emphasize what they will be getting in return for spending money in your business. If your potential investors are the cautious type, then perhaps you would emphasize prior sales performance, well-researched sales-projections, or market research to convince them to invest in your business.
3. Missing basic communication skills. This third reason follows on the heels of the one above. Success in communication of any kind is determined by the ability to convey a message that can be received and understood by the intended audience. Not speaking the language of your intended audience or overlooking current trends in business communications can be a death blow to your business.
I once heard from Mike Michalowicz, the author of the book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, that as a small business owner you should primarily market to your own age group and culture. He’s right- especially if you are just starting a new business- because you will more naturally understand the needs and communication patterns of the same groups that you yourself are in.
In short, when running a small business, sales do not begin and end with your customers, nor do they begin and end with your sales staff. When you decided to run a small business, you became an ambassador for it. The more you realize and accept this vital role, the greater will be your chance for success. Thoughts?