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MyOwnBusiness Institute

Selling

OBJECTIVE:

In this session, our objective is to create a practical and successful plan for getting new customers for your business. First, we start by introducing a way to focus your sales effort on the most likely buyers. From there we define the sales process and how you can use it to attract customers. Then we discuss the importance of a sales script and how to write one. Finally, we present the idea of a monthly sales activities calendar and strategies for keeping your sales strategy on track. The session includes the following sections:

Illustration of hands exchanging money for goods
  • Focusing Your Sales Effort
    • Collecting information on your sales contacts
    • Developing a set of key questions
    • Ask the key questions and filter your sales contacts
  • Understanding and Using the Sales Process
    • Find
    • Learn
    • Buy
    • Use
    • Share
  • Creating a Sales Script
    • Listening to preferences
    • Expaining value
    • Understanding constraints and obstacles
    • Meeting constraints and obstacles
    • Closing the deal
  • Planning Future Sales Activities
  • Selling Worksheet
  • Summary

One of the common mistakes of new business owners is trying to sell to everyone. As a small business owner, you want to use your time as efficiently as possible. One way to use your time efficiently is to focus your sales effort on customers who are most likely to buy from you. Identifying the best customers, those most likely to buy, involves three steps:

  1. Collecting information on your sales contacts. Sales contacts are individuals or organizations who express some interest in your product or service. When you identify sales contacts you want to make sure that you collect and record their contact information. Use your phone, a computer, or a notebook to write down the name, address, phone, and email of your sales contacts.

  1. Developing a set of key questions. Develop key questions that will reveal how likely the contact will become a customer. The key questions should address (1) whether the contact has the problem that your product solves, (2) whether the contact is in the right place at the right time to buy the product, and (3) whether the contact has the resources to buy the product. Here are some examples:

Business description

Key questions

Child care

  • Do you have pre-school children?

  • Where is your home and your school?

  • How much are you willing to pay for care?

Residential fencing

  • What kind and how much fence do you need?

  • Are you sharing the cost with your neighbor?

  • When do you need it done?

  • How much are you willing to pay for a fence?

Catering

  • How many people and when do you need it?

  • Where is the event you are catering?

  • What kind of event is it?

  • What kind of budget do you have?

  1. Ask the key questions and filter your sales contacts. Your key questions will tell you whether your sales contact has a problem you can solve, is in the right place at the right time to buy your product or service, and has the resources to buy your product. If the answers show that a sales contact is likely to buy from you, then you can focus on making a sale to them. The process of filtering your sales contacts is sometimes represented by a funnel:

Image of funnel illustrating sales cycle

To make your business successful, you need to focus your attention on the best customers, those most likely to buy.  Once you identify them, you can begin the sales process.

Selling is one of the most important responsibilities of a business owner. You will be better at selling if you understand the “sales process” and use it to close the sale. The sales process is the series of steps that your customer goes through to find, learn, buy, use and share your product or service. The five steps of the process are:

Series of arrows showing the sales process

Your responsibility as a business owner is to help the customer go through this series of steps. If you do this well, your customer will buy from you and share that information with other potential customers. When you are talking to customers, you want to know where your customers are in the process so that you can provide information that moves them to the next step. Below, we describe these steps in more detail.

Find. The first step is helping the potential customer FIND your product or service. The potential customer must know that your company exists and that you offer a product or service that solves their problem. You want to make sure that your company is advertising where the potential customer is looking for information. In order to make sure you are advertising in the right place:

  • Find out where your prospective customers look for information.

  • Find out what words prospective customers look for when searching.

  • Match your company name and description to keywords the customer is looking for.

  • Use advertising that uses customer keywords.

For example, a coffee shop might use email, Yelp, or signage to reach customers and use keywords like “coffee”, “pumpkin spice latte”, and “tea” in their messages. The coffee shop’s business name and logo should reflect these keywords and the value proposition.

Learn. Customers who FIND your business will want to LEARN more about your product and service. They might check out your website, look for reviews on Yelp, or talk to your existing customers to see if you do what you promise to do. They want to know that you make customers happy with your product or service. They may also look at competitors to see how you stack up.

Here is how you can help your prospective customer easily learn about your product and services.

