Often, I meet people who are thinking about setting up a business or are at the early stages having developed an idea, wish to offer a new product or service or just get out there and do it for themselves.
It is a very exciting time and I admire their courage, sense of belief and enthusiasm. The energy they exude is contagious and I often find I become quite observed as I yearn to learn so much more about their business.
Occasionally I notice a downside to this wonderful passion. People can become very consumed in their brilliant new initiative - in designing their website or in perfecting their product offering, that they forget they still have to get out there and generate sales. At times, they also believe it is so brilliant they lose the ability to think objectively and assume sales will come to them.
A number of years ago when I started my own business, I was sitting with a group of other entrepreneurs and the speaker asked the group to raise their hand if they were all new business owners? Everyone was delighted to put up their arm. The presenter proceeded to ask, how many people consider they work in sales? This time, just a handful of people lifted their hand.
Having come from a sales background, I learnt from an early stage how important sales and customers are to every business. So, I was a little surprised at the reaction. Our speaker addressed the situation with a wonderful response, which certainly got the group thinking.
Anyone who owns or runs a business works in sales. It does not matter what services or products we provide, how qualified or specialised we might be - we have one thing in common. We still have to sell to potential customers in order to succeed and survive.
Upon reflection, the advice I now give to any budding entrepreneur is the following:
- Don’t assume sales will come - Just because we have developed a wonderful new website or other marketing platforms doesn’t mean sales will come to us.
- Welcome to sales – accept you are now a salesperson. Be prepared to get out there and meet people to make it happen.
- Really know your market - do your research, identify your ideal customer, be realistic about the actual size of the market and who you really want to target.
- Familiarise yourself with the competition – pay heed to the marketplace and know your competitors. Yet don’t be distracted by them.
- Learn to think objectively – think SWOT and be willing to look at your product or service with an open mind. Know the pros and cons, threats and opportunities.
- Be realistic with your time – allocate at least a third of your time to business development, networking and following up with customers.
- Seek customer feedback – ask customers for their opinions to identify bottlenecks and new opportunities and be prepared to learn from them.
- Be consistent and patient – consistently stick with developing sales, persistently follow up with customers – know your lead-time and don’t be a pest.