  • Demonstrate how you can meet the customer’s need. Create a video, give a demonstration, explain how your product or service works. Make sure to explain how the features of your product or service benefit the customer. For example, a coffee shop might give free brewed coffee samples. A residential fence company might show lumber and gate hardware samples.

  • Make sure your existing customers are satisfied. Provide great service and correct customer problems and complaints quickly. For example, a coffee shop is better off making a new coffee drink for a customer who is not satisfied. A happy customer will more than pay for the small price of remaking a drink.

  • Use customer testimonials. Show how your customers are happy and satisfied with your product or service. Your existing customers have much more credibility than you do. Testimonials, positive product review, word-of-mouth recommendations are very powerful ways to get new customers. For example, a coffee shop with great product reviews online would influence new customers. Existing customers who invite their friends to coffee is the best kind of selling.

  • Research your competitors and the industry. Know what things are important to compete in your particular market place. Figure out all the minimum things customers will expect from you to be considered. For example, a coffee shop might need to open at 6am and offer seating during the lunch hour.

Buy. After your potential customers LEARN about your products and services, you want them to BUY from you. In this step, your goal is to give your potential customer reasons to buy and to remove any obstacles to buying from you.

  • Tell the customer why they should choose you. Customers have many choices. Tell the customer why you are better, faster, or higher value. For example, a coffee shop might say “Our coffee is better because we have organic, freshly roasted, high quality exclusive beans”

  • Explain benefits. Make a list of benefits and tell the customer. Make it easy for the customer to understand how they will benefit by choosing you.

  • Overcome objections. Confirm that your product or service meets the customer needs. Ask if you have answered all their questions and issues. Ask the customer if there is anything preventing their purchase. Then address the issue to remove the obstacle. Address common objections before the customer even brings them up.

  • Ask for the order. Ask the customer to buy from you. Don’t be shy.

  • Find out why. If they do not buy, see if you can find out why. This will help you improve.

Use. Your job isn’t finished after the customer BUYs. After the customer buys your product or service you want to make sure that they USE it correctly. If they use it correctly, they get all the benefits, value and results they expect. Good customer service will create additional sales and lead to recommendations. Resolve customer issues or complaints promptly. Unhappy customers will talk to more people than happy customers will.

  • Help the customer get started. Help the first time customer learn how to use your product and service. Do an orientation or walk through as necessary.

  • Be proactive. Go along with the customer and help them along the way. Proactively reach out to them to make sure everything is okay. Encourage them with good customer service.

  • Resolve problems. Check to make sure their needs are being met and the problem is solved. Give them information to show that their problem is solved.

  • Be responsive. Answer the phone, reply to email and text messages. Respond to social media complaints. Responding quickly shows you care.

  • Get feedback. Ask your customer if they are satisfied. Ask if their expectations are exceeded.

Share. After your customer USEs the product you want them to SHARE their experience with other potential customers. You want every customer to be a satisfied customer who recommends you to others.

  • Get recommendations. Ask your customer if they are satisfied enough to recommend you.

  • Ask customers for referrals. Make it easy for customers to recommend and send you referrals. You could give discounts or rewards for referrals that turn into new customers.

  • Ask for reviews. Ask your customer to write a positive review.

The sales process will lead to satisfied and happy customers who will help you bring new customers to your business and make new sales. Part of the process is making sure that a consistent message is delivered to your potential customers. In the next section, we talk about creating a sales script that ensures that you give all potential customers the same information every time.

A sales script is an outline of the conversations between you (or your staff) and potential customers for your products and services.  A good sales script helps you organize the conversation in a way that ensures you collect the information you need, clearly state to the customer how they will benefit from buying your product and service, and close the sale.  In most businesses, you will talk to many more potential customers than actual customers. A customer who does NOT buy your product or service can provide information that will be very helpful for making the next sale and making your business successful in the future.

Here are the key parts of the sales script:

  • Listening to preferences.  The first step in the sales script is listening to the customer to understand their needs and wants.  Tell the customer what you heard and ask if you stated it correctly. If not, ask more questions until you understand.

  • Explaining value.  After you understand what the customer needs, explain how he or she will benefit from your products and services.  Make it clear how your product or service will meet their needs. 

  • Understanding constraints and obstacles.  During the conversation, find out if your customer has constraints that must be met before the purchase can occur.  Typical constraints include how much they can pay, when they can take delivery, where they can take delivery, and other people who might be involved in the transaction.  Understanding the constraints is important for making the sale with this customer and making sales with other customers in the future.  

  • Meeting constraints and overcoming obstacles.  Once you understand the customers constraints and obstacles, explore ways to overcome them.  Can you come up with terms and conditions that make it possible for the customer to make the purchase?

  • Closing the deal.  Ask for the order and agree on the method and terms for payment.

The sales script can include all of these parts but it can also be very simple. For example, imagine that you are at a trade show or neighborhood event where you want to make people aware of your coffee products, including coffee beans and prepared coffee.  Here is an example of a simple sales script:

Listening to preferences

“Would you like to taste our new coffee blend?

“What kind of coffee do you like: light, medium, dark roast?”

“Do you drink coffee everyday?”

“What do you like with your coffee -- milk or sugar?”

Explaining value

“Did you know that our coffee is available for purchase online?”

“Did you know that our coffee has been ranked #1 in our market?”

“Did you know that we have our own unique app that has coupons and loyalty points?”

“Do you know that our coffee is grown using sustainable agricultural practices?”

Understanding constraints and obstacles

“How much do you spend on coffee everyday?”

“Do you have constraints on how much time you have for coffee?”

“Do you have any health challenges that impact how much coffee you can drink?”

Meeting constraints and overcoming obstacles.

“Our coffee is relatively inexpensive, so you will save money”

“You can order our coffee in advance so you have more time on your coffee break.”

“We offer decaffeinated coffee to address your concerns about caffeine.”

Closing the deal.

“How many pounds of beans would you like to buy?”

“Let me send you our app so you can download it”

“Here is a loyalty card.  Be sure to fill out the form.”

“Here is a coupon.  Just take it to the coffee shop.” 

Creating and using a sales script will help you gather all the information you need to identify the best customers and what they need. It will also help you move the customer from the LEARN to the BUY step in the sales process.

Now that you have identified your customers, started the sales process, and created a sales script, you can begin planning sales activities to support your sales process in the future. A “sales activities plan” list the activities that will support customers in the sales process over the next three to six months. Some customers will be at the FIND stage and some will be at the USE stage. A good sales plan will have activities related to every stage of the sales process.

Here is an example of a sales plan for the next three months for our hypothetical coffee shop.

Sales process

October

November

December

Find Activities

  • Email

  • Event

  • Ads/promo


Lemonade Tea

World Series event

Halloween promo


Pumpkin Spice

Thanksgiving events

Google ads


Egg-Nog

Holiday parade

Coupons

Learn Activities

  • In store

  • Website

  • Reviews


Tea brewing

News - tea

Yelp, Instagram


Cold brew

News - beans

Yelp, Instagram


Espresso equipment

News - equip

Yelp, Instagram

Buy Activities

  • Loyalty Card

  • Drink/Beans


2 for 1 drink

Blend of the Month


New brew special

Bean of the Month


Food complement

Tea of the Month

Use Activities

  • Remodel

  • App


Outdoor patio

Halloween game


Meeting spaces

New design


Holiday decor

New Year contest

Share Activities

  • Gift

  • Reviews


Equipment sale

Yelp, Instagram


Mug sales

Yelp, Instagram


Gift basket

Yelp, Instagram

Of course, every business will have different Find, Learn, Buy, Use, Share activities for different market segments. Part of the development of a sales activity plan is to discover what works and what does not work with your potential customers. If you find that activities related to sports (like the World Series) do not motivate your customers, then it will need to be replaced with another activity in the future (like a Halloween Costume event).

The most important part of planning for future sales activities is thinking in advance about what you will be doing to attract new customers. Your competition will be planning and working hard to take your customers away. You need to continue to attract and keep customers in order to stay competitive.

Download and complete the Selling Worksheet to create a selling plan for your business. 

In this module, we covered several topics related to selling your product and service. Selling is essential to the survival of your new business and it will take up a lot of your time. The most important thing to remember about selling is that your selling activities must change with the market-- and the market has the potential to change very quickly. As the owner of the business, you need to be ready to change your message, your communication method, your sales script, and sale process to adapt to the needs of your customers.

 

Selling Session © Drew Starbird and Dave Aune 2020

